Despite pleas from several City Council members and over 15,000 letters from their constituents, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declined to extend funding for a day care voucher program that heavily benefits Orthdox communities.
The Priority 7 funding, which allows payments of of up to $300 per week per eligible child for afterschool programs, will end this month.
On Wednesday, the mayor and his top aides met with Council Members David Greenfield of Borough Park, Lew Fidler of Marine Park, Letitia James of Crown Heights, Brad Lander of Borough Park and Stephen Levin of Williamsburg, who delivered the letters in a plea for the cash-strapped city to continue the $12 million per year program.
“We made an incredibly compelling case today as to why Priority 7 vouchers should be saved and how these cuts disproportionately impact the Orthodox Jewish community," said Greenfield in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Mayor did not agree with us.”
The legislators argued that while over 70 percent of children in Orthodox neighborhoods like Boro Park and Williamsburg are eligible for free childcare only a fraction of those needy children actually receive it.
The Council Members offered a compromise to phase out the program by 20 percent each year for the next five years, which the mayor said he would consider, according to the statement.
"The City faces extremely difficult fiscal challenges, and spending is being cut at every City agency,’ said a spokesman for the mayor, Marc LaVorgna. "At this time, we do not plan to continue the program beyond the six month extension we agreed to fund this summer, which concludes at the end of the month."
The vouchers are important to families that meet income requirements because it makes it easier for both parents to work. During last month’s election campaign, many Orthodox Jews reportedly believed that supporting Bloomberg’s pick for attorney general, Republican Dan Donovan, would curry for with the mayor to continue the program.