Civic, religious and labor leaders rallied Tuesday on the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building in Mineola to call on the county to restore funding to more than 40 programs for at-risk youths and other social services that was cut this summer.
The programs were effectively held hostage by political gridlock between Democrats and Republicans who hold a 1-vote legislative majority in the cash-starved county. The Center for Popular Democracy, who led the latest in a series of rallies, estimated tens of thousands of Nassau County families are suffering due to these cuts.
“It’s like sending members of a fire department to put out a fire without a hose and without the proper equipment,” said The Rev. Dr. Catherine Corbett of the United Methodist Church in Hicksville. “We can not have [the children] go into the future without the wrap around support that they need.”
The theme of the event, according to Steven McFarland, lead Long Island organizer at the center, was that people across the county are waking up to the issues.
“This is no longer people that receive services or social workers speaking out about the issue as they see it,” said McFarland. “This is progressive groups and people of faith from across the county recognizing that this represents a broader assault on the social safety net and that it is time to take action as the new budget is announced this week.”
One of the progressive groups that came to demonstrate their outrage was Make the Road, a group that advocates for minority groups across LI and New York City. The group is organizing a phone campaign to county lawmakers speaking out against the budget cuts.
“We want to send a clear message to [County Executive Ed] Mangano and the legislators out here that we will not be silenced when budgets are being balanced on the backs of working class and immigrant communities,” said Karina Claudio, lead organizer of Make the Road Long Island. “Especially if these cuts are affecting our young people.”
One program that stands to loose everything from the budget cuts is the Hicksville Boys and Girls Club. The organization has lost over half of its funding rendering it unable to provide services like after school recreation, tutoring, mentoring and open gym programs to its nearly 500 members.
“At this point in time we’re not really sure what’s going to happen,” said Tom Bruno, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club in Hicksville. “We’re trying to mobilize the community to help us do some sort of fundraising activities, but we’re looking to lose about $70,000 to $150,000 from the county.”
Concerned parties will be gathering again to speak out against the budget cuts at the Hicksville United Methodist Church at 7 p.m. Thursday. Bruno said that people looking to help with the situation could contact local legislators, the county executive’s office or make donations to programs in need of funding.
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