By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Even the EEPC, whose scant budget is wholly dependent on Giuliani largesse, concluded in its annual report that the "extensive delay" had "negatively impacted on the administration of equal employment opportunity programs in city government."
Cutting the Bootstraps
Flying in the face of bootstrap Republican ideology and a state law cosponsored by Staten Island Republican John Marchi, the mayor has insisted on forcing thousands of minority students at the City University to choose between retaining their meager public assistance and dropping out of college. The administration began in the spring of 1995 to require home relief recipients single adults without children to do 20 workfare hours a week, and it assigned those who were then CUNY students to job sites regardless of their college schedules or locations. A year later, it did the same for women with dependents on welfare. Even after Marchi's bill pushing on-campus assignments became law, the administration stonewalled.
The Voicehas learned that since 1995, the number of CUNY students on home relief has plummeted 86 percent, from 10,512 to 1459. Since 1996, when workfare was extended to AFDC recipients, their CUNY ranks dropped 46.3 percent, from 17,108 to 8836. No one knows how many recipients left school as opposed to how many students left the rolls. But Giuliani's stubborn suspicion, as expressed by aide Tony Coles, that these students were "using welfare as a scholarship program" has led the mayor to literally change the lives of thousands. He apparently preferred punishing those trying to lift themselves out of poverty by learning, to running the risk of rewarding those few who might be scamming the city.
While there are certainly many welfare recipients, unlike those at CUNY, who have benefited from Giuliani's workfare demands, his refusal, as City Council welfare chair Steve DiBrienza puts it, "to do any linear tracking of what happens to those who leave the rolls" has allowed the mayor to tour the country making "wildly unsubstantiated claims." HRA's Turner has tried to suggest that as many as 54 percent got full- or part-time jobs based on what DiBrienza says is a skewed sample of a mere 126 participants, most of whom were better educated and more stable than the typical recipient. But Turner's predecessor once conceded in a meeting with advocates that only 4 percent got jobs.
For the 40 percent of workfare participants who are "sanctioned" by Giuliani supervisors meaning knocked off the rolls, or cut in benefits, for missing an hour of work or other violations of what the mayor calls a "social contract" the program appears to be more intent on reducing caseloads than introducing "ennobling" work.
Likewise, the more recent Giuliani initiative of "inventing hoops" for welfare applicants "to jump through" before qualifying for benefits, including even food stamps and medicaid, is, according to DiBrienza, denying entitlements to those in legitimate need. Seventy-five percent of welfare applicants at Giuliani's new "job centers" are rejected, triple the turndown rate in 1994. The number of fair hearings of DSS rejections and cutoffs has grown by 70 percent to 130,000 in 1997 and the city loses 87 percent of those cases.
The sanctions and rejection rate feed the mayor's hunger for an ever bigger number on the national, and now Senate, tour, where New York's "disappeared" the 400,000 who've left welfare for nowhere are celebrated as a personal triumph.
The searing budget cuts under Giuliani that have hit blacks hardest include: the virtual end of city subsidies to HHC, three years of slashes at the Board of Ed before an election-year boost, the decimation of city capital funding for housing, the near-elimination of new units for the homeless, the youth agency shutdown, and the gutting of HRA. Nothing comparable happened in an agency that did not disproportionately serve blacks.
CUNY's Language Exemption John Morning, a black Republican appointee of Governor Pataki to the CUNY board who also was named by Giuliani to a cultural commission, blamed the mayor in a Voiceinterview for the new remediation policy that he fears "will significantly impact on minority access" to the university. Describing the policy that ends remediation at senior colleges and requires applicants to pass three tests for admission "punishing," Morning has recently begun saying that the CUNY board would not consider doing it but for the "interference" of politicians, namely Giuliani.
Some studies indicate the new policy could cut the student population by half. But few have noticed besides Morning and CUNY vice chair Herman Badillo that an exemption to the resolution may result in an even more focused impact on blacks than on other minorities. This exception allows English-as-a-second-language students born "abroad" to still enter senior colleges and get remediation, meaning many Russian, Asian, and Hispanic immigrants may be less affected.
Informed in detail about the nature of this story, Colleen Roche, the mayor's press secretary, told the Voice that no one inside the administration would cooperate with it.
The Voice did contact friends of the administration and asked about the plus side of the mayor's record with blacks. None would even praise him for the record, but they cited the crime drops in black neighborhoods, the uplifting effects of workfare jobs, the clearing of street vendors off 125th Street and its commercial redevelopment, the administration's support for private van service at subway stops in black communities, and Giuliani's support of a black chancellor and president at the Board of Education.