City Hall, NY – Today, the New York City Council released a report examining the Administration’s policies and efforts to provide critical services to people seeking asylum in New York City and longtime New Yorkers. The report includes a package of policy proposals aimed at improving short-term emergency relief efforts and addressing long-standing structural shortcomings in the City’s supportive services. It puts forth specific policy recommendations to improve city shelters, housing, mental health services, language access, temporary humanitarian shelters, immigration legal services, rental assistance, workforce development, healthcare, education, and more.
“New York has always been a welcoming city where people from all walks of life can access opportunities, no matter where they are from or what language they speak,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Our city will only grow stronger by addressing the immediate and long-term needs of asylum seekers and all New Yorkers. As we prepare for the potential arrival of more migrants and work cohesively to provide culturally competent and necessary services, the City has an opportunity to strengthen our delivery of essential services to provide the utmost care and services for all. This set of policy recommendations and reforms is the Council’s contribution to advancing thoughtful, comprehensive ideas to better serve all communities.”
The report’s recommendations follow a special two-day City Council Committee of the Whole hearing, which included testimony from members of the public, service providers, and City agency leaders from the Mayor’s Office of Contracts, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, New York City Emergency Management, NYC Health + Hospitals, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Social Services, Department of Youth and Community Development, and the Department of Education.
“Tens of thousands of people are choosing to restart their lives in New York and enrich our city with their talents and strengths,” said Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. “While some are cynically seeking to play political football with their lives and well-being. New York stands ready to embrace our newest arrivals. Instead of pointing fingers at each other we need city, state, and federal leaders to come together to meet the moment with bold, forward-looking policy solutions such as those outlined in this report.”
Among the policy recommendations outlined in the report are the following:
Pre-arrival Priorities and Immediate Needs
- Increase communication among cities, states, and organizations to anticipate the number and kind of support newly arriving people and families may need.
- Expand efforts to connect migrants with family and intra-city/state transit where newly arriving people may seek to settle or reunite with loved ones.
- Increase funding for urgent basic living essentials so that new arrivals have access to food, clothing, and other necessary items.
- Overhaul and expand City language services to expand interpretation and translation services available to all.
- Connect migrants to culturally appropriate mental health services prioritizing people who may have suffered both physical and mental trauma prior to and throughout their journey.
- Increase the number of beds and shelter programs for young migrants through additional dedicated funding and programming.
- Create standards for temporary humanitarian centers including safety precautions, such as distance between beds, storage facilities for belongings, and access to wraparound services.
Needs within the First Few Days of Arrival
- Culturally competent food assistance to provide and transport reliable supplies of culturally appropriate cuisine to migrants.
- Expand immigration legal services with new funding and public-private partnerships to fill in gaps in service.
- Expand the documents City agencies recognize for IDNYC and other services to include those new arrivals are likely to have.
- Help new arrivals navigate NYC with MetroCards and language-appropriate guidance on using public transportation.
- Multilingual staff at family welcome centers with information on all educational options.
- Work permits for newly arriving migrants through new federal legislation.
- Allow shelter residents to access City rental assistance sooner by considering legislation eliminating the 90-day shelter-stay requirement.
- Speed up approvals for City rental assistance by reducing administrative and procedural hurdles.
- Crackdown on landlords illegally denying City rental vouchers by ensure that the Commission on Human Rights’ Source of Income Discrimination Unit is fully staffed.
- Reduce the documentation needed to enter City shelters by considering legislation to reduce the two-year housing history documentation requirement.
- Ease the process for families seeking shelter by increasing efficiency and staffing at the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) family intake center,
- Expand social services available at City shelters by considering legislation to expand the number of eligibility specialists and housing specialists available at shelters.
- Build more permanent affordable housing following the framework included in Speaker Adams’ Housing Agenda.
- Evaluate supportive services for New Yorkers exiting shelters including piloting a new or supplemental aftercare program to support New Yorkers transitioning from the homeless shelter system.
- Make City rental assistance available to all regardless of immigration status.
Economic Opportunity, Food Insecurity, and Health
- Expand workforce development training to build on migrants’ existing skills.
- Provide food assistance program information to migrants with detailed language-accessible and location-specific information about food pantries and soup kitchens
- Connect new arrivals with free and low-cost City healthcare at our public hospitals to ongoing preventative and responsive health care.
- Prepare City workforce to deliver trauma-informed care including initial and ongoing training to all government personnel who regularly engage with asylum seekers.
- Expand the pool of bilingual and multilingual teachers at City schools.
- Ensure schools receive all available funding including Title I, Title III, and IDEA funding
- Expand English classes for adults to meet the current demand from recent arrivals and long-time New Yorkers.
- Language Access Coordinators in all schools to ensure students and families receive language-appropriate educational support.
- Expand multilingual mental health services for students, providing culturally competent and linguistically appropriate mental health care to students.
- Remove barriers to retaining multilingual teachers by reviewing state requirements for certification.
- Support schools in securing student records for new migrant students.
- Expand childcare to all by building on Council-funded initiatives supporting childcare for undocumented children in NYC.
The full report is available here.
“This holiday season serves as a reminder of our responsibility to provide assistance to those in need,” said Majority Leader Keith Powers. “New York City has done an admirable job in addressing this unprecedented situation thus far but these recommendations show more ways we can help these asylum seekers. While those in other parts of our country would rather score political points, New York stands ready to take care of our new neighbors.”
“The two days of City Council hearings and my numerous interactions with social service providers and asylum seekers have demonstrated the need for immediate action to strengthen coordinated services,” said Council Member Gale Brewer. “The unbelievable trauma that these families faced before getting to New York demonstrates that culturally appropriate mental health services are a desperate need. Congress should pass legislation to give these individuals the ability to work because they want to be employed and New York has jobs that need to be filled. I know that the Administration is trying to be responsive, and federal funding will be helpful, but the response must include everyone’s input. I thank Speaker Adams for spearheading the Committee of the Whole to address these concerns.”
“As thousands of people each day continue to make their way to the U.S. border to flee strife in their home countries, cities across the nation are being asked to do more to respond to this humanitarian crisis,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca. “As a city of immigrants, the New York City Council is leading the charge to ensure no one is getting left behind as a result of federal inaction. Creating a policy framework of legislation we could approve in the immediate future to achieve short and long-term policy goals, including my bill to increase the number of housing specialists in shelters to place people in permanent housing faster, the Council is signaling its intent to step up and help our neediest brothers and sisters.”
“Asylum seekers are our neighbors, and it’s up to us to show them that they are a valued part of our community,” said Council Member Shaun Abreu. “New York City has always been and will always be, a refuge for those in need looking to make a better life for their families. I am proud to have worked to introduce legislation that would speed up approvals for City rental assistance, an important long-term solution as we absorb thousands of new migrants into the fabric of our neighborhoods. I thank Speaker Adams for her unwavering support and leadership on this critically important issue and look forward to the passage of these policy proposals.”
“To date, our City has welcomed over 31,000 asylum seekers, finding shelter, housing, and support for nearly every single one of them. However, as we prepare for the end of the racist Title 42 policy, we must redouble our efforts to ensure everyone who comes to New York City seeking safety can find it,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “The Speaker’s call for expanded legal services, permanent housing, multilingual mental health care, and funding for schools, both to meet the short- and long-term needs, for newly arrived New Yorkers, is exactly the response our City government should take. As we mourn the second suicide of an asylum seeker in our City’s care, we must expand our efforts to provide care and pursue this policy package to ensure we meet this moment for the thousands of asylum seekers who are relying on us.”
“New York City has a unique history of immigrants overcoming obstacles and making valuable contributions to our society, said Council Member Shekar Krishnan “To support this tradition and ensure that all newcomers have the opportunity to thrive, it is crucial that we address and improve upon the structural shortcomings in our city’s supportive services. By following many of the policies recommended in this report, we can continue to be a welcoming and inclusive place for people from all backgrounds and walks of life.”
“Managing the migrant emergency with urgency and sensitivity is my priority to accommodate the needs of our new New Yorkers entering the City, and ensuring that service delivery from all of our city agencies remains consistent with the influx of people being served,” said Council Member Farah Louis. “It is essential that we actively work with all of our agencies to ensure they have the resources to accommodate the larger populations in the City, but to also recognize shifting demographics and cultural needs of those entering. In working with the shelters in my district, it is clear that ensuring our agencies are able to provide basic resources such as food, clothing, and communication with their families abroad is urgently needed, alongside ensuring they are able to integrate with our neighborhood institutions such as schools, public spaces, and transportation. I look forward to the Council and agencies working in lockstep to implement the recommended changes to ensure we are a welcoming and unified City.”
“The city is expecting thousands of migrants to arrive at our doorstep in the coming weeks, and they will require food, shelter, and other resources to begin a new life here in the United States,” said Council Member Sandra Ung. “These comprehensive policy proposals will not only help them on day one by providing immediate and culturally competent services, but also address the long-term needs of these asylum seekers as they become the newest residents of our city.”
“After listening to two days of testimony both from the administration and the public, it is unequivocally clear that if we don’t make dramatic changes now, our city will be headed into both a fiscal disaster and a humanitarian crisis,” said Council Member Nantasha Williams. “This comprehensive report robustly outlines critical recommendations to ensure our city is meeting the dire needs of asylum seekers. Throughout the year, this Council has focused on housing, specifically improving the City’s voucher program. As Chair of the Civil and Human Rights Committee, I fought hard to increase the budget of the Commission on Human Rights’ Source of Income Unit, which sadly remains significantly understaffed. The magnitude of this crisis must not fall solely on the shoulders of the City, as increasing communication between the various stakeholders and the federal government will be critical.”
“Over 31,000 migrants have arrived in New York since May of this year and thousands more are expected in the coming months with the end of title 42. We must move into the new year with comprehensive plans to support them holistically, from finding permanent stable housing to culturally and linguistically competent mental health support and treatment.” said Council Member Julie Won. “We are a city of immigrants that needs to have a support system in place for our new neighbors so that they too can settle down and thrive as so many of us have done.”