State lawmakers reach budget deal 1

New York state lawmakers reached a deal on a $212 billion budget for 2021-22 on Tuesday.

Better late than never.

Gov. Cuomo reached an agreement on the state’s 2021-22 budget with state legislative leaders on Tuesday afternoon almost a week after its April 1 deadline.

The $212 billion state budget for fiscal year 2022 includes $29.5 billion in aid to schools, $2.1 billion for undocumented immigrants impacted by the pandemic, $2.4 billion for rent and mortgage relief and legalized mobile sports betting.

It represents a stark increase from the $177 billion budget approved last year.

“Thanks to the State’s strong fiscal management and relentless pursuit to secure the federal support that the pandemic demanded, we not only balanced our budget, we are also making historic investments to reimagine, rebuild and renew New York in the aftermath of the worst health and economic crisis in a century,” Cuomo said in a press release announcing the deal.

Democratic lawmakers heralded the public school spending as a major victory in a press release on the budget. It includes a $1.4 billion increase in Foundation Aid, funding that fulfills a years-old court decision requiring more state funding for public schools.

“This is historic, the NYS legislature has agreed to phase-in the full Foundation Aid owed to NY’s schools!” tweeted Jasmine Gripper, an advocate with Alliance for Quality Education, a group that lobbied for the school funding.

The budget also includes funding for “excluded workers,” a program that will provide cash payments to workers who have suffered income loss due to Covid but who are ineligible for unemployment insurance or related federal benefits due to their immigration status. Lawmakers on the left and activists had been pushing for $3.5 billion for such a relief fund, but the negotiations ended up reducing it.

“Aid of this size also provides a substantial boost to the communities where undocumented immigrants live,” David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative, said in a statement. “That will provide a much-needed boost to shops, grocery stores, and gas stations around the state.”

The think tank estimated the program’s economic boost at $1.5 billion for New York City.

Hot on the heels of the state’s decision to legalize marijuana, last week, the budget agreement includes a plan to legalize mobile sports betting, an effort that state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) has spearheaded for years as the chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

The state will select at least two betting platforms to set up the mobile sports wagering based on how they will be able to maximize revenue for the state, according to language in the budget bill. Those platforms will work with at least four casino operators implementing sports wagering.

Once fully phased in, the program will provide $5 million annually to youth sports, and $6 million to combat problem gambling, according to the Senate press release on the budget. The remainder of the new revenue will be dedicated to education.

In terms of rent and mortgage relief, the budget will establish a $2.4 billion rent relief program using federal and state funds. The program will support households owing rent that have experienced financial hardship, are at risk of homelessness or housing instability and that earn less than 80 percent of area median income. The program would prioritize those with the lowest incomes, the unemployed and other vulnerable populations, according to the governor’s press release. Renters in the program will also be eligible to receive relief for utility arrears.

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