New Yorkers on welfare hit 56-year low

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The number of New York City residents receiving cash assistance has dropped to the lowest level since 1963, according to a report Tuesday from the Independent Budget Office.

The IBO has tracked cash assistance to recipients since 1960. The 331,700 city residents receiving cash assistance in in June was the fewest since there were about 330,300 recipients 56 years ago in September 1963.

“For more than half a century the number of low-income New Yorkers receiving government-funded cash assistance — what was once called public assistance or welfare — has varied widely,” the IBO said in a statement.

“In the 1960s and early 1970s the cash assistance rolls grew rapidly, reaching nearly 1.1 million recipients in 1972. Over the next two decades, the number of recipients fluctuated between about 800,000 and 1.0 million, before the economic downturn of the early 1990s helped push the rolls to a peak of 1.16 million in March 1995. At that point, about 1 in 7 city residents was receiving cash assistance.”

The city-funded, nonpartisan IBO said that after hitting a peak of 1.16 million in March 1995, the number of people on cash assistance fell after reform measures were implemented by the city, state, and federal government.

The total budget for cash assistance grants for fiscal year 2020 is about $1.7 billion, according to the IBO.
IBO estimates that if the number of recipients had remained at its 1995 peak, the cash assistance part of the budget would be nearly $5.7 billion — and most of that additional $4.0 billion would have had to have come from city funds.

“If the Trump Administration’s recent public charge regulation survives court challenges, it may deter many legal immigrants seeking a green card from applying for cash assistance and some current recipients might abandon the program, further decreasing the number of city residents receiving aid,” IBO said.

In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council reached agreement on a final fiscal year 2020 budget of $92.8 billion. The final budget for fiscal 2019 was $89.2 billion.

The city is one of the largest issuers of municipal debt in the U.S. As of March 31, the city had nearly $38 billion of general obligation (Aa1/A/A) debt outstanding. That's not counting the various city authorities which issue debt.

The NYC Transitional Finance Authority has around $37 billion of debt outstanding while the NYC Municipal Water Finance Authority has about $30 billion. The TFA’s debt consists of future tax secured senior bonds (Aaa/AAA/AAA), future tax-secured subordinate bonds (Aa1/AAA/AAA) and building aid revenue bonds (Aa2/AA/AA). The MWFA’s debt consists of general resolution bonds (A1/AAA/AA+) and second general resolution bonds (Aa1/AA+/AA+).

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Budgets City of New York, NY