Increasing Opportunity & Reducing Poverty: Partnership with CUNY
So far this year, unemployment in our city is the lowest it’s been since 1988, and fewer city residents are on welfare than at any time since 1964. Yet more than 1.5 million New Yorkers—nearly one-fifth of our population—still live below the Federal poverty line.
I think we can do better than that. That’s why last week; I endorsed a set of recommendations made by the City’s Commission on Economic Opportunity. They urged us to focus on reducing poverty among three large groups of poor New Yorkers: the working poor; young people between the ages of 16 and 24; and children up to the age of 5. And over the next 60 days, City agencies will draw up plans for turning those recommendations into policy and practice as quickly as we can afford to implement them.
Since the mid-1990s, New York City has been a leader in ending “welfare as we knew it.” Now our challenge is to help 340,000 working adults—people who regularly set the alarm clock and punch the time clock—work their way out of poverty. One key way to do that is to offset the high cost of childcare, which is often a roadblock to fulltime employment. So among other measures, we’ll ask the City Council and State Legislature to approve a child care tax credit—the first in any American city—for low-income families with small children.
For the quarter-million young adult New Yorkers living below the poverty line, education is key to preventing a lifetime of poverty. So we intend to invest in and expand education initiatives that have already been shown to raise high school graduation rates and reduce teenage pregnancy. We’ll also aim to strengthen an existing partnership with the City University system that prepares thousands of public high school students each year for higher education, and that has also helped young people who have left school earn their General Equivalency Degrees, or G-E-Ds. These and other efforts will be designed to encourage young people to stay in school, stay at work, and stay on track to rise out of poverty.
One-third of children under the age of 5 in our city live in poverty—but investing now in their health and education will greatly improve their odds in life. That’s why, for example, we’ll look for ways to enlarge the City’s Nurse Family Partnership, or NFP. NFP posts experienced nurses in poor communities to give practical help to first-time mothers during their babies’ stressful early years. Our NFP program has already improved childhood health in these neighborhoods. In other parts of the country where it’s been in operation longer, NFP has also helped keep families off welfare and reduced child abuse and neglect.
Long experience has shown us that simply throwing dollars at poverty won’t make it go away. So going forward, we’ll target our resources, institute rigorous accountability, keep what works, and discard what doesn’t. No doubt about it, reducing poverty is a big challenge. But time and again—in driving down crime, reforming our schools, and reviving our economy—New Yorkers have shown that we can come up with realistic solutions to even the toughest problems. And by rewarding personal initiative and reaffirming hope, now we can begin to help thousands of our fellow New Yorkers leave poverty behind.#