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Cuomo: NYC 'too late' on homeless funds bid

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces preparations to recruit

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces preparations to recruit and train teachers as part of the expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten at press conference at City Hall, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Credit: Bryan Smith

Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted Tuesday that there's still time before next Tuesday's Albany budget deadline to secure state funds to combat homelessness, resolving to work through a "miscommunication" even as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared it "too late."

The city wants language struck from the state budget that bars it from receiving state aid for a rent-subsidy program for the homeless.

"This budget process . . . is very intense. There's a lot of moving parts," de Blasio said at a City Hall news conference. "It's not shocking that some pieces might have gotten misunderstood and miscommunicated. Our job is to fix it and fix it quickly."

The mayor would not say whether the city was responsible in the mix-up, but added there has been much discussion with Albany.

A Cuomo administration official, meanwhile, said de Blasio's team had not made a formal proposal for a rent-subsidy program and had never scheduled meetings on the issue.

The governor said the city has missed the deadline.

"It's late in the date to put something in the actual budget, because the budget train has basically left the station," he said during an appearance in East Syracuse. "So to start a new proposal, it's too late."

Both Cuomo and de Blasio said combating homelessness is a priority for them, especially because they worked together on the issue at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

City Council Member Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the general welfare committee, was in Albany Tuesday to lobby state legislators on removing the budget language restriction. He said the move wouldn't cost the state anything, and the funding amount could be set later.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg three years ago ended a rent-subsidy program called Advantage, citing a cut in state funding. Levin said the city has been suffering since then.

"We have seen a skyrocketing in the number of homeless families and individuals in New York City," he said.

He pointed to data by the Coalition for the Homeless advocacy group showing the number of people in the city shelter system had risen 7 percent between January 2013 and last January, reaching 53,615, the highest level ever recorded.

"If it's not addressed in FY15 [fiscal year 2015] . . . we're going to see a similar rate of increase of families in the shelter system," Levin said. "That's a bad outcome."

Coalition for the Homeless senior policy analyst Patrick Markee said, "There is nothing stopping state officials from removing the restrictive budget rule that prevents a new rental subsidy."

With Michael Gormley

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