June 27th, 2012
Legislators demand youth funds be restored
WHITE PLAINS - Democratic caucus members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) have renewed their demand that County Executive Robert P. Astorino account for $170,000 in grant funding that was pulled away in December and caused the mid-year cancellation of four after-school programs for low-income families around the county.
The urgency of the legislators’ outcry was sparked by news that Youth Theater Interactions, which runs several programs for children during the summer in Yonkers, was considering closing its doors after serving residents for more than 40 years because $60,000 in grant funding for 2011-2012 has been withheld by the County. This comes after the BOL ascertained that the County had received 100% of the budgeted funds from New York State.
All of the programs were approved in 2011 by the County’s Board of Acquisition and Contract, stating these programs were in the best interest of the County.
“It’s a known fact that these after-school programs, which had their funding cruelly pulled away from them, keep kids off the street and away from drugs and crime,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “Now, we want to know where the money is. The Astorino Administration should provide these federal and state funds immediately, which were awarded to Westchester for a specific purpose.”
The after-school programs - sited at both the Nepperhan Community Center and YMCA in Yonkers, Woodlands High School in Greenburgh and Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle - are funded through a federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grant to provide home work assistance to students from low-income families.
Even though the TANF grant funding was to cover the after-school programs through the 2011-2012 school year, including this summer, the Astorino Administration cancelled the program in January 2012, giving the heads of the program only a month’s notice that the funding would disappear halfway through the year. As usual, the Astorino Administration did not bother to inform the BOL that it was stopping the funding, leaving it to the program staffers and students to inform the BOL what had happened.
“These are popular programs that keep children involved in positive activities all year long,” said Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh), chair of the BOL Community Services Committee. “Not only do residents utilizing these programs deserve a simple answer as to why they were eliminated, but now County Executive Astorino should tell us what he did with the money. If he can’t or won’t, then we’ll alert the proper authorities.”
The total TANF grant funding for the four after-school programs in the 2011-2012 school year was $255,312. According to County Budget records, only $85,104 of that was delivered to the four program providers, with the remaining $170,000 of federal funds withheld and stopped. Without the necessary funding, the programs had to shut down.
“The question remains concerning what the Astorino Administration has done with the remaining balance of the federal grant, now that it has stopped sending the money to the program providers,” said BOL Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon). “We should know what purpose this money is now being used for. Better yet: Restore the funding today and get the programs ready for summer.”
“In my legislative district, parents are upset that these youth programs were eliminated,” said Legislator Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers), chair of the BOL Public Safety Committee. “Keeping kids involved in positive after-school and summer activities will greatly improve their quality of life in so many ways.”