Six Programs to Begin with Support from More Than $536,000 in State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced six projects in Niagara Falls are being funded under the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, the Governor's $25 million program to help 16 communities develop locally-driven strategies to reduce poverty and increase economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.
"The State's poverty reduction initiative empowers local communities to connect people with opportunities that put them on a path out of poverty and toward economic independence," Governor Cuomo said. "I look forward to seeing the positive results of these innovative programs and commend Niagara Falls for their work to ensure every member of the community is equipped with the tools they need to succeed."
"As part of our Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, we're providing funding to communities across the state to address the critical issue of poverty that continues to impact the lives of so many New Yorkers," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "We want to ensure that people who are living in poverty are given the opportunities and resources they need to help lead a more stable life. This investment in poverty reduction programs in Niagara Falls will provide increased economic opportunity for residents in Western New York."
Shortly after the Governor announced the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative in 2016, Albany, Binghamton, the Bronx, Buffalo, Elmira, Hempstead, Jamestown, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, Oneonta, Oswego, Syracuse, Troy, Utica and Watertown joined Rochester by developing local task forces to oversee local efforts and administer state funding.
Initially, these task forces worked to identify high-need areas and develop recommendations for investments and other changes to reduce the number of individuals living in poverty. Now, the task forces are beginning to implement the poverty reduction plans developed in the first phase, utilizing the ESPRI funding.
The six programs approved for funding in Niagara Falls are:
Orleans Niagara BOCES, $257,250 - The Literacy Zone program will provide academic assessments and remedial education programs. Scholarships will be available to participants who are interested in pursuing vocational training through a BOCES program, but for whom funding is a significant barrier.
The Isaiah 61 Project, $157,170 - This program will provide education and training for employment in construction. A 400-hour program will provide participants with classroom instruction, as well as hands-on job training by helping to rehabilitate vacant homes in Niagara Falls.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County, $22,000 - A mentoring program will be offered for individuals returning to the community following incarceration to help them get acclimated and enter the workforce.
Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara, $19,965 - Academic support will be provided to participants who are reading below a fourth-grade level, enabling them to be more prepared to move forward with additional education and training.
Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo, $15,000 - Financial literacy training will be provided, with a focus on creating budgets, discussing debt and encouraging asset building. Participants will also set up bank accounts to dissuade them from unnecessary spending on check cashing services and establish plans to set aside money for savings.
Niagara University, $65,000 - The University will provide ongoing evaluation services to the initiative, as having an independent, third-party evaluator is critical to measuring the progress, successes and failures of the local initiative.
Catholic Charities, which has been selected by the community to administer the ESPRI funding, has also received more than $350,000 to provide job readiness training and employment placement support to individuals of all ages. Catholic Charities will also be coordinating referrals to these projects through an ESPRI care coordinator and ESPRI case manager, who will engage and support participants through these programs.
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts said, "The barriers to overcoming poverty are unique to each community and these locally-generated approaches are designed to address each community's needs. Through ESPRI, Governor Cuomo has developed a model that empowers local leaders to address the root causes of poverty in the most effective way."
New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "Governor Cuomo recognizes that for communities to thrive, we must deliver resources to help less fortunate residents. The ESPRI gives a helping hand to those suffering at the hands of poverty, which in turn strengthens community bonds, gives residents a sense of pride, and fosters growth both in and beyond each locality. These are great programs that will help deliver an equal economic playing field so that we can all prosper."
Interagency Coordinator of Non-profit Organizations Fran Barrett said, "ESPRI continues Governor Cuomo's successful efforts to tackle the root causes of poverty and income inequality. Through ESPRI, Governor Cuomo has empowered low-income New Yorkers to design strategies for removing the barriers they face to achieving economic and social mobility. This is an exciting moment as the citizens of Niagara Falls are working together for tangible results. The unique system-changing projects launched today are a great example of the work being done across the state in all 16 ESPRI localities. We applaud the work of Niagara Falls' local leadership and look forward to seeing the impact this effort will have on the lives of Niagara Falls families."
Jeffrey Pirrone, Project Director, Niagara Falls ESPRI, said, "Our local plan for ESPRI came about through the collaborative efforts of over 100 dedicated partners that live and work in Niagara Falls. We are grateful to the Governor for his commitment to reducing poverty in our community and excited to launch the implementation phase of this initiative to support individuals in moving out of poverty into a sustainable career."
Senator Robert G. Ortt said, "These community organizations play an important role in assisting those who have a desire to create a better life for themselves and their families. It is encouraging to see our state investing in programs such as these, which seek to create economic opportunities and develop job skills among those who need a helping hand. In order to reduce poverty across our state, community programs need the continued support of state agencies as we have seen here."
Assembly Member Angelo Morinello said, "I am extremely pleased each and every time the Governor recognizes the need to fund poverty initiatives to assist those who are the most vulnerable in our community. These programs will have a tremendous impact throughout Western New York."
Niagara County Legislature Chairman Keith McNall said, "Niagara County sincerely thanks Governor Cuomo for his poverty reduction program, as it will increase economic opportunities and make a positive difference in people's lives. We are excited to see these efforts move forward and help people find a way out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency."
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, new job opportunities are opening throughout the Buffalo Niagara region. But for the chronically-un- or under-employed to access these jobs, they need to learn critical skills. I salute the Governor for providing the necessary resources to ensure no one is left behind as our Western New York economy continues to grow."
The Governor's Nonprofit Coordination Unit, along with the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and the New York State Grants and Reform Team last year held listening sessions across the state to discuss updates with the Governor's ESPRI program, answer questions, and connect local government with non-profit providers and business groups. The remaining ESPRI-communities are all in various stages of developing and enacting their local recommendations and are expected to announce their individual poverty reduction plans in the coming months.