Over $800,000 in State Funding Awarded to Four Programs in the North Country
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced several projects that will be funded under the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative in Watertown. These projects are a direct result of ESPRI, the Governor's $25 million initiative to help 16 communities develop locally-driven strategies to reduce poverty and increase economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.
"Through this initiative, we will continue to empower local communities to create opportunities for struggling New Yorkers working from the ground up," Governor Cuomo said. "I commend the efforts of Watertown stakeholders to develop this poverty-fighting strategy that will lead to meaningful change in the lives of many North Country residents."
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 four programs approved for funding in Watertown are:
- Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County, $196,000 - The funding will implement two training programs: One program will help community members realize the complexity of the issues surrounding poverty and how there is no one single approach to overcome it; the second program is intended for individuals living in poverty, and will help them take charge of their lives by developing strategies to build resources that can lead them to a better life.
- Watertown Urban Mission, $150,000 - The funding will be used for a "Wheels to Work" program, which will provide about 120 households with transportation services. The transportation services can range from obtaining a reliable used vehicle to auto insurance and vouchers for maintenance repairs or state inspections.
- Thousand Islands Habitat for Humanity, $300,000 - The funding will create "Pathway to Home Ownership," with support from the Development Authority of the North Country, Neighbors of Watertown and the City of Watertown. Homes in distressed areas will be purchased, rehabilitated and sold to low-income families.
- Jefferson County Department of Employment & Training, $175,000 - The funding will implement the "Employer Resource Network" program, which will connect employers with success coaches for their employees who struggle with poverty.
Watertown selected the United Way of Northern New York to administer the ESPRI funding. The task force's efforts are also being supplemented with more than $1 million in local resources to increase the impact of the Pathway to Home Ownership and the anti-poverty training programs.
Additionally, the United Way has partnered with the Watertown City School District to create a training program for teachers to help them better understand the challenges students living in poverty face.
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts said, "Governor Cuomo recognizes that poverty is an issue that cannot be solved by one entity alone nor can it be fixed by a one-sized-fits-all solution. The beauty of the ESPRI program is it's locally customizable with state investment and communities are seeing real change with increased economic mobility for all New Yorkers."
New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "Governor Cuomo's commitment to fight poverty in communities like Watertown is delivering results and causing a ripple effect across the state. We are working together with our partners in Watertown and Jefferson County to give neighborhoods the tools and resources to implement programs that help individuals and families thrive."
Interagency Coordinator of Non-profit Organizations Fran Barrett said, "Governor Cuomo continues to tackle root causes of poverty and income inequality and the ESPRI builds on this progress. Through this initiative, New Yorkers living in poverty are fighting poverty tailored to their community's needs. The projects launched today will help low-income Watertown families enter the workforce with dignity, address their barriers to economic mobility, and realize their potential. We applaud the work of the local leadership and the Watertown residents and look forward to seeing the impact this effort will have on the lives of Watertown families."
New York State Assemblywoman Addie Jenne said, "Every family has different needs, and Governor Cuomo's initiative fills in the gaps in existing programs to address those needs. I'm proud to support the work of the committee to create local solutions for our struggling citizens and organizations that have been starved of resources to help meet that need."
Watertown Mayor Joseph M Butler Jr. said, "The unique approach our city has taken when challenged with tackling an age-old problem is a testament to our citizenry and the ingenuity that results when good, smart, self-less advocates commit to helping others. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, these initiatives will provide the opportunity for motivated individuals to gradually break the cycle of poverty that controls their lives and gain confidence, independence and ultimately a new life with poverty left behind."
Jefferson County Legislative Board Chairman Scott Gray said, "Poverty is a serious issue that affects all walks of life, especially in rural communities like Watertown. I'm proud of the work of the United Way, our taskforce, and most importantly the community, who provided invaluable information to assist in the development of effective poverty reduction strategies that will lead people to a meaningful self-sustaining life. Programs that provide for the betterment of the least among us will always make our community a better place as a whole."
United Way of Northern New York Executive Director Bob Gorman said, "From the onset, our mission was make a difference in people's lives and I firmly believe that these programs will accomplish that. When we embarked on this journey, we asked everyone to park their agendas at the door and work for the betterment of our community and I'm proud of the accomplishments of the ESPRI taskforce members."
Watertown ESPRI Director Peter Schmitt said, "The exciting part of this project was the inclusive nature of the process. Citizens from all walks of life representing businesses, nonprofits, churches and community advocates came together to discuss barriers out of poverty and were involved in the decision-making process."
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 recently 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.