On Friday, Feb. 23, 2012, Vocal New York, a community organization that advocates for the homeless, mentally ill, drug addicts and AIDS victims, held an emergency meeting. Many of the participants were concerned about the cutbacks to HASA, a welfare program administered by New York City's Human Resources Administration. HASA essentially paid for the housing of AIDS victims, gave them food stamps and medicaid, and gave them monthly cash assistance. Some HASA clients lived in private residences, others lived in welfare motels where the city paid upwards of $1500 a month for their rent. Many of these people were apparently drug addicts, and this came to the attention of the Bloomberg administration. HASA will now require a verbal intake that screens its clients for use of drugs. Recipients who test positive for drugs will lose their eligibility to receive assistance from the city. While they have the option of going to rehab, after completing the program they cannot test positive for drugs or else they will lose all their benefits.
Participants at Vocal discussed their anger and outrage and event protested at the home of HRA commissioner Robert Doar. They protested outside the HRA's commissioner's home, and they protested outside HRA headquarters. But some leaders at vocal essentially told the crowd to be resigned to these cuts being permanent, and to prepare for them and deal with them.
NYC is making other cuts to AIDS programs, as the fees they pay brokers have been reduced in half. Many brokers no longer work with HASA. Other welfare programs which have nothing to do with AIDS are also being cut. New York's City Advantage Program, a welfare program that paid the rent of clients who previously lived in shelters for two years, was terminated in March 2011. Advocates for the poor sued the city in order to force it to continue payments, but court system sided with Mayor Bloomberg and allowed him to terminate the program. On Nov. 1st, 2013 food stamp benefits were cut for all clients at a rate of about 5%. Sequestration has cut funds to all federal programs and agencies by 10%.Things were looking pretty bleak for various social services programs in NYC, but under de Blasio things substantially improved. The poor people in NYC cut of previous government programs ended up in shelters that costs the city $36, 000 to house them. It was considerably cheaper to give these clients Section 8 or other vouchers and allow them to rent their own apartments. De Blasio and Cuomo made a deal allowing HIV positive clients to only have to pay 30% of their income for subsidized apartments in NYC, thereby undoing the Bloomberg cuts. HRA's HASA division now proactively assists clients in finding permanent housing in apartments. This money was made available as the de Blasio administration moves people out of shelters and SROs into permanent housing. HRA under de Blasio has expanded resources into substance abuse treatment programs. This is particularly important in curtailing the spread of HIV and other diseases as substance abuse is a big factor in the spread of HIV.