- Associated Press - Saturday, October 14, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - In New York state government news, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is hailing the state’s decision to grant in-state tuition to displaced students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and mental health advocates are urging the state to increase funding for community-based housing.

A look at stories making news:

TUITION HELP FOR STORM VICTIMS

Cuomo is applauding the State University of New York Board of Trustees for endorsing his idea to give in-state tuition to displaced students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

New York authorized in-state tuition for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Rates vary between the state’s public colleges and universities, but the typical in-state student can save roughly $10,000 a year.

The discount is available for the 2017-2018 academic year at all SUNY schools. The board also voted to recommend a similar initiative at the state’s 30 community colleges.

“New York is stepping up to the plate to support our brothers and sisters in need,” Cuomo said. “Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands face a long and difficult path to recovery, but it is a path that we will walk together every step of the way.”

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ON-CALL SCHEDULING

State labor officials are taking a look at the scheduling of retail and other workers with short notice, a practice known as “on-call” scheduling that can disrupt the lives of workers.

The Department of Labor will hold the last of three public hearings on on-call scheduling Tuesday in New York City. Cuomo had called for the hearings, which could set the stage for new regulations.

Businesses that use on-call scheduling require employees to call before a scheduled shift to find out if they have to work that day. Labor advocates say the uncertain shifts give workers little predictability when it comes to paychecks, make a second job impossible and force employees to scramble to secure day care or transportation.

Some national retailers have ended on-call scheduling in recent years amid attention from advocates and Democratic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

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MONEY FOR MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health advocates have long argued that community housing for those with serious mental illness is not only far more effective from a treatment standpoint, but also far more efficient for taxpayers.

Now, they’re warning the state about higher costs for institutionalization and even prisons if New York doesn’t substantially increase funding for community housing programs, which seek to provide a roof - and vital mental health services - for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Decades of underfunding have left the community housing system desperately short changed, according to Toni Lasicki, executive director of the Association for Community Living. Funding for the system now ranges from about $7,000 per person to $25,000 per person per year, a fraction of what incarceration or hospitalization can cost.

Lasicki and other advocates are calling on lawmakers to increase funding in next year’s budget to avoid a shortage of community housing that would force more New Yorkers with mental illnesses into hospitals or jails.

“A stable home is the foundation of care and recovery for New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities,” Lasicki said. “Without reliable, adequate and continuous funding, providers will cease operations, leading to shortages of critical community-based housing units and punishing those who need help the most.”

Finding more money will be difficult. Officials are already projecting a $4 billion budget deficit and say they’re preparing for deeper federal funding cuts.

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