Mayor Eric Adams ordered a dramatic 20% slash in spending on migrants on Monday intended to bring down daily costs as well as the number of days that asylum-seekers spend in city shelters.
“The city cannot sustain asylum seeker care expenses at current levels and, at the same time, maintain city services and keep the city safe and clean,” Jacques Jiha, the city’s budget director, wrote Monday in a letter to city agency heads obtained by Gothamist.
The cuts would apply to both the current 2024 fiscal year budget and the following year. The administration is budgeted to spend more than $6 billion on migrants across the next two years, according to the latest budget figures.
News of the plan was first reported by the Daily News.
Adams has struggled to manage the ongoing influx of migrants. Nearly 66,000 migrants are currently living in the city’s shelter system, according to City Hall’s latest figures.
As part of a plan to encourage migrants to leave shelter, the city has required adult migrants to leave their assigned shelter or reapply for a bed after 30 days. Families are subject to a 60-day limit. The city’s right-to-shelter rules require officials to provide a bed to anyone in need.
Homeless advocates will be closely watching as the city pushes to severely cut migrant spending. Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, said the city has “a minimum standard” of care they must provide to be compliant with the law.
Goldfein called the mayor’s plan to cut migrant spending “pennywise and pound foolish” and pointed to the administration’s own delays in providing legal and case management services to migrants.
“There are a lot of ways in which cutting the budget ends up costing them more money,” he said.
Jiha’s letter also directed most city agencies to cut their 2025 spending by 5%, a move meant to close an unprecedented $7.1 billion budget deficit driven by expiring federal pandemic aid as well as the unexpected toll of the migrant crisis.
Jiha also said the state had signaled that it would reduce its migrant funding for the city, something that Gov. Kathy Hochul has also hinted at in recent weeks.
Unlike the previous round of cuts, police, fire and sanitation were exempted “out of concern that additional budget cuts at this time could impact public safety, health, and cleanliness,” Jiha wrote.
While officials did not call for layoffs, the city has frozen spending on new hires.
The latest round of cuts comes less than a week after Adams unveiled painful cost-saving measures in this year’s budget that would affect a wide range of services, including libraries, schools, police and composting.
The announcement of multiple cuts first came in September, when Adams warned that the lack of federal assistance on the migrant crisis gave him no choice but to slash spending across the board.
Altogether, the mayor has asked most agencies to reduce spending by 15% over the coming years.
Agencies must submit their plans by Dec. 8. Once reviewed and adjusted by budget officials, the cuts will be reflected in the mayor’s preliminary budget that comes out in January.