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Know Your Rights
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

As budget cuts loom, a tearful Staten Island child asks

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A 14-year-old’s world ought to revolve around school, friends and family, most would agree.

But Sara Cavasos had a pressing concern of a different sort, one she shared yesterday with 300-plus people at a rally at Temple Emanu-El in Port Richmond.

She spoke about how proposed cuts to the federal budget would shred the safety net for her and her mother, which includes quarters in a family shelter.

“It’s really hard,” she quavered through tears, as her mother stood beside her. “I don’t know what to do, one day to the next. And if you cut the programs, what will people like us do?”

The rally kicked off a campaign to fight the proposed cuts to the Community Service Block Grant Program that would cost the city $31 million. Staten Island services like immigrant assistance, healthy families, after-school programs and housing assistance would lose $750,000, said Suzanne Lynn, deputy commissioner for the Department of Youth and Community Development.

Not only would funds be cut in half, Ms. Lynn said, agencies would be pitted against each other for the remaining money.

“It’s not a good way to run an anti-poverty program,” she said.

Island programs slated for cuts are Catholic Charities, Project Hospitality, Make the Road New York, United Activities Unlimited and the Jewish Community Center.

Kevin Douglas of United Neighborhood Houses, part of a coalition of citywide organizations leading the charge against the cuts, urged Islanders to fight back via petitions, letters, meetings and online efforts. The same cuts were proposed last year, Douglas noted, but an all-out community effort rolled them back. “This money is important to you,” Douglas said. “If it is eliminated, we are all going to suffer.”

“It is a shame that once again the most vulnerable and needy are the ones faced with devastating cuts,” said City Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore).

“Close to three-quarters of a million dollars will be lost and the services will be lost to the people of Staten Island,” said the Rev. Terry Troia, executive director of Project Hospitality. “What is our national priority? It must be our families.”

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