NYC Council diverting $1.2M in unspent city funds to public-private initiative providing migrant aid

As New York City continues to contend with a staggering number of migrants who’ve been arriving here for nearly a year, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams on Wednesday announced a $2.2 million public-private initiative to help nonprofits on the frontlines of the crisis continue providing a suite of services to the migrants.

The council will be funding the initiative, “Welcome NYC,” to the tune of $1.2 million, which was originally allocated to the city Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) through the Fiscal Year 2023 budget passed last June, but is projected not to be spent before the start of the next fiscal year. The council must pass a so-called “transparency resolution” during its scheduled Thursday stated meeting in order to move the funding around.

The other $1 million is coming from several philanthropic organizations including the Robin Hood Foundation, New York Community Trust, Bronx Community Foundation, New York Women’s Foundation and Brooklyn Community Foundation.

During a press conference announcing the initiative at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, Speaker Adams said the funding will be distributed amongst close to 30 community-based nonprofits that have been on the frontlines of providing services to the tens of thousands of migrants who’ve arrived here over the past year.

“The council is very excited to announce the launch of Welcome NYC, a $2.2 million public-private initiative to provide financial support for community-based organizations delivering crucial services for asylum seekers and our communities,” Speaker Adams said.

“Welcome NYC will help the organization’s providing asylum seekers and our communities with more broadly critical services including workforce development, adult literacy, mentorship and youth programs, social and economic and educational programs, food assistance and other programs that empower families and young adults,” she added.

Among the many organizations that’ll receive public and private dollars from the initiative are East Side House Inc. in the Bronx, Variety Boys and Girls Club in Queens, Churches United for Fair Housing in Brooklyn and United Way New York City.

Since last April, the city has seen an influx of over 47,000 asylum seekers, most of whom came to the United States after fleeing political violence in Central and South America. Over 29,000 of those migrants are either in the city’s homeless shelter system, one of the more than 80 emergency shelters or seven Humanitarian Emergency Relief and Response Centers (HERRCs) it has set up in the last several months — most of those being measures taken by Mayor Eric Adams’ administration to handle the surge.

The mayor’s team was completely absent from Wednesday’s announcement. But, while the speaker and the mayor have sometimes butted heads over his administration’s response to the crisis, she said the council is working with his office “on a daily basis.”

In a statement to amNewYork, a mayoral spokesperson said they “appreciate” the council’s allocation and brought up the administration’s estimated price tag for the crisis of $4.2 billion over the current and next fiscal years.

“As the mayor said months ago, it will take all levels of government to solve this crisis, that we expect will cost the city $4.2 billion over this fiscal year and the next. We appreciate the council’s announcement putting $1.2 million in funding toward this.”

Meisha Porter, president and CEO of The Bronx Community Foundation — one of the philanthropic groups that contributed to the fund, said the contribution from her group will go toward providing healthy food, clothing, phones and transportation for asylum seekers. While, Eve Stotland — senior program officer at New York Community Trust — said a combined  $750,000 grant from her organization and Robin Hood foundation will support six nonprofits assisting migrants with legal services.

“Immigrants make our city stronger, but for those who need legal advice, the road is hard,” Stotland said. “Immigrants have no right to an attorney, and often struggle to find trustworthy advice.These groups will help people navigate the complex immigration system, even if they can’t find a lawyer, until we can make sure that everybody has a right to a lawyer.”

When it comes to the council’s portion of the funding, Justin Brannan — the body’s Committee on Finance chair — told amNewYork Metro the dollars are council funds that were unspent and would just go back into the general fund if they aren’t spent before the fiscal year ends on June 31.

“The fiscal year isn’t over yet, so the money is council money that was not spent,” Brannan said. “So we either allocate it here or it goes back into the general fund. This seems like a much more important way to allocate those funds.”

Because this money came from the council, Brannan said, they didn’t have to alert the Adams administration about their intention to reallocate the funds from DYCD to the Welcome NYC initiative.

“It’s a movement on our side only,” Brannan said. “So, when we do the transparency resolution, when we move money around, it’s included in that. It’s got nothing to do with them.”