Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary $92 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 includes $132 million for the Summer Youth Employment Program, $200 million for the Test & Trace Corps and $62 million to help students in hybrid learning.
Other major items included in the budget so far are $52 million for food relief, $3 million to expand Wi-Fi in shelters and $10 million in extra resources for answering 311 calls when traffic is high due to COVID-19.
All of these investments are crucial to the city’s recovery, but the next budget proposal should include another important item: $20 million to expand Fair Futures.
Launched in December 2019, the initiative provides resources for the city’s child welfare agencies to hire coaches, tutors and specialists to mentor and guide thousands of young people in the foster care system.
According to a coalition of agencies, nonprofits and foundations championing the Fair Futures initiative, more than 4,000 middle- and high school-aged youth are in the city’s foster care system, but hundreds age out of it without ever having an adult they can count on for advice.
These advocates are calling for $20 million to be included in the budget to expand Fair Futures to cover all foster care youth to the age of 26, and for the funding to be baselined. That means the initiative would be a regular item in the budget, and advocates could avoid the so-called “budget dance” every year.
Though times are tough for the city, Fair Futures is exactly the type of investment that lawmakers need to make to help the most vulnerable among us. Giving foster care youth mentors they can look up to, who can guide them through a difficult part of their lives, will pay off in the long run.
As the budget process continues to play out over the next few months, legislators and the mayor should find space in the budget to fund Fair Futures.