ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — State lawmakers from the Rochester area held a press conference Friday to discuss how New York’s budget will help local families.
Earlier this week, the $212 billion budget deal has been reached among New York State leaders in Albany.
“The COVID 19 pandemic has ravaged our communities, changed our way of life, and further exposed deep inequalities in our society,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson (D-138). “The state budget we passed this week presented an opportunity to step up and tackle some of these deep and troubling systemic issues — an opportunity upon which we seized.”
Although full details of the budget agreement have not been made public yet, officials from the governor’s office say the final budget accomplishes major legislative priorities, including:
- A record $29.5 billion in aid to schools aid
- $29 billion in public and private green economy investments
- $2.4 billion for rent and homeowner relief
- $2.4 billion for child care
- $2.1 billion for excluded workers
- $1 billion for small business recovery
- A first-in-the-nation plan to make broadband internet affordable
- Legalizing mobile sports betting
- Implementing comprehensive nursing home reforms
“It was so refreshing to know that everybody was moving the bus forward for Rochester,” said Assemblymember Sarah Clark (D-136). “When you invest in people, you recover faster. When you invest in things that matter most to our families; like education, like child care, like rent relief, help for our restaurants and small businesses. You will have a recovery that doesn’t leave people behind and that’s what we aimed to do in this budget.”
“We met this difficult moment in time with an unyielding commitment to the families that we represent, and as a result, our delegation delivered,” Bronson said. “We delivered a robust people-centered budget. It ensures millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share while reducing middle class taxes and creating real property tax relief. The budget includes historic increases in education funding, invests in workforce development and job training, help small businesses rebound and ensure access to quality affordable healthcare.
“This budget directed critical aid to the families of the greater Rochester area and I thank my delegation colleagues for their collaboration and partnership in delivering a budget for the families we serve,” Bronson said. “More specifically the budget provides $2.3 billion in combined federal and state aid for rental assistant to help our families stay in their homes.”
State Sen. Samra Brouk (D-55) said the budget does a lot to address mental health issues which have been a focal point in the Rochester community in the wake of Daniel Prude’s death.
“We know that mental health needs are much higher in addition to the physical health challenges we’ve seen with COVID-19, social isolation — these are things that are affecting mental health,” Brouk said. “I’m proud we were able to make major changes in rejecting the 5% cuts to mental health services and to fight, for the first time in 12 years, a cost of living increase to make sure that mental health providers who have been on the front line of so much of this pandemic will get paid living wages.”
Brouk said the state budget also grants historic funding for Rochester’s Police Accountability Board.
“As we stand here in the City of Rochester, where we know for the past year or so that we’ve been dealing with police brutality — we’ve been in the national news and even international news about some of the challenges we’ve had here in the city — which is why I’m so proud that this delegation was able to delivery half a million dollars to the Police Accountability Board. That is historic. In this country, no state has even taken an interest in helping transparency and community voices being uplifted through police accountability. So New York state is leading the charge in that. We don’t want Rochester in the news for brutality and lack of innovation. We want to be in the news for innovation and solutions.”
State Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D-56) said he hopes grants and funding help small business to create jobs and lift children out of poverty, grants for small businesses, and investments in infrastructure.
“47% of Rochester’s children still live in poverty and so for me, my focus in this budget process was about jobs,” Cooney said. “Jobs for the people of Rochester and the citizens of Monroe County, and we collectively delivered: $800 million in small business grants, an additional $200 million in tax credits. We talked a lot in the community about our fav restaurants that have been struggling during the pandemic and as a group we invested in those.”
Sen. Cooney also said he was pleased to see investments in infrastructure in the budget.
“We know in Rochester that we have trouble with our roads, we have bridges that need to be repaired,” Cooney said. “These are not new issues, but it took a new team coming together and fighting together for Rochester to deliver big. Over $350 million for infrastructure investment in our state, including a new $100 million fund for urban roadways. So think about the most troubled urban roads in our community, and now we have funds to repair them and keep the businesses along those commercial corridors healthy.”
Assemblymember Jen Lunsford (D-135) said she was proud to help deliver funding for transportation and rent relief for tenants and landlords.
“We’ve delivered $235 million for upstate transit because when that federal money came in for transit services and the MTA tried to suck it up, we said no and we took for the transit funding for here in Rochester and here in Monroe County,” Lunsford said. “We made sure that when rent relief was coming that our mom and pop landlords were taken care of too, that there were ways that landlords can supply for housing assistance for their tenants who are unable to substantiate their income. We fought for practical solutions to make sure the people of our districts could actually access the programs we created.”
While much of Friday’s press conference was focused on budget victories, Assemblymember Demond Meeks (D-137) reminded Rochester residents of the violence occurring in city streets this year.
“While we are committing to changing policies at the state level, we must also be intentional about changing culture and practice that continue to be a barrier for our community and true progress,” Meeks said. “There have been 19 homicides in Rochester the past three months — four of those have been in the past 48 hours. We would be remiss to not acknowledge these tragedies and use this moment to begin thinking of a restorative path forward.
“While this budget will begin to address the scarcity we have been living with for decades, it is up to us to address the symptoms of said scarcity as it relates to our communities cultures and collective mindset,” Meeks said.
Clark also said the budget included some smaller victories that some of the headlines may have missed this week.
“We had some smaller wins: We had $8 million for the first time every to help our seniors get off wait lists for critical services, we had $10 million for statewide investment in gun violence prevention for the first time every — which Rochester so critically needs right now,” Clark said. “We got a TAP increase for the first time in seven years.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we update this developing story.