April 28, 2020
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor, New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
My colleagues and I write to you today on behalf of the more than 55,000 New Yorkers working in not-for-profit child welfare organizations throughout our state. These workers are the backbone of our foster care system, providing support to our foster parents and children living in homes, as well as working around the clock to care for children and youth in residential foster care. They are also responsible for going out into our communities to provide the preventive services families need to keep children safe at home and out of the foster care system.
During the COVID-19 crisis, these workers have proven to be the essential personnel they have been deemed by the state: each day leaving their own families to serve as critical supports for the children and families in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. They are a vital part of the Family of New York.
We are therefore respectfully requesting that New York State support these essential workers by:
- Providing priority access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as it becomes available in our state, as several of the nonprofits are having trouble sourcing PPE;
- Prioritizing the youth and staff in residential foster care settings for rapid COVID-19 Testing as it becomes available in New York, which will help to protect their health and safety in a congregate setting where the virus spreads more quickly;
- Providing emergency funding to pay staff who are responding to the COVID-19 crisis in order to cover costs associated with overtime as well as emergency response pay (short-term, one-time funding to support these staff while they continue to act as first responders); and
- Giving priority access to these essential staff for any additional free or very low-cost child care that the state creates.
For context, over the last several years, under your administration, we have successfully worked together to support children and youth who are wards of the state and have been placed into foster care.
We have also worked together to provide critical preventive services funding, which has driven down the total number of children and youth in foster care in New York State to 16,000, down from a high of approximately 65,000 children and youth in foster care in the 1990s.
However, The Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA) completed a survey in 2019 that showed the average child welfare agency in New York State had on average 21 days’ or less of cash on hand, making cash flow for these agencies a very critical concern.
In addition, COFCCA has surveyed residential foster care agencies and has found that during the week of April 6, 2020, 11.4% of residential foster care staff were unable to report to work due to COVID-19 related reasons—including staff with confirmed COVID-19, staff out with symptoms of COVID-19, and staff out due to a lack of access to child care.
It is clear that COVID-19 is having a significant impact on these agencies, and we believe it is New York State’s responsibility to provide stability in the child welfare and juvenile justice sectors for the duration of this crisis.
We thank you for your leadership and look forward to working with you to provide for the needs of these essential workers during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Chair, Social Services
Senator Roxanne J. Persaud, Chair Social Services
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, Chair, Children and Families
Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Chair, Children and Families
Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright, 56th AD, Chair, Subcommittee on Foster Care
Senator James Sanders, 10th SD
Senator John Liu, 11th SD
Senator Jessica Ramos 13th SD
Senator Julia Salazar, 18th SD
Senator Kevin S. Parker, 21st SD
Senator Andrew Gounardes, 22nd SD
Senator Diane Savino, 23rd SD
Senator Brian Kavanagh, 26th SD
Senator Brad Hoylman, 27th SD
Senator Brian Benjamin, 30th SD
Senator Luis Sepúlveda, 32nd SD
Senator Alessandra Biaggi, 34th SD
Senator Jamaal Bailey, 36th SD
Senator Jen Metzger, 42th SD
Assemblyman Anthony D'Urso, 16th AD
Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, 21st AD
Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, 22nd AD
Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, 26th AD
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, 36th AD
Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, 42nd AD
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, 50th AD
Assemblyman Félix Ortiz, 51st AD
Assemblywoman Jo Ann Simon, 52nd AD
Assemblyman Charles Barron, 60th AD
Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez, 68th AD
Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, 70th AD
Assemblyman Al Taylor, 71st AD
Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, 72nd AD
Assemblyman Dan Quart, 73rd AD
Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, 76th AD
Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, 77th AD
Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, 80th AD
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, 81st AD
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, 82nd AD
Assemblyman Victor M. Pichardo, 86th AD
Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, 87th AD
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, 88th AD
Assemblyman Steven Otis, 91st AD
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, 92nd AD
Assemblyman Chris Tague, 102nd AD
Assemblyman John T. McDonald III, 108th AD
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, 123rd AD
Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, 148th AD