New York, NY - Bloomberg Restores $8M in Yeshivah Vouchers Until June 30 2010
New York, NY - Two weeks before the election, Mayor Bloomberg told Orthodox Jewish leaders in a private meeting that he planned to restore $8 million in day-care vouchers that the administration had pulled just months earlier as the city braced to cope with the collapsing economy.
“They are a huge help to many families, especially in the Orthodox community,” the mayor said at the Oct. 22 session in Borough Park, Brooklyn, which wasn’t listed on his campaign schedules. That was a 180-degree flip from what Bloomberg had said before.
In April, when presenting his preliminary budget for fiscal year 2010, the mayor cut the entire $16 million program.
In June, under pressure from advocates, he came up with $8 million to continue funding the vouchers through Dec. 31.
“It would be great if you could provide services for everybody,” Bloomberg said back then, “but the reality is people don’t want to pay more taxes.”
The latest round of extra funds have to be approved by the City Council and will continue the voucher payments through June 30.
A mayoral aide defended the turnabout by saying the city’s fiscal condition turned out not to be as bad as forecast in June, when it was assumed 300,000 jobs would vanish. He said only about 100,000 were lost.
The timing of the mayor’s announcement strongly suggests this is about politics and not the economy, since the budget gap for the next fiscal year was last projected at $4.9 billion.
Three days before Bloomberg pledged to add the $8 million, Rabbi Yahoshua Balkany—the school principal who help launched the voucher program under the Giuliani administration 12 years ago—was quoted in the Orthodox newspaper Hamodia as saying that the city’s Jewish institutions would be better served under Democratic mayoral rival Bill Thompson.
Thompson was one of the advocates pushing to keep the so-called Priority 7 vouchers, which now go to 1,824 families, almost all Orthodox Jewish parents who use them to pay for after-school care for their kids in local yeshivas.
There’s no question that Bloomberg will win most of the Jewish vote.
There is a question, however, about whether turnout in the general election will be as abysmally low as it was in September’s primaries. That explains why the mayor turned up with Rudy Giuliani in Borough Park on Oct. 18 to rev up Orthodox voters.
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