Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Anti-Poverty Advocates Urge State Lawmakers to Use Welfare Dollars for Job Creation

A message from our friends at Hunger Action Network
Hunger Action Network of NYS
Empire State Economic Security Campaign
Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies
Community Voices Heard
Partnership for the Homeless

Media Release

For Immediate Release: March 31, 2010
For More Info: Mark Dunlea, 212 741-8192 xt 5#

Anti-Poverty Advocates Urge State Lawmakers to Use Federal Welfare Dollars for Job Creation

NEW YORK - Responding to the jobs emergency of 413,000 New York City residents out of work, Human service organizations, anti-poverty advocates and welfare rights groups called today for the state to greatly increase funding for jobs programs for low-income New Yorkers (i.e., families with children under 200% of poverty). New York is eligible for up to $638 million in additional federal funding for such initiatives under the federal economic stimulus package.

The groups were joined by the chairs of the Social Services Committee, Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblymember Keith Wright, in calling for the increase funding, which is reflected in the budget resolutions recently adopted in both houses. The budget resolutions in both houses also restores funding for the 10% hike in the state welfare grant in this year's budget.  Governor Paterson has proposed decreasing funding for transitional, green and health care jobs from $70 million to $18 million, while cutting in half the second year of the promised three-year hike to 5%. Before last year, it had been 18 years since the welfare grant was hiked.

"We are in the midst of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The state needs to put people to work with a real paycheck. That is why the federal government has given New York an extra $638 million in federal welfare dollars. They know by putting more money in the pockets of our most vulnerable members, they will help stimulate the local economy by quickly spending their funds on basic necessities such as food, housing, clothing and energy costs. Instead, Governor Paterson is proposing to divert the funds to other programs while cutting jobs for low-income workers," noted Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS. Dunlea also noted that increased funding for child care was needed to support low-income working families.

In January 2010, 852,000 New Yorkers were unemployed, including 413,000 New York City residents. The City's official unemployment rate is 10.2%. However, the recession has hit the poor much harder than other segments of our society. According to the Center for Labor Studies, 30.8 percent of households with incomes below $12,500 tried but failed to find work during the fourth quarter of last year --- more than five points higher than the overall unemployment rate at the peak of the Great Depression.

Senator Squadron, chair of the Senate Social Services Committee, said, "New Yorkers are still suffering from the economic crisis -- too many are struggling to find jobs, stay in their homes, and support their families.  Investing in job training and wage subsidy programs will help thousands on the road back to self-sufficiency.  Even with the terrible budget challenges we face, I am proud that the Democratic Senate majority is putting working New Yorkers and their families first and finding creative ways to fund these programs with federal stimulus dollars."

"I stand here today in solidarity with the advocates, unemployed, underemployed, undereducated and most importantly entitled 'New York citizens' to proclaim our undying commitment to the battle to level the playing field. Although the road ahead appears daunting, I know the group I'm fighting for is protected by a higher authority. During these negotiations, I will work with Senator Squadron, OTDA and the Governor to achieve as much as possible for struggling New Yorkers," added Assembly Social Services Committee chair Keith Wright.

Under the federal economic stimulus package, jobs programs for TANF eligible individuals receive $4 in federal funding for every $1 in state spending - and federal funds can be used to cover the state contribution.  Last year's state budget included for the first time $25 million for transitional jobs which includes paid training and education; and $7 million each for green and health care jobs, as well as increased spending for wage subsidy programs and career pathways. Studies of similar programs nationwide and in NY show they are more successful in increasing employability and earnings of participants that make work programs (e.g., WEP).

"As New York City becomes a greener city, green jobs will be the route to employment for many city residents.  The Green Job Corps program helps to ensure that low-income people don't miss out on these jobs.  The program provides training and subsidized jobs for the tens of thousands of unemployed adults.  This is exactly the type of program that should be tripled and quadrupled, not cut, in the midst of the Great Recession," stated Nicole Lavan, FPWA Senior Policy Analyst for Workforce Development at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.

"Transitional jobs have been working in New York City since 2001.  If  the city does not receive the money through the state, they are planning to cut 750 transitional jobs from the Parks budget and have already started to lay people off. Transitional jobs work for myself and for people like me all over this great state," stated Mia Bell, Leader of Community Voices Heard, mother, and resident of the Bronx.

Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice of The Legal Aid Society, stated "There are thousands of unemployed low-income New Yorkers who desperately want jobs and are willing to work hard to build better lives for themselves and their families.  On behalf of our clients, we urge State leaders to act quickly to leverage available federal stimulus funds to create jobs to provide low-income New Yorkers with employment opportunities."‬

"The proposed cuts would hurt the most vulnerable New Yorkers.  Our low-income neighbors need wages to keep a roof over their heads.  Taking away their jobs would be short-sighted and guarantee an increase in New York's already large homeless population.  The federal government is offering money that could help our neediest neighbors support themselves and their families -- that is a sound investment in our city and its future." Piper Hoffman, Director of Advocacy, Partnership for the Homeless.

Mayor Bloomberg has said the proposed funding cuts for job programs threatens 750 jobs for HRA participants. Some layoff notices have already been sent.

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