When Governor Cuomo passed his belt-strangling budget back in April, one of the things that ended up on the cutting room floor was funding for the city's Advantage program, which helped 15,000 households with working family members by subsidizing up to $1,100 a month toward rent for up to two years. The state formerly paid $65 million toward the program, which has a budget of $140 million (out of which the feds pay $27 million and the city pays $48 million). With that money cut off, the city decided to scrap the whole thing, and now, after a court battle, a judge has give the Bloomberg administration the green light to do so.
Some advocates for the homelesswere never thrilled with Advantage, arguing that it resulted in homeless families living in apartments they couldn't afford without governmental subsidies. The Coalition for the Homeless has pushed for the "failed" program to be replaced with a less costly system. And Cuomo's office believed that the Bloomberg administration was bluffing about how much the program cost, with one aide telling the Times that "New York City has the funds to support the continuation of this program if it so chooses."
It's unclear what happens now for homeless families participating in Advantage. The Coalition for the Homeless website says "the appellate injunction requiring continued payments is still in place. The city paid or should have paid September rent payments for all Advantage tenants still in the program." Ultimately, however, the subsidies will end, and city officials have predicted that NYC's homeless family population will increase by 51 percent, requiring the city to build an additional 70 shelters. Paying to put a family in the shelter system for a month costs the city about $3,000, while the Advantage payments were $1,100 a month.
Steven Banks, chief attorney for the Legal Aid Society, which sued the city on behalf of Advantage recipients, tells the AP, "By winning, the city loses, since now thousands of formerly homeless families and individuals are at risk of losing their homes and flooding the shelter system." But in her ruling, Supreme Court Justice Judith J. Gische wrote, "The Advantage program, no matter how laudable its goals, is nothing more than a social benefit program, which (the city) had the right to terminate, based upon the lack of funding available for its continuation."