On July 5, Nassau County ended funding for community agencies serving young people in the area.
According to Newsday, 53 organizations lost funding, and 72 agency staff members have been laid off. Some groups, like the Advisory Council for the Youth of Mineola, have closed entirely because county funding made up the bulk of their revenues. Others, like the Hispanic Counseling Center in Hempstead have shut down their summer programs and hope that a resolution of the political struggle at the county seat will allow them to move forward in the fall.
Groups like STRONG Youth, which works to inoculate kids in Latino communities against gangs, and COPAY, which has a summer camp for children from Spanish-speaking families on the North Shore, are now themselves at risk, as cuts have led to layoffs and program reductions.
County-funded agencies serve 45,000 young people each year. These are often at-risk kids, young people with developmental disabilities, the children of substance abusers, and teens likely to succumb to the enticements of area gangs. Many of them are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
The agencies had been given a secure source of funding during the Suozzi administration. Fines from red light cameras went to a good cause—they were a dedicated revenue stream for youth services. When Ed Mangano took office he ended the practice, putting services for vulnerable young people into the political cauldron.
County funding to these youth programs was cut as a result of political brinksmanship between Mangano and Democrats in the legislature. Meanwhile, young people are left to find their recreation on street corners.
Even if the funding is soon restored, the damage will last for years. Agencies are losing skilled staff members, some of whom will leave the field. Young people who would have spent the summer getting direction and support may fall victim to the blandishments of drug dealers and gang recruiters. And those with mental disabilities who could have been successfully treated through day programs may wind up in much more costly hospital settings at the expense of the taxpayer.
If you believe that the funding cuts need to be restored immediately, please sign this petition created by five coalitions of Nassau social service agencies.