MOUNT VERNON – State Senator George Latimer, the Democratic Nominee for County Executive, and Mount Vernon lawmakers criticized incumbent Rob Astorino for dangerous cuts to the county’s Department of Health and other health and family services, Tuesday morning in front of the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center located at 107 W 4th Street. The general sentiment was that Astorino’s all-out war on these vital services comes as President Donald Trump has taken steps to dismantle subsidies to health insurers under Obamacare, effectively gutting the signature program and denying millions vital healthcare coverage.
Latimer was joined by State Senator Jamaal Bailey, County Legislator Lyndon Williams, County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky, Chairman of Westchester County Democratic Party Reginald A. Lafayette, Mount Vernon City Council Candidate Delia Farquharson, Mt. Vernon City Council Candidate Janice Duarte, Mt. Vernon City Council Candidate Marcus A. Griffith (incumbent), Reverand Troy P. DeCohen President of the United Black Clergy of Westchester and Senior Pastor of the Mount Vernon Heights Congregational Church, Reverend Edward Mulraine, pastor of Unity Baptist Tabernacle, and several community members and stakeholders to slam the County budget cuts affecting local services in Mt. Vernon. The Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center is a not-for-profit health clinic which has served thousands of the most vulnerable residents and families in Westchester County regardless of their ability to pay.
Senator Latimer pointed out that shortly after his last election in 2014, Astorino attacked funding for Westchester’s Community Health Centers, proposing to reduce their budgets by $7.9 million over his first three years.As a result, Astorino vetoed a restoration of the cuts by the Board of Legislators during the budget cycle. From 2010 to 2017, parent contribution for subsidized daycare is up 164% while the number of low-income slots continues to decrease.
In reviewing Astorino’s budgets from 2010 through 2017, a steady trend emerges. Astorino’s first budget enacted in 2010 included $176,00,000 for the County Department of Health. By 2017, this figure has been reduced to just $128,000,000, amounting to a 27 percent cut. The services reduced through the Department of Health cuts include clinics, Childhood Lead Programs, AIDS Services and the “Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby” Program.
The Mt. Vernon Neighborhood Health Center has regularly faced uncertainty and decreased funding. In an effort to ensure that funding for health services is not jeopardized by the politics of County Executive Rob Astorino, Congressman Eliot Engel secured a $3 million grant for the Neighborhood Health Center.
“For years, Rob Astorino worked to cut millions and millions of dollars from the Neighborhood Health Center, as well as the ones in Ossining and Peekskill. He slashed Health Department funding by $41 million – a 27 percent cut – and mental health funding by more than 50%. He’s even gutted subsidized daycare. Low-income programs have borne the brunt of Astorino’s extreme right-wing budget ideology, and Mount Vernon families are the ones paying the price,” Latimer said.
“Astorino, just like Trump, has struck at the heart of low-income families, by driving up the family cost of subsidized daycare and cutting the number of available slots. He is robbing families of the opportunity to build a better future for their families. I stand here today because I am proud to endorse George Latimer as Westchester’s next County Executive. He understands the importance of promoting healthy communities and the value of adequate health services as a preventative measure to cut costs,” said State Senator Jamaal Bailey (D- Mount Vernon) at the presser.
“I’m proud to fight of child care subsidies for the working poor. Child Care subsidies allow working parents to maintain gainful employment rather than being trapped in the abject poverty of welfare dependency,” said County Legislator Lyndon Williams.
Astorino’s calloused approach to Westchester families’ healthcare needs extends well beyond the budget. In 2011, Astorino infamously suggested that Medicaid recipients should resort to eating soup in the event of the state’s elimination of dental and other optional health services offered under the program. Astorino has also been an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, even as the president continues to unravel Obamacare and propose steep cuts to vital health services, echoing the county executive’s current budgetary push.
We reached out to County Executive Rob Astorino’s office for a quote on the matter;
“Westchester is spending more in its social services budget today than it ever has, while at the same time holding the line on taxes. Until he pays the five years in back school, county, and City taxes his household owes — more than $46,000 and counting — George Latimer should keep quiet about anything to do with money,” Bill O’Reilly, spokesman, Friends of Rob Astorino shared with BW.
Several other services in the city of Mount Vernon have been cut in the past few years like the closing of the Mount Vernon Probation Office. Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story as we will look further into cuts in the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center and other services in Mount Vernon and other communities of color. You can see the Tuesday’s press conference in the video below and as always please feel free to share your thoughts and concerns in the comment sections below the article.