In 2017, the Council continued to rally for seniors, veterans, LGBTQ youth, and other New Yorkers in great need. These legislative and budgetary accomplishments, implemented on behalf of the City’s vulnerable people, included measures that will help reduce pay inequity, provide resources to tackle the opioid epidemic, and prohibit services that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation.
Closing the Pay Gap
Salary histories can have an “anchoring effect,” which follow individuals, particularly women, throughout their careers. Studies show that this effect tethers individuals to lower starting salaries, which depress a person’s earning potential throughout their life. In April 2017, the Council passed legislation to reduce the likelihood that a person will be prejudiced by prior salary levels, and by it doing so, helped break the cycle of pay inequity. The resulting laws prohibit employers from making salary history inquiries or relying on salary history to determine a prospective applicant’s salary. Instead, employers are encouraged to set salaries based on factors such as resources and market rates.
Making Sure Our Seniors Don’t Go Hungry
In her 2017 State of the City address, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that the Council would address food insecurity by increasing the participation of seniors in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As a result, the Council passed legislation that requires the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS), working with the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA), to increase awareness of SNAP among seniors and their caregivers through a public campaign and to establish a SNAP enrollment and recertification program. The program must ensure that SNAP enrollment and recertification is taking place at all senior centers throughout the City. DSS is also required to provide an annual report and data to the Council regarding the department’s public campaign, SNAP enrollment and recertification activity for seniors.
Increasing Funding for Critical Services
The Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) Adopted Budget added $1.9 million and 26 positions to expand the law enforcement division of the New York City Human Rights Commission (HRC) to shrink the backlog of discrimination cases. Within the New York City Human Resource Administration’s (HRA) budget, a $7.2 million increase was allocated to the Emergency Food Assistance Program. In addition, the Council increased financial support to the City’s human service contractors, which will allow for increased wages for the 180,000 workers that provide 2.5 million New Yorkers the services that they need.
Giving Veterans More Legal Options and Expanded Exemptions
Despite current legal protections provided to veterans at the federal and state level, those who have served sometimes find that they have little legal recourse when they are discriminated against. This discrimination is often felt most acutely in the areas of employment and housing.
In response, the Council passed legislation which makes uniformed service status a protected class under the City’s Human Rights Law, providing veterans, military members, and their families with the ability to challenge discrimination in housing, employment and other areas on a local level, and giving them another avenue to obtain relief when their rights are violated.
The Council also expanded the Alternative Veterans Property Tax Exemption to include a portion of property taxes that paid for school taxation. This will result in an average additional savings of $595 for over 56,000 qualifying veterans on their property tax bill.
Supporting LGBTQ Youth and Seniors
In June, the Council passed legislation requiring the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene to develop a plan to address behavioral health issues unique to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and senior citizens. This legislation addresses issues such as coming out, homophobia and transphobia, depression and suicide, alcohol and drug use, sexual and intimate partner violence, and homelessness.
Combatting the Opioid Epidemic
To combat the City’s ongoing opioid epidemic, the Council passed legislation requiring an agency of the Mayor’s choosing to develop short-term and long-term strategies to coordinate public and private resources to address illicit and non-medical drug use and to review the City’s past and current drug policies.
Expanding Tax Relief for Senior and Disabled Homeowners
The Senior Citizens Homeowners’ Exemption (SCHE) and Disabled Homeowners’ Exemption (DHE) programs provide property tax relief to low-income senior citizen and disabled homeowners. In August, the Council passed legislation increasing the income threshold for SCHE and DHE eligibility to $58,400. This allows approximately 35,000 additional households to receive these tax benefits, which will save them on average $1,800 a year.
Increasing Accessibility for the Hearing-Impaired
To make public spaces more accessible to persons with hearing-related disabilities, the Council passed legislation requiring the installation of induction loop systems for certain public spaces that use sound systems. These systems were paid for, in-whole or in-part, with city funds. An induction loop system is a sound system for person with hearing related disabilities that transmits the audio signals directly into hearing aids.
Prohibiting “Conversion” Services
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1973, and currently, there remains no reputable national medical or psychiatric association that believes homosexuality is a “disorder” that can be “cured.” In addition, many of these associations posit that attempting to engage in “conversion” services is actually harmful – particularly to minors. This year, the Council passed legislation that would prohibit any person from charging consumers for services that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Protecting Our Seniors
The Council dubbed 2017 the “Year of the Senior” to commemorate the major funding increases it achieved for older New Yorkers. The FY18 budget features a $22.9 million baseline increase for DFTA senior services, an investment that reflects the Council’s commitment to serving more than 1 million New Yorkers of advanced age. This money includes:
- $10 million for senior center operations;
- $6.5 million toward increasing home-care services;
- $1.2 million in funding to improve case management services;
- $1.2 million to extend the Weekend Meals Program; and
- $4 million to launch a new Caregiver Support Program