January 18, 2015

2015 Opportunity Agenda: Restoring Economic Opportunity

2015 Opportunity Agenda: Restoring Economic Opportunity

Re: Ten Point Plan to Combat Poverty and Fight Inequality

Date: January 18, 2015


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the eighth part of his “2015 Opportunity Agenda” – the Anti-Poverty Opportunity Agenda, a ten point plan to combat poverty and fight inequality.

According to 2012 U.S. Census data, New York’s poverty rate is 15.9 percent. The State has the 21st highest poverty rate in the country.

The statewide family poverty rate is 12.2 percent, as of 2012, an increase from 10.3 percent in 2007, per the Fiscal Policy Institute. Statewide, 23 percent of New York State children live in poverty as of 2013, according to Annie Casey Kids Count.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, New Yorkers’ per capita income was $31,290 compared to $27,315 nationwide, and the State’s median household income was $56,357 compared to $51,937 nationwide.

The five counties in New York with the highest poverty rates are Bronx (30.7%), Kings (23.3%), St. Lawrence (21.4%), Franklin (22.2%) and Sullivan (19.4%), according to the U.S. Census.


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Governor Cuomo has advocated many progressive policies to ensure equity in the areas of housing and employment as well as initiated programs to protect vulnerable populations. Today, he announced the following new proposals:

Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.50

The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, and the minimum wage in New York is $8.75 per hour. In 2013, Governor Cuomo signed legislation increasing the State’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 in 2015 to better align with the cost of living.

The Governor today proposed raising the statewide minimum wage again, to $10.50 by the end of 2016. Additionally, because New York City has one of the highest costs of living in the world, the Governor proposed raising the City’s minimum wage to $11.50.

A reasonable minimum wage is a necessity in order to improve the standard of living for workers, encourage fair and more efficient business practices, and ensure that the most vulnerable members of the workforce can contribute to the economy.

Expand the Unemployment Strikeforce to the Top Ten Highest Areas of Unemployment

Governor Cuomo will continue his work to ensure that every New Yorker who wants a job can find one, and proposed expanding the Unemployment Strike Force, which was created in 2014, by institutionalizing the partnership, expanding the number of communities to be included, and dedicating additional funding for training.

The Strikeforce is a multi-pronged campaign to target areas of the state with the highest unemployment rate and boost employment numbers there. Between May and September 2014 alone, the Unemployment Strikeforce had helped approximately 4,000 Bronx residents find employment through job recruitment and career services.

Following its expansion, the Strikeforce will be in the following counties: Bronx, Jefferson, Lewis, Kings, St. Lawrence, Oswego, Orleans, Montgomery, Franklin and Steuben.

Unemployment is down in every region of the State and the overall rate stands at 5.9 percent, the lowest since late 2008. Last year represented the single biggest one-year drop in the unemployment rate in Upstate New York in recorded history, however, many communities in the State are still plagued by high unemployment.

Doubling Funding for the Urban Youth Jobs Program

In 2012, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched a new youth jobs program to combat the unacceptably high unemployment rates among inner-city youth in communities across New York. The initial launch of the program included $25 million in tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed and disadvantaged youth and $62 million to support job-training programs. In 2012, the program incentivized 1,270 New York businesses to hire 12,866 at-risk young people across the state.

In 2014, the Governor expanded funding for the tax credits to $10 million annually over four years, ending in 2018. That year, 2,039 businesses participated in the program and hired 18,261 youths.

Governor Cuomo remains committed to helping the youth in New York’s inner cities obtain employment, believing they can play a central role in New York’s economy. To further enhance the success of the program, the Governor will work to provide additional funding for at-risk youth in inner cities to ensure that Urban Youth Jobs Program participants are appropriately equipped to succeed in the job.

The annual allocation is doubled to $20 million for tax years 2015 through 2018 with a focus on jurisdictions with high youth unemployment.

Invest More Than $486 Million in Housing for Vulnerable New Yorkers

Nearly three million households in New York are financially insecure in their homes, paying over 30 percent of their income on housing costs.

Governor Cuomo today announced that he will invest more than $486 million in funding to provide housing for the State’s most vulnerable residents. The funding includes:

  • $229 million in capital resources for 2015-16 continuing the five-year House NY program, an increase of $32 million over available resources in 2014-15;
  • $257 million from the J.P. Morgan Chase settlement funds to support the following programs over the next several years: construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing, revitalization of neighborhoods, as well as encouraging community renewal activities; improvements to public, seniors and veterans housing; and low-cost financing and access to capital through Community Development Financial Institutions.

In 2013, Governor Cuomo launched House NY, a $1 billion investment over five years to create and preserve 14,300 affordable housing units, augmented by an additional $130 million added by the Governor in 2014. This initiative was the largest housing investment made by the State in at least 15 years.

Additionally, the Governor’s investment of federal storm recovery funds for affordable housing serves as a catalyst to attract private investment to the market—lowering mortgage costs and leading to more affordable rents.

Invest Additional $220 Million in Homeless Services

The homeless population in New York is 80,590, making up 14 percent of the nationwide homeless population and is the second highest homeless population in the country, according to a 2014 HUD homeless census. The State currently spends approximately $780 million on homeless service programs administered or overseen by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, including emergency homeless shelters, the development of new homeless housing, homelessness prevention activities, and rental assistance.

Continuing this support, Governor Cuomo proposed to invest an additional $220 million in homeless services over the next several years, including funding for New York City rental assistance and other programs that address the City’s growing homeless population. There are currently 60,352 homeless people in the shelter system, including 14,519 families, the largest number of homeless families in the country, according to the HUD homeless census. In 2014, the City’s shelter populations were up by 20 percent or more, and more than 20 additional shelters opened that year.

Invest $183 Million to Support NY/NY IV Housing Program

The State will use $183 million of J.P. Morgan Chase settlement funds to support a new NY/NY IV program to create 5,000 new supportive housing units for populations requiring additional support; New York City’s LINC 1 rental assistance program; and a cap on the rent contribution for public assistance recipients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in New York City so they can afford to stay in their homes.

Commit $4.5 Million to Advance Anti-Hunger Task Force

Currently, more than 3 million New Yorkers are food insecure, meaning they do not always have access to enough food for active, healthy lives. In 2013, Governor Cuomo created the Anti-Hunger Task Force, a statewide effort made up of experts, advocates, and government officials focused on ending hunger and increasing access to local foods in New York State.

In response to the recommendations outlined by the Anti-Hunger Task Force, the Governor today announced that he is committing $4.5 million to bolster the State’s emergency food system which will help 2,600 emergency food providers support the more than 3 million New Yorkers who access emergency food programs each year. The Governor will also invest $250,000 to help child and adult care programs maximize federal funds that subsidize free food for children and adults in those programs and $250,000 for programs to help connect schools with New York farmers to ensure that schools have the best access healthy, locally-grown food.

Additionally, the Governor will leverage federal funds to completely re-envision the State’s Human Services Information Technology Systems to improve client services and service coordination. This overhaul will make it easier for food insecure New Yorkers to tap into the benefits they need and get connected with other vital state-supported services.

The Task Force identified a few areas where federal funds are underutilized in the State: the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which provides funding in the form of reimbursements for food served in day cares, after school programs, and emergency shelters; Community Eligibility Provision, which reimburses a percentage of funding to schools or districts that offer universal free meals to all students; and Summer Food, which is another federal reimbursement program for meals in low income communities.

Create a $50 Million Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program

The nonprofit sector provides services to many New Yorkers, including the State’s most vulnerable populations. Many of the services that nonprofits provide on behalf of the state result in long-term cost avoidance and savings by intervening to help avoid crisis situations. To support the work of the State’s nonprofit partners, the Governor will create a one-time $50 million Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program.

The Program will make targeted investments in capital projects that will improve the quality, efficiency, accessibility, and reach of nonprofit human services organizations that serve New Yorkers. Grants will be awarded through a competitive process, with priority given to nonprofits with State contracts that provide direct services in high-need communities, particularly smaller nonprofits and nonprofits that lack access to other capital funding opportunities.”

Increase MWBE Opportunities to 30 percent

When the Governor took office, statewide Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises utilization was 9 percent, representing $800 million in State contracts. In 2011, the Governor raised the goal to 20 percent and achieved that goal, representing $1.6 billion in State contracts, and in 2014 he exceeded the goal by reaching 25 percent utilization, representing $2 billion in State contracts – the highest amount in the nation.

Continuing that commitment, the State will increase its MWBE goal to 30 percent, which would represent $2.4 billion in State contracts and would be the most ambitious goal in the nation.

The State has already seen results of the Governor’s aggressive approach to contracting MWBEs: By streamlining certification procedures, the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development has increased the pool of certified MWBEs, adding 2,123 firms between January 2011 and January 2014, and eliminated an application backlog. Small business and MWBE contractors leveraged $40 million in surety bonding capacity as a result of training, credit facilitation, and surety bond collateral support.

Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program

Graduating from college with unmanageable student loan debt forces graduates, especially low wage graduates, to be faced with difficult choices that can have lasting consequences for them, their families and the New York economy. Because of high student loan debt these graduates are forced to take on other high interest debt to make ends meet creating a vicious cycle where the student can never get out of debt. That, in turn, makes it more difficult to purchase a home, car or have other economic opportunity.

To address this issue, the Governor has proposed launching the Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program, which will help eligible New York State residents who graduate from college and continue to live in the state to pay nothing on their student loans for the first two years out of school, supplementing the federal Pay As You Earn (PAYE) income-based loan repayment program. More information on this proposal is available here.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

New York City Press Office:  212.681.4640

Albany Press Office:  518.474.8418