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The AIDS Community Needs Answers: NYC Budget Proposes Major HASA Changes

By Sunny Bjerk

January 31, 2013

The AIDS Community Needs Answers: NYC Budget Proposes Major HASA Changes

Two days ago, Mayor Bloomberg released the first draft of the city's FY2014 budget, which will go into effect July 1st, 2013. And true to form, Bloomberg's proposed budget includes new cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, which mimics his pattern of cutting millions of dollars of funding to the city's HIV/AIDS services, programs, and housing each budget cycle (see, for example, cuts to Supportive Housing and Brokers' Fee Assistance).

In FY2014's budget, the city is proposing to implement work-requirement for non-medically eligible Associated Case Members (ACMs) on HASA cases, requiring them enroll in a "welfare-to-work" program in order for the HASA client to retain the same level of assistance. Associated Case Members are people who live in the same household as the HASA client but do not receive HASA benefits themselves. ACMs examples include spouses, children, or people living in the house who serve as informal caretakers (picking up prescriptions, driving the HASA client to doctors appointments, helping with daily needs of living, etc.). Generally, the more ACMs in the household, the more assistance HASA clients would receive. But this proposed policy would change this by requiring all medically eligible ACMS to work in order to maintain the same level of benefits for the household. Exceptions to the work-requirement would be adult ACMs who are in school or who can be certified as caregivers.

At least 1,200 adult ACMs will be required to work under this new policy, and HASA estimates a least 15% will be non-compliant with this policy (as of this writing, I have been unable to find how or where HASA came up either figure).

Although the HASA work-requirement policy is not yet official, the city aims to enforce the policy sometime later this year.

The major cause for implementing this policy, according to the city, is to eliminate inefficiencies in HASA and to "align rental assistance levels with medical necessity. The city claims that this work-requirement will save the city $2.45 million in 2014 and $3.89 million in 2015 and 2016.

But the gritty truth behind this proposed work-requirement is that many current or future HASA clients will see a reduction or full denial of benefits, making it more and more difficult for people living with HIV/AIDS to find or keep secure housing and pay for their daily needs of living.

What's more, Jason Walker, Community Organizer and HIV/AIDS Housing Network Coordinator for VOCAL-NY notes that this work-requirement might also lead to the break up of families if this policy is confirmed.

But we will work hard to make sure that people living with HIV/AIDS receive the benefits they need and that the city's budget is not balanced on the backs of the city's most needy and vulnerable.

The city certainly has a budget fight on its hands. Stay tuned.

This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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