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Lack of federal funding for migrant crisis expected to make NYC’s budget hole ‘bigger:’ official

New York City is on track to receive less than $40 million in additional emergency funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the Big Apple’s budget chief predicted, as the city is poised to reassess its multi-billion dollar estimate of the migrant crisis’ total cost.

“[T]he federal government allocated $800 million for the country, for the nation as the whole, and initially we were told that we’d get the lion’s share of that. So therefore, we assumed we’ll be getting $600 million from the federal government,” the Office of Management and Budget Director Jacques Jiha admitted during a panel discussion held Wednesday and hosted by the fiscal watchdog group, the Citizens Budget Commission. 

“Unfortunately, for the first tranche of the program, which is about $360 million, we only got $30.5 million. And based on what we heard from FEMA, they claim… no locality can claim more than 10% for the second tranche. So we’re expecting very little again.”

A charter bus carrying migrants arrived at port authority bus terminal NYC
William C Lopez/New York Post

“My budget hole gets bigger and bigger,” he added.

Since December, the city has received just $38.5 million from FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program to reimburse spending on migrant costs including food, shelter and legal services. 

Another allocation is expected to be awarded within the coming months, but Jiha said it will fall far short of helping to cover the $1.4 billion in expenses estimated to incur by June 30.

Jacques Jiha
Gregory P. Mango

The price tag is slated to grow another $2.9 billion by the end of June 2024 — to a total of $4.3 billion. 

But Jiha and Mayor Eric Adams have both predicted that the number is likely an undercount, especially if migrants continue to arrive at the pace they have. 

City Hall recorded roughly 2,200 new arrivals within the last week alone. 

“We [are] watching the trend to see if the trend persists, in which case we’re gonna have our update our forecast upward,” Jiha said. 

Meanwhile, he warned that the upcoming City Council primary election on June 27 leaves the city with a “very, very” tight window to pass the budget and “educate” councilmembers on the financial challenges the Big Apple faces.

“Yes, we acknowledged there may be so much resources, but also there was a lot of new needs that we have,” referring to prior estimates released by the City Council that budget cuts implemented earlier this year were unnecessary because the city has more money in its coffers

“You could do all of these things, but at some point, you have to acknowledge that they exist, and you have to pay for them.”

City Council Finance Chairman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn) hit back at Jiha.

“I feel it is important to remind Director Jiha that the Council’s charter-mandated responsibility is to hold the Administration accountable, and that means examining and questioning their assertions and numbers. It’s not personal, it’s our job,” he said in a statement.

“The Council is not a rubber stamp, nor is this a monarchy. Rather, we are a co-equal branch of city government, and we will not respond to arrogance and tolerate disrespect. The Council is looking for a partner to negotiate with to deliver a budget that protects the fiscal health of our City and essential services that New Yorkers rely on,” he added. 

“We are prepared to do that on time, and would hope that is true for the other side of City Hall.”