Kids caught in the de Blasio-Cuomo crossfire

Kids caught in the de Blasio-Cuomo crossfire

Yes, Gov. Cuomo faces big budget woes this year, and yes, he’s at war with Mayor de Blasio. But those are poor excuses to slash funding that will put vulnerable kids in the city at even greater risk.

Administration for Children’s Services chief David Hansell warns that Cuomo’s budget caps state aid to his agency at $320 million. That’s a steep drop from this year’s $454 million in state funding — a slash he says would leave ACS $129 million short of what it needs to keep kids safe.

It also flies in the face of the gov’s own breast-beating over the need for the agency to do its job: “Government matters,” Cuomo lectured after the 2016 death of 6-year-old Zymere Perkins, whose family was on ACS’s radar at the time. “When government fails, there are consequences.”

The defunding would affect key “child-protective” staffing levels, family and mental-health counseling, substance-abuse treatment and other services, says Hansell.

And it would undercut vital ACS reforms: The average caseload for frontline workers now, for example, is 12, down from 15 last May — and from as many as 24 in the 1990s.

A similar funding cap 20 years ago triggered a 57 percent spike in the number of kids forced into foster care, warns the ACS boss.

Cuomo budget spokesman Morris Peters disputes Hansell’s figures, claiming aid to ACS this year is just $320 million — the same as where the cap would be set. If the city wants to “expand costs by 40 percent,” he says, it should tap other funds.

But the city’s Independent Budget Office says ACS is “closer” to the truth on the numbers; the state figures appear to be just estimates based on a five-year average.

On the other hand, Peters notes that the city has billions in reserves and, under Cuomo’s budget, will be getting “nearly half a billion dollars” more from the state overall.

True, money is fungible, and de Blasio could shift funds from elsewhere to cover any ACS shortfalls. But if Cuomo truly believes his own words about the importance of protecting kids, why is he targeting the city agency set up to protect them?

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