Stimulus Aid Boosts Agencies
02/18/09
Assistant Managing Editor
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The $24.6 billion in federal aid for New York, which will cover Medicaid reimbursement as well as spending on education and transportation, will offer a reprieve, if only temporary, of devastating cuts to hospitals and nursing homes. With the state spending less on Medicaid, money will be freed up to keep nonprofit workers on the payroll. “We have a two-year reprieve, and hopefully in that period of time the economy will perk up,” said Ron Soloway, UJA-Federation’s lobbyist in Albany. “Because the [federal stimulus package] money is not targeted to specific programs it gives the state a lot of discretion. We are hoping that half of the cuts of the $120 million that was facing our agencies will not have to be made and the services our network provides to the mentally ill and people with serious and persistent health problems will not have to be reduced.” In December, the draconian Medicaid spending cuts announced by Gov. David Paterson caused worry that the UJA-Federation network would have to shut down nursing homes and other health facilities. Officials of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty are hoping the bailout will make it possible to restore the $2.5 million extended services program contract with the city that allows the agency and seven other nonprofits to provide everything from referral services to crisis intervention and case management for seniors. About $1.5 million goes to Jewish community organizations. Met Council laid off 21 workers in July after the city pulled the contract. A spokesman for the mayor, Marc Lavorgna, said the city was “still evaluating what [its] share [of the stimulus package money] will be and how we can use the dollars. The process is ongoing right now.” In announcing the aid last week, Sen. Charles Schumer, in a conference call with reporters, said the recovery bill was “great news for New York. For the first time in a long time New York State gets back more than we pay in.” Schumer noted that $12.6 billon in budget relief will go to the state and its localities over the next two years. The relief amounts to $8.6 billion in Medicaid relief for the state, $2.8 billion for New York City. Nassau and Suffolk counties will get $292 million. “This injection of funding will give our local leaders much-needed breathing room and flexibility to address our deep and diverse needs,” said Schumer. In related news, Agudath Israel of America this week hailed the impact of the Obama administration’s stimulus package on non-public schools, saying remedial education services and special education for all schools will be enhanced by the funding. Language that disqualified “schools of divinity” from the program was stricken from the final bill, said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudah’s counsel and Washington director. “What’s more, Pell Grants, which are critically important to educational institutions in the Jewish community, are given a significant boost in the legislation,” he added.   Advocates for Jonathan Pollard recruited a heavy hitter to try to secure a pardon for the spy in the waning days of the Bush administration, The Jewish Week has learned. Former White House counsel Harriet Miers, George W. Bush’s unsuccessful nominee to the Supreme Court in 2005, agreed to lobby her old boss on behalf of pro-Pollard activists, led by Rabbi Pesach Lerner of the National Council of Young Israel. Miers did not return a call to her Dallas office on Tuesday. But Rabbi Lerner confirmed the report, saying Miers, who left the White House in 2007, “assisted us in maneuvering through the intricacies of the administration. He said the fee to Miers’ high-powered law firm, Locke Lord Bissel and Liddel, was raised from individuals who feel the man convicted of spying for Israel in 1986 has served enough time in jail. While declining to disclose how much Miers was paid, Rabbi Lerner said he “discovered that she is a wonderful and special person and has become a friend personally and professionally, as well as a friend of the cause.” As opposed to his predecessor, Bush was tight-fisted with his pardon pen, and reports emerged this week that his refusal to pardon Scooter Libby, the vice presidential aide convicted of making false statements in the Valerie Plame CIA affair, had caused a rift with Dick Cheney. But Rabbi Lerner isn’t giving up on Pollard. “There are still things going on,” he says. A Queens City Council district may lose one Councilman Weprin and gain another in November. Assemblyman Mark Weprin plans to run for the seat to be vacated by his brother, David, who is running for city comptroller. They are scions of the late state Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin. Weprin won’t have to give up his Assembly seat to make the local run, making for an attractive opportunity for someone with an edge in name recognition. But he says he’ll run on his record as a legislator. “I can really deliver for my constituents because of my seniority and involvement in government,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “Lots of people say it’s nepotism. When I first ran for office that was a fair criticism. But now I’m not running on my name but on whether I’ve been an effective legislator or not.” Of course the run is predicated on the current comptroller, William Thompson, running for mayor. If not, David Weprin may want to hold onto his seat, courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn, who extended term limits last year. “I’ve been told by Bill Thompson that he is definitely running, so I’m going under the assumption that the dominoes are going to fall that way,” said Mark Weprin. The district includes Little Neck, Fresh Meadows and Holliswood, and about 65 percent overlaps with his Assembly District. The district has become heavily South Asian, and Weprin is likely to face Swaranjit Singh, president and founder of the World Sikh Peace Foundation and Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village Owners Association in the Democratic primary.   Speaking of name recognition, this week’s Quinnipiac poll suggests the Cuomo moniker remains popular among Jewish Democrats. Those polled, who represent about 10 percent of some 1,000 respondents, gave Attorney General Andrew Cuomo high marks in a run for governor next year. Fifty-eight percent of Jewish Democrats said they’d back the son of Mario Cuomo in a primary for his father’s old job against incumbent Gov. David Paterson, who was favored by only 13 percent. That gap is far greater than the relatively high margin of error for subgroups of 10.6 percent. Cuomo’s approval rating among Jews was 66 percent, compared with Paterson’s 40 percent, which is a likely casualty of Paterson’s tough-medicine budget cuts. E-mail: adam@jewishweek.org

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10/08/2009 - 09:54

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