Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1390 Mon, 21 Oct 2019 00:17:26 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Trump Tells the Truth, Sort of - Poverty & Unemployment Rates Down for People of Color, But Full Story is Complicated https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8832-trump-tells-truth-sort-of-poverty-unemployment-rates-down-for-people-of-color-but-not-full-story https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8832-trump-tells-truth-sort-of-poverty-unemployment-rates-down-for-people-of-color-but-not-full-story mayor bdb sbs

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


President Trump’s nonstop record of false claims (12,000-plus labeled false or misleading as of an August count in the Washington Post) received a brief respite recently when he tweeted that poverty and unemployment rates for black and Hispanic residents of the United States had reached record lows, which PolitiFact and other media outlets acknowledged as accurate.

While it’s true poverty rates for black and Hispanic Americans are down, as you’d expect, Trump still failed to talk about the whole truth.

Here it is: the causes of these improvements have included nine-and-a-half straight years of economic expansion, demographic changes that have brought people of color to 50% or more of the entering-prime-age workforce, and record levels of educational attainment. (Of course, the president did not comment on the continued severe racial and ethnic disparities in American society faced by people and communities of color.)

A closer look at some United States and New York City economic, poverty, and educational attainment data over time helps put the president’s point in the context of the profound racial injustices and disparities that are part of our society.

Snapshot - Recent History of Poverty and Unemployment
The U.S. Census reported recently that the poverty rate for black Americans was 20.8% in 2018, while the poverty rate for Hispanics was 17.6%. Poverty rates for non-Hispanic whites and for Asian-Americans were far lower, and the overall poverty rate for Americans was 11.8%.

Monthly unemployment rates are more fickle than annual averages, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics August 2019 unemployment rates were 5.5% for blacks and 4.2% for Hispanics (yes, they were both record lows, although Hispanics had reached the same point earlier in the year). The unemployment rate was 3.7% overall.

Employment hit bottom in the Great Recession in February 2010 at about 130 million jobs after the U.S. lost 8.7 million jobs over a two-year period; in the next seven years under President Obama the economy gained 16 million jobs, and has gained 5.8 million jobs in two-and-a-half years under President Trump. The U.S. economy gained nearly 22 million jobs over nine-and-a-half years of uninterrupted economic expansion to reach the current unemployment numbers, including the record lows for black and Hispanic Americans.

Most Prime Workers are People of Color
The Washington Post presented the table below in a September article entitled, “For the 1st time, most new working-age hires in the US are people of color.“

1 first prime

In other words, one major reason black and Hispanic Americans are doing better is pure demographics -- they are half the new people getting jobs because they are half the people (along with other people of color) entering the labor force!

U.S. Recessions and Expansions Seriously Impact Poverty
The economic history of recessions and expansions, with increases and decreases in poverty rates, is not new. Below is a look at poverty in the United States from 1959 to 2010. In 1959, 55% of black Americans lived in poverty. The graph does not show it, but poverty for whites in 1959 was 18%.

2 poverty rates

Following a recession in the early 1990s, President Clinton oversaw an eight-year economic expansion that brought job gains of more than 22 million from 1993 to 2001, about the same as the current national expansion. The poverty rate in the United States in the year before Clinton became president was 14.5%, but much higher for blacks, 33.3%, and for Hispanics, 29.3%, according to U.S Census data.

By 2000, following those eight years of job expansion, the U.S. poverty rate had declined to 11.3%. The black poverty rate declined from 33.3% in 1992 to 22.1% in 2000, only slightly higher than the level just reached in 2018. The poverty rate for Hispanics in 2000 was 21.2%. It took an expansion with 22 million jobs gained to reach the record low black and Hispanic poverty rates under President Clinton, same as it took the 22 million job expansion from 2010 to mid-2019 to reach the recent record low.

A smaller recession occurred in the United States in 2001, followed by lower economic growth. By 2007, the year before the Great Recession, the poverty rate rose to 12.5% overall, and was 24.5% for black Americans and 21.5% for Hispanic Americans. Following the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and an initially limited recovery in 2010, the poverty rate in 2011 reached 15% overall, and the rates were 27.6% for blacks and 25.3% for Hispanics.

As the health of the American economy improved, poverty rates declined again. By the end of President Obama’s second term, in 2016, the overall rate was 12.7%, and poverty rates had declined for blacks to 22.0% and for Hispanics to 19.4%. It took gains of 16 million jobs from 2010 to the beginning of 2017 to bring these poverty reductions.

What About New York City’s Poverty Rate?
New York City’s poverty rate has hovered around 20% of its population for decades, according to a 2011 New York Times article based on census data.

In 1990, the poverty rate was 19.3 %, in 2000 it was 20.1%, it had dropped to 18% by 2007 before the Recession, and it swung back up to 21.2% by 2012. In 2017, the New York City poverty rate was 19.6%, according to the American Community Survey. In 2017, 22.3% of black New Yorkers and 27.3% of Hispanic New Yorkers were living in poverty.

People of Color, Despite Discrimination, Have Achieved Record Educational Attainment
It’s hardly a secret that the American economy has transformed itself into a service and information economy with higher demand for educated workers. People of color in the United States (and New York) have persevered in the challenge to gain skills, despite significant barriers. Black, Hispanic, and Asian populations have achieved record educational attainment, a success correlated with hard work in the face of discrimination that is a record in each and every year, very different than the up and down swings of the economy.

Why focus heavily on educational attainment? Because the correlation between educational attainment and poverty is very strong. Below are the U.S. Census Income and Poverty data on this correlation for 2017 for persons age 25+, with poverty rate by educational attainment levels.

3 hs bachelor

For persons 25+ without high school diplomas, nearly 25% lived in poverty in 2017. For persons 25+ with high school diplomas but no college, 12.9% lived in poverty. For those 25+ with some college, 9%, and for those 25+ with bachelor’s or higher, 4.3%. (In 2018, 16.2% of persons under the age of 18 lived in poverty.)

Across the United States, younger black people, ages 25-29, have achieved near parity with whites in the percentage who have completed high school, according to the Current Population Survey. Younger Hispanics are also achieving much improved high school completion rates, and young Asians have higher high school completion rates than whites. 

COMPLETED 4 YRS HIGH SCHOOL OR MORE AGE 25-29

4 completed hs

Although younger black and Hispanic Americans are closing the gap with whites in high school completions, for the full population over the age of 25 they still suffer from disadvantages compared to the rest of the nation in the attainment of bachelor’s degrees and higher.

5 bachelors 25

The following table on the history of educational attainment shows the long struggle to move forward for American communities of color, along with the extraordinary disadvantages they suffered compared with whites during U.S. history.*,**

educational attainment 3

*The Census in 1990 and earlier reports whites, not non-Hispanic whites. The zeros reflect that the Census did not report these numbers in those years.
**1974 is the first year Hispanics are reported separately.

In NYC, High School Graduation Rates for Communities of Color Have Improved Dramatically
In New York City, high school graduation rates for black and Hispanic students have improved dramatically over time, like in the rest of the nation. The table below is from the New York City Department of Education for 2018 and provides the graduation rate for an entering 9th grade group, called a cohort, for August of their fourth year of high school. The cohort is the group of students who entered 9th grade in 2014. 

7 grad rates dropout rates

What the table above does not show is how many students were still enrolled in school after that summer of their fourth year, but have not yet graduated. It’s important to include the number of students still enrolled because large numbers of students do complete high school after their fourth year.

The 2014 9th grade cohort of black students shows 72.1% graduated by August 2018, but DOE statistics also show that 18.6% of the black students in the 2014 cohort were still enrolled but had not graduated.

Looking at the six-year graduation rate for black students, for the 2012 9th grade cohort, 77.5% had graduated and 5.5% were still in school.

For Hispanic students, 70% of the 2014 9th grade cohort had graduated and 17.9% were still in school. For the 2012 cohort, 74% had graduated and 5.2% were still in school. 

Similarly, graduation rates for the New York City school system over the past few decades show enormous improvements. Going back to 1992, only 51% of New York City high school students graduated overall, and those numbers excluded full-time special education students. In 2005 the state government required the city to include special education students in the graduation rates, so the overall rate restarted in 2005 at 46.5% and for general education students was 58.2%.

8 grad rate

 The chart above does not have racial/ethnic breakdowns, but the DOE does have published racial/ethnic data for the 9th grade cohort entering in 2001, including graduation rates for 2005, as well as their six-year graduation rates.

The table below shows the six-year graduation rates, with those still enrolled, for the New York City school system for all students, and black and Hispanic students for the 9th grade cohort that entered in 2001.

9 grad rate enrolled

For the entering 9th grade cohort that year, about 53% of black students had graduated by their sixth year, and 7% were still in school. For the 2012 cohort, 77.5% of black students had graduated by their sixth year, and 5.5% were still enrolled. For the 2014 cohort, 72.1% of black students had graduated by summer of their fourth year, and 18.6% were still in school.

For the entering 9th grade cohort of 2001, of Hispanic students, 50.6% had graduated by their sixth year, about 6% were still enrolled. For the 2012 9th grade cohort, 74% had graduated and about 5% were still in school. For Hispanic students in the 2014 9th grade cohort, 70% had graduated and 17.9% were still in school.

The numbers for students who had graduated after six years or were still enrolled have improved dramatically between the 2001 entering cohort and the 2012 and 2014 entering cohorts.

Educational “Achievement Gap” for NYC Students is Narrowing
The New York City Department of Education also reports on the extent to which the “achievement gap” between black, Hispanic, and white students for high school completions is narrowing.

10 achievement gap

Educational attainment rates for New York City residents age 25 and over continue to show major disparities between whites and the city’s populations of color; 57% of whites have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to about 24% of blacks and 17% of Hispanics. About 93% of whites have completed high school or higher, versus 82% of blacks and 67% of Hispanics.

Across the nation, 39% of whites have college degrees or better, compared to 57% of whites in New York City. About 23.6% of blacks in New York City have college degrees, compared to about 25% nationally. In the city, 17.4% of Hispanics have college degrees or better, compared to 18.4% of Hispanics nationally.

11 educattainment

So, while President Trump’s tweet about black and Hispanic populations reaching historically low levels of poverty and unemployment was true, this achievement has nothing to do with advances brought forward by his administration. It’s been a slow and overall steady – but sometimes rocky – climb, which includes almost a decade of straight economic expansion, demographic changes that have brought people of color to 50% or more of the entering prime age workforce, and record educational attainment for black and Hispanic Americans.

***
Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter @JimBrennanNY.

 

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

]]>
Trump Tells the Truth, Sort of - Poverty & Unemployment Rates Down for People of Color, But Full Story is Complicated Sun, 06 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
As Cuomo and Heastie Trade Comments on Anti-Poverty Efforts, a Closer Look at What They've Done https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8693-as-cuomo-and-heastie-trade-comments-on-anti-poverty-efforts-a-closer-look-at-what-they-ve-done https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8693-as-cuomo-and-heastie-trade-comments-on-anti-poverty-efforts-a-closer-look-at-what-they-ve-done albany gov cuomo carl heastie

Speaker Heastie & Governor Cuomo (photo: the governor's office)


Despite previously lauding the 2019 state legislative session as the “most productive session in modern political history,” Governor Andrew Cuomo went on to call the session “not progressive enough,” citing a need “to do more on poverty.”

At his celebratory, mostly upbeat end-of-session press conference on June 21, Cuomo was asked about what did not get done, and cited three issues he said he would work on next year: legalizing adult-use marijuana and paid gestational surrogacy, and expanding prevailing wage requirements on construction projects that receive state incentives. He did not mention poverty.

But just three days later during a radio appearance, Cuomo questioned whether the legislative session was “progresive enough,” and rhetorically asked WAMC’s The Roundtable host Alan Chartock, “what happened, doctor, to discussion of poverty and civil rights and the minority community?”

It was an apparently off-hand comment that seemed to catch many people by surprise, especially Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat whose district is in the Bronx, which is home to some of the highest poverty rates in the country.

While Cuomo has made significant strides with anti-poverty policies in the past, most notably the minimum wage hike he ushered through a split Legislature in 2016, the third-term Democratic governor did not push any landmark anti-poverty legislation or initiatives this session, which featured a long list of other progressive accomplishments with Democrats in control of both legislative houses for the first time in many years.

Soon after Cuomo’s comment about the session lacking a focus on poverty, Heastie was asked about it.

“If we’re talking about things like poverty, that necessitates putting more money in the budget,” Heastie said on June 25, appearing on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom with host Susan Arbetter. “If that’s the governor’s sentiment, next year we should see a robust poverty agenda in the executive budget,” he said.

When asked about the Assembly’s anti-poverty efforts, Heastie mentioned boosting community college enrollment and said such schooling can serve as a key stepping stone to the workforce.

“Every place has a different type of industry, and community colleges can put together training linked with local businesses,” Heastie said on Capitol Pressroom.

In New York, 2,908,471 people live in poverty, according to the New York State Community Action Association in its 2019 annual poverty report. That’s about 15% of the state’s 19.8 million residents; a rate just above the U.S. poverty rate of 14.6%. For white New Yorkers, the poverty rate is 11%, while it jumps to 22.5% for black New Yorkers and 24.4% for Hispanic New Yorkers. Of the 1.8 million adult New Yorkers with no high school diploma, 29% live in poverty.

Though they give both Cuomo and Heastie’s Assembly majority credit for significant steps toward fighting poverty in New York, advocates and other experts believe both have indeed been lacking in moving a number of anti-poverty measures.

Several proposed anti-poverty bills have stalled in the Assembly, and those that have passed the Assembly have not been signed into law by Cuomo, in part due to a lack of support by the governor, who was friendly with the Republican Senate majority that ruled the upper legislative chamber for all of the governor’s first two terms.

As Heastie indicated, some see the need for more state spending on anti-poverty measures, which may only be possible through tax increases, which Cuomo generally opposes. Some say a significant roadblock to many anti-poverty programs is the 2 percent cap on annual state spending increases that Cuomo has insisted on, though he has repeatedly broken that pledge. Still, Cuomo has largely kept state agency operational spending flat year over year and is loathe to add new expensive programs to the budget, especially those that don’t fit his carefully crafted agenda.

But while he has not supported key policies that advocates say would help fight poverty in New York, Cuomo has moved several significant anti-poverty measures, from the minimum wage hike to the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI), which provides state grants to localities to fund anti-poverty efforts, to the creation of the Child Care Availability Task Force, which is currently studying how to make childcare more affordable in New York.

Heastie said on Capitol Pressroom that the Assembly focuses on high poverty communities and tries to find ways to revitalize them, including through working with Cuomo to add localities to the ESPRI. Most parties point to the state’s high levels of local education funding as evidence of efforts to fight poverty through educational investments, but that focus has been criticized, even by Assembly Democrats, who believe the state owes billions in funding to poor schools, and Cuomo, who recently started saying he wants more state funding to go to poorer schools without corresponding increases to wealthier schools.

During Heastie’s four years as speaker thus far, the Assembly has pushed anti-poverty efforts, including as a key force behind the minimum wage increase and the paid family leave program that also passed the same year. But there are also some question marks.

In January 2016, Heastie announced an “Anti-Poverty Work Group,” with the goal of finding “ways to break the vicious cycle that forces people to focus on getting by and never allows them to focus on getting ahead,” he said in the press release. The work group consisted of 13 Assembly members, and was specifically tasked with coming up with ideas to improve nutrition, literacy, supportive housing, shelters, rental assistance, fair labor practices, and job training, and increase access to quality child care and health care.

However, little came of the work group -- there’s no other record of its existence in Assembly press release archives or on the Assembly website more broadly.

The work group was organized with the goal of breaking “down the silos we deal with in the Assembly,” Queens Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, who served on the work group and has chaired the chamber’s social services committee, said in an interview with Gotham Gazette.

According to Hevesi, when former Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle left the Assembly at the end of 2018, the work group “fell off the top of everybody’s radar.” But even that would have been nearly three years after the group’s creation, and Morelle did not serve as its chair. Hevesi said the group had only a “couple of meetings.”

Anti-Poverty Initiatives Left on the Table
There are a variety of anti-poverty measures that could be considered by the Legislature and Cuomo. For example, a proposed bill aimed at reducing homelessness would have created a homeless housing task force by each social services district in the state to “develop a ten-year homeless housing plan addressing short-term and long-term housing for homeless persons,” according to the bill. The bill has not moved in the Assembly social services committee.

Anti-poverty measures can be bipartisan. Republican Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb is the lead sponsor on a bill to raise the state earned income tax credit (EITC) from 30 percent to 45 percent of the federal level. Currently, a family with three or more children can earn a maximum of $8,682 in their EITC, and a filer without children can earn a maximum of $701 in their EITC, including state, city, and federal credits, according to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Another Assembly bill would expand the EITC to include workers who are 18-24 years old, a demographic that is currently not eligible for the EITC. The state EITC was last raised by Republican Governor George Pataki in 2003.

Neither the Assembly nor the Senate took up state EITC expansion this year.

That Assembly Republicans are leading the fight to raise the EITC is “both ironic and shameful,” said Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a think tank, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “For the Assembly minority to be to the left of the governor on an issue like this really speaks to the fact that the governor is far more fiscally conservative than he paints himself,” he said.

According to data from the Fiscal Policy Institute, 85,345 young adult workers in the state that would be eligible for the childless EITC are currently excluded because they cannot be claimed as a dependent. These workers earn less than $15,270 as single filers or less than $20,900 as married filers.

Another proposed anti-poverty bill, championed by Hevesi, is known as Home Stability Support (HSS) and would increase rent supplements to families at risk of eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous living conditions. While the Assembly has pushed HSS for several years, it has not made it into the state budget, apparently due to Cuomo’s opposition.

HSS is widely seen as a way to prevent homelessness, and has many backers in both city and state government, as well as the advocacy community. According to data from the Assembly Committee on Social Services’ annual report, each year about 250,000 New Yorkers experience homelessness, and three of five homeless New Yorkers are school-aged children. In 2018, 23,000 more people became homeless, the report says. The number of homeless school-aged children has grown by 69% since 2011 (Cuomo’s first year as governor).

According to data from city Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office, over 10 years HSS could reduce the shelter population in New York City by 80 percent among families with children, 60 percent among adult families, and 40 percent among single adults. As Hevesi and others regularly point out, the cost of HSS subsidies are projected to be recouped in savings where governments spend less on shelters and other aspects of the social safety net.

HSS is projected to cost $9,865 per year for an individual in New York City, $7,320 per year for an individual in Westchester County, and $2,784 per year for an individual in Monroe County, according to data from the proposed plan. HSS advocates argue that the legislation would save the state money, as it would keep individuals and families out of shelters, which cost significantly more per individual per year to maintain. Providing an individual with temporary housing, or shelters, costs $25,925 per year in New York City,  $36,000 per year in Westchester County, and $10,950 in Monroe County, according to data from the plan.

The legislation has had support in both houses, but not enough to move it through both and to the governor. Neither majority appeared to make it a priority this year as the Legislature moved a long agenda of progressive bills.

“Home Stability Support will be a lifeline for thousands of New Yorkers to avoid falling into the cycle of homelessness, and it will also save millions of dollars for towns, counties and cities throughout the state,” State Senator Liz Krueger said in a press release supporting HSS.

Hevesi said that the reason the bill has never been passed is that Cuomo is against it. However, Hevesi said he is confident that the bill will get passed eventually, either legislatively or in the budget.

“It was in the Assembly one-house budget, Senate one-house budget, and the governor unilaterally stopped it,” Hevesi told Gotham Gazette.

HSS has been supported by a number of advocacy groups fighting poverty and homelessness in the state. Still, there was no clear, concerted effort by the Assembly and Senate majorities to push HSS over the finish line and into the state budget before it was voted through on April 1.

“Unfortunately over the past several years, in our advocacy to pass HSS, the governor has been one of the primary roadblocks,” said Helen Strom, a benefits unit supervisor at Urban Justice Center (UJC), an advocacy organization and think tank focused on bringing people out of poverty.

Hevesi accused Cuomo of profiting off of homeless shelters via Help USA, a nonprofit providing shelter that Cuomo founded many years ago and is now led by the governor’s sister.

“I don’t think he’s fighting homelessness,” Hevesi said. “I think he’s making money off of homelessness. Every policymaker in the state is for stopping the growth of the crisis except for him,” he said.

Via a spokesperson, Cuomo’s office pushed back against Hevesi’s accusation, calling it an “irresponsible lie” in a statement to Gotham Gazette, and saying the governor makes no money from Help USA.

Another issue some advocates and lawmakers raise around fighting poverty is health care, and while the state has very high rates of health care insurance coverage -- roughly 95% of New Yorkers are enrolled, in part due to robust government programming -- costs are still high for many. The Assembly majority had for several years passed the New York Health Act, which would create a universal, single-payer health care system in New York, but did not push the policy, which is opposed by Cuomo, this year, when it actually had a chance of passage in the newly-Democratic Senate. While most of the senators in the new majority had either co-sponsored the New York Health Act last year or expressed support for it during last year's campaigns, the legislation did not move in either house this year. Cuomo has said he believes single-payer health care is the best goal, but that it should be done nationally, that to do it in New York would be unrealistic given how much it upheaval it would require, including raising taxes on many New Yorkers and roughly doubling the state budget.

While advocacy groups agree in their criticism of Cuomo, “no one,” including Cuomo and the Assembly, has made anti-poverty measures “a real priority,” Deutsch said. “We can’t continue down this path any longer.”

Assembly Accomplishments
According to the Assembly majority, in March 2016, it successfully added municipalities to the governor’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI), though it does not appear this was a direct result of the anti-poverty work group given it had just been assembled and seems to have done little overall.

ESPRI invests money directly into 16 communities with high poverty rates. Among communities introduced by the Assembly to the initiative are Troy, Hempstead, Buffalo, Oneonta, Albany, Rochester, and Broome County. Upon being added, these communities became eligible to receive ESPRI funding, which began with a $25 million investment in 2015 and received $4.5 million in the 2020 budget.

ESPRI funding supports programs including financial literacy, job training, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and more.

While advocacy groups agreed that no substantial, explicit anti-poverty measures passed this legislative session, some programs that did move are likely to help fight poverty.

“Despite the state’s fiscal constraints, the Assembly ensured this year’s state budget invested in services for families struggling with the costs of housing, child care and after-school programs while restoring critical cuts to Medicaid and education,” Speaker Heastie said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “The Assembly Majority remains focused on advancing our Families First Agenda, which includes identifying ways to lift New Yorkers out of poverty,” he said.

The state approved a program to end cash bail in most instances, allowing most people accused of a non-violent crime to remain out of jail while awaiting a court date. In pushing for major limits on cash bail, one central argument was that the use of it criminalized poverty, essentially making it that poor people who can’t afford a few hundred dollars in bail would sit in jail, and risk losing their jobs and other community ties.

In Schenectady County, those arrested spend an average of 40 days in jail before they are charged, with some let go without being charged at all, according to Citizen Action State Organizing and Training Director Jamaica Miles.

“The people most likely to be sitting in jail are those that cannot afford to pay the bail or bond to get out,” Miles said in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “You’ve made their lives more difficult before convicting them of a crime,” she said, if they are ever convicted at all.

Additionally, the state’s newly approved rent regulations, highly favorable to rent-regulated tenants, are expected to be beneficial to many low-income families.

“The hope is they won’t be evicted as easily as they are being evicted now,” Deutsch said.

Looking ahead, the Assembly will be re-introducing a package of bills that “overhauls” the public assistance system, Hevesi said.

With the current public assistance system, many low-wage workers can earn enough to work themselves out of the benefit and lose their vouchers, but when they lose public assistance they can no longer afford to live where they’re living, Strom said.

To remedy the system, the state can raise the eligibility income levels for public assistance or create a different income level for housing vouchers, so those receiving public assistance can retain their vouchers while they transition to being off of benefits and on an employment income, Strom said.

“As it’s currently structured it’s a trap. Once people are on public assistance they are trapped in perpetuity. We have an opportunity to break that system up and give people the incentives they need to get off public assistance,” Hevesi said.

The Assembly had a hearing on the overhaul set for the end of the previous legislative session, but it didn’t come together in time, Hevesi said. The bills have veto proof support in the Assembly, including backing of Minority Leader Brian Kolb, and are over the 32 vote threshold to have a majority in the Senate, but still do not have the support of the governor, Hevesi said. 

The Assembly also pushed the governor for the creation of 20,000 units of supportive housing for the chronically homeless, Hevesi said.

“After a several-year battle [Cuomo] agreed, but then stalled again when we had to force him two years ago to release $1 billion to get the first 6,000 units,” Hevesi said.

Cuomo’s Efforts
Until his June comments on WAMC radio, just after the end of the budget and legislative session in Albany, Cuomo had said very little directly about poverty in 2019.

He did not explicitly discuss “poverty” in any of his three major speeches (a December “First 100 Days” address, his January 1 inaugural remarks, and his State of the State speech later in January) that set the stage for this year in Albany, the first under full and functional Democratic control of both the governor’s office and Legislature in several decades.

Cuomo did mention several programs, both already passed and on his 2019 agenda, that relate to poverty, though, including the minimum wage hike, which has seen the wage hit $15 per hour in New York City, with other increases around the state.

In his December 2018 speech outlining his agenda for the “first 100 days” of his third term, Cuomo called the lack of affordable housing “a crisis,” and promoted what he says is the state’s largest ever investment in affordable housing, which appears to have meant continuation of an ongoing $20 billion program that requires new budget investments each year.

He also called for renewed rent regulations that would improve certain tenants’ rights, which ultimately passed in the Legislature and were signed by the governor to much acclaim by activists, advocates, and lawmakers.

In his inaugural address, Cuomo again avoided the issue of poverty directly, but touted the state’s accomplishments and agenda related to fighting climate change, ending cash bail, legalizing marijuana (which failed to pass during the legislative session), and investment in affordable housing.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo again did not explicitly discuss poverty, but he put forth budgetary and legislative proposals to alleviate burdens for those in or near poverty. Cuomo’s executive budget plan proposed providing more state aid to poorer schools and school districts, while moving ahead with planned funding for affordable housing and to fight homelessness, among other measures that stand to help people living in or near poverty, like cash bail reform and green economics.

In his State of the State policy book, Cuomo did include a short section on “Combating Poverty,” with two planks: one, further supporting the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) and establishing ESPRI representation on Regional Economic Development Council workforce development committees; and two, “reduce hunger and food insecurity.” Cuomo would “establish a goal to reduce household food insecurity in New York State by 10 percent by 2024,” the policy book reads, and will do so by “directing the following actions: create a food and anti-hunger policy coordinator; simplify access to SNAP for older and disabled adults; enhanced resources and referrals in clinical settings; participate in SNAP online purchasing pilot; and expand food access in Central Brooklyn.”

Asked about the governor’s anti-poverty record in light of his comments and Heastie’s response, the governor’s office highlighted a number of programs.

“New York State is leading the fight against poverty through a holistic approach, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and a $20 billion plan to combat homelessness and create or preserve more than 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 providing supportive services,” Cuomo Press Secretary Caitlin Girouard said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.

According to the Governor’s office, Cuomo’s poverty reduction programs include 2013’s anti-hunger task force, 2015’s $25 million ESPRI to address regional pockets of poverty across the state, and the $15 per hour minimum wage program that he ushered through in 2016, which is phased in over several years and sets different wages in different regions of the state.

According to data from the “Unheard Third,” a regular opinion poll of low-income households conducted by the nonprofit Community Service Society, half of low-income hourly workers in New York City say that the recent increases in the state minimum wage is making them better off.

The percentage of New Yorkers in poverty decreased every year from 2013 to 2017, from 16 percent of New Yorkers living below the poverty line in 2013 to 14.1 percent in 2017, according to data from Talk Poverty, an organization that tracks poverty levels in every state. Since the minimum wage has passed, 247,775 fewer New Yorkers are living below the poverty line, according according to data from Talk Poverty. (The aforementioned New York State Community Action Association in its 2019 annual poverty report estimates 15% of New Yorkers living in poverty, using recent Census data from 2013-2017.)

Moving ahead, Cuomo has said he wants to continue to invest in education, but with aid directed disproportionately toward poorer K-12 schools. When the new state budget passed in April, education funding increased to $27.9 billion, with over 70% of the increased funding going to schools in poorer districts, according to the budget.

The state has increased funding for higher education, too, which has a distinct budget of $7.6 billion, by $1.6 billion, or 27 percent, since 2012 (Cuomo took office in 2011), according to data from the Governor’s office. Still, Cuomo has faced criticism related to funding for CUNY and SUNY public higher education institutions, and how his signature Excelsior Scholarship program is working.

In December of last year, Cuomo announced the Child Care Availability Task Force, a group of experts assembled to develop solutions that will improve access to affordable child care. The task force examined “access to affordable child care, the availability of child care for parents with non-traditional work hours, statutory and regulatory changes that could promote or enhance access to child care, business incentives to increase child care access, and the impact on tax credits and deductions relating to child care,” according to a press release announcing its creation.

"We want to ensure that working families are provided with the resources for safe, accessible and affordable child care. By promoting and investing in child care, we know it can improve women's participation in the workforce and narrow the gender wage gap,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is a co-chair of the Child Care Availability Task Force, in the press release. Hochul has said she expects its initial recommendations to help inform the Cuomo administration’s 2020 agenda.

***
by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

]]>
As Cuomo and Heastie Trade Comments on Anti-Poverty Efforts, a Closer Look at What They've Done Wed, 24 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
City to Launch 5 Cross-Agency Projects to Fight Poverty-Related Challenges https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8622-city-to-launch-new-cross-agency-projects-to-fight-poverty https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8622-city-to-launch-new-cross-agency-projects-to-fight-poverty bdb att ge er sc bk institute

(photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)


The de Blasio administration is hoping to address challenges faced by struggling New Yorkers and fight poverty by improving access to city services through five new initiatives that will launch July 1, the start of the next city fiscal year.

The five projects, overseen and funded by the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, cut across city agencies and involve a diverse set of goals: increasing school attendance for students in temporary housing; expanding education services for adults leaving jail and prison; improving staff training at and design of domestic violence shelters; improving how the city tracks services for homeless people living on the street; and enhancing the city’s family support service system.

“Many folks in the world of social services, whether at nonprofits or city agencies…are all in general agreement that silos are bad,” said Matt Klein, executive director of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, which uses data and research to fight poverty-related challenges faced by New Yorkers. “Issues related to poverty are multi-faceted and complex so this is an effort to put into operation the principle that we should serve people more holistically as opposed to single isolated interventions.”

Klein’s office put out a call to city agencies last September to solicit ideas about improving collaboration and overcoming “service silos” to provide more efficient and well-rounded social services. The projects will receive a total of $6 million over the next three years from NYC Opportunity’s Innovation Fund, a $28 million pot of money that the office uses to test new projects and ideas to tackle poverty. The office also publishes its own measure of poverty, which takes into account additional cost of living factors in the city to provide a more coherent picture of poverty than the federal measure.

Though Mayor Bill de Blasio has committed to fighting poverty and income inequality in the city, having won office on that platform in 2013, any city administration has somewhat limited tools to directly achieve what is largely affected by macroeconomic factors.

The mayor has taken many related steps to support the lives of no-, low-, and middle-income New Yorkers, including enacting universal pre-kindergarten, various workplace protections like expanding paid sick leave, increasing the minimum wage for city employees to $15 (before the state followed suit for all workers), funding lawyers for many tenants facing eviction, and a large affordable housing program. De Blasio has also claimed success, announcing earlier this year that there were 236,500 fewer people living in poverty or near poverty in 2017 than in 2013. Poverty rates have been falling nationwide, owing to strong and stable economic growth over the last decade, and it’s hard to attribute the effect solely to city policies. The fact that the minimum wage jumped quickly over the last few years has been a significant factor in New York.

NYC Opportunity’s projects are intended to make improvements in the systems that the city does control, in providing social services and easing access to them. The projects include:

A partnership between the Department of Education and Department of Homeless Services to increase coordination and data-sharing to increase attendance rates for thousands of students living in 25 homeless shelters across the city.

Improving 15 domestic violence shelters through environmental design changes and better training for staff to provide trauma-informed care. That project will involve the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Human Resources Administration and the Administration for Children’s Services.

ACS and DOHMH will also work together to analyze how families interact with city services to find ways to “refine referral pathways, improve families’ access to services, and promote positive child outcomes.”

The CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice Prisoner Reentry Institute and the SUNY Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center will collaborate to provide individuals who leave city jails and state prisons with high school, college and career preparation services as well as individual support.

The Department of Homeless Services will improve how it tracks street homelessness by expanding its StreetSmart tracking and case management system to Drop-In Centers and Safe Havens which provide services to those outside of the shelter system. DHS will also give nonprofit service providers better access to data to improve services.

The projects are meant to be scalable and to provide lessons in best practices. For instance, the domestic violence shelter project acknowledges “both the relation between physical design and programmatic effort to address trauma,” said Klein. “That could also be precedent setting in the development of public spaces. All of these have potential for very meaningful operational change.”

David Berman, the office’s director of programs and evaluation, added, “As part of the selection criteria, we particularly focused on projects that could have a big impact on low-income residents but also to potentially transform systems or provide informative learning for other city agencies so that they would have a bigger impact.”

Berman said the office will apply performance tracking measures to each of the projects to measure process and outcomes, and will publicly report the results. “We’re continuously working with our agency partners to monitor the programs as they go,” he said.

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
City to Launch 5 Cross-Agency Projects to Fight Poverty-Related Challenges Thu, 20 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
As HRA Announces Closure of Another Food Stamp Center, Research Finds Excessive Wait-Times https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8580-hra-closure-food-stamp-center-excessive-wait-times https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8580-hra-closure-food-stamp-center-excessive-wait-times mayorremark supportive

(photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)


During a recent budget hearing at the City Council, Council Member Stephen Levin asked Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks about wait-times at Human Resources Administration centers. "Have we seen an increase in wait times?” asked Levin; “How are we monitoring wait-times in light of the Jazmine Headley incident and as we're talking about staffing levels at HRA Centers?”

Confident in tone and content, Commissioner Banks answered: "[I]n SNAP and food stamp centers the wait-time is about 20 minutes because 87% of the applications are done online and 93% of the interviews are done by phone, and there's a reduction of foot traffic by more than 40% in those locations.” He continued, “and in terms of the wait-times in the Job Centers...we're about twice as long in those offices as in the food stamp centers."

Our team has conducted a significant analysis of the underlying data the city uses to calculate and report its wait times. We believe that Commissioner Banks’ response is misleading.

The use of misleading data on this matter is a risk for all poor New York City residents, and takes particular importance given the closure of two SNAP (food stamp) centers last year, and the recently-announced closure of the St. Nicholas SNAP Center in Harlem, which is planned for the end of this month.

A Background to Waiting at HRA
Council Member Levin’s May 22 questions above were referring to an incident in December 2018, captured on a cell phone video that went viral, when police assaulted Jazmine Headley and her infant son at a Brooklyn Public Assistance center. Headley had already waited in the center (otherwise known as a Job Center) for four hours before the situation unnecessarily escalated to police violence.

While the media justifiably focused on the physical violence she experienced, Headley’s story also raised another, less-publicized issue that our clients at Urban Justice Center report to us daily: excessive wait-times at HRA that cause upset children, missed days of work or school, increased tension at centers, and unnecessary interruptions in their lives.  

New York City’s welfare and food stamp (SNAP) centers are notorious for using wait-times to prevent or delay benefits access. Under Mayor Koch in the 1980s, the city’s efforts to prevent benefits access were so significant that Community Action Legal Services issued a report entitled The In-Human Resources Administration’s Churning Campaign. Under Mayor Giuliani in the 1990s, those in need of food stamps could not even obtain an application until their second center visit. Under the Bloomberg administration, public assistance recipients continued to be systematically discouraged from accessing cash aid by HRA.

Mayor de Blasio’s administration is undoubtedly more receptive of benefits applicants than those that preceded it; however, our analysis of the city’s wait-time data shows that the client experience at HRA is still unreasonable and unacceptable.

In February of this year, in the wake of the violence experienced by Headley, the City Council held a hearing about the experiences of people at HRA centers. When Council members asked HRA officials why Headley’s attempt to complete a seemingly simple task had taken four hours at one of their centers, they explained that her situation that day was an exception. However, the findings we published in our recent Bureaucracy of Benefits report, based on surveys of over 130 HRA applicants and recipients, found that wait times averaged 3.13 hours at Public Assistance (Job) Centers and 2.78 hours at SNAP centers.

Under a local law passed at the end of 2017, HRA must post the “average” wait times at centers on its website. In January 2019, the reported citywide wait time averages were 50 minutes for Job Centers and 45 minutes for SNAP centers. These are the numbers HRA administrators seemingly refer to when publicly questioned about the centers’ wait times, and presumably provided the rationale for calling Headley’s four hour-long wait an “exception.”

In an effort to determine why the city’s publicized wait times are significantly less than what our surveys reflected and what we hear so often from people who go to the centers, we issued a Freedom of Information (FOIL) request for the breakdown of the center wait-times.

What We Found
Our review found that HRA manipulates the data to make it appear as though people are waiting significantly less time in centers and then putting forward numbers publicly that do not match the reality poor New Yorkers experience each day.

The picture painted by city officials in testimony and in the online data is that visits to HRA Centers are fairly simple and quick experiences. But they are not. Furthermore, there are patterns in the data that show disproportionately heavy delays in the Bronx – the poorest borough and where the city has the highest rates of complaints at Job and SNAP Centers (see Bureaucracy of Benefits report).

The data shows that HRA, which is the nation’s largest social service agency and which claims its role is the “effective and efficient administration of more than 12 major public benefits programs, which reflects this Administration's priority of addressing poverty and income inequality,” routinely makes New Yorkers wait several hours at its offices for any and all needs. Our analysis confirms that Headley’s experience with waiting was far more common than officials admitted and resonated closely with what our clients tell us everyday.

1. Ticket-stacking: HRA’s data is compiled by tracking the amount of time that it takes for an individual to be called for a “ticket,” which individuals are given when they go into a center (for the purpose of our analysis, “ticket” refers to the tracking system HRA uses to delineate the reasons for a person’s visit to the center). However, when an individual goes to the center, they frequently need more than one ticket to accomplish a particular task. Sometimes they get multiple tickets upon entering, and sometimes they will be given additional tickets successively, either because the first person they met with was not able to help them or because there are multiple steps to a particular task.

For example, in order to apply for a new Public Assistance case, an individual must fill out a lengthy application and then also complete an application interview. These are each individual tickets. HRA is averaging the data as if each of these is a singular experience for which an individual might visit a center, when in reality, applicants are doing both in one trip. The citywide average wait time in September 2018 for an application was 17 minutes, but the average wait time for an interview was 1 hour and 34 minutes. HRA is averaging these two numbers together in calculating overall wait-time averages, when in fact they should be combined to get a complete picture of the applicant’s wait time.

2. Unweighted data: HRA’s data seemingly does not account for ticket volume by center. For instance, in September 2018, HRA calculates the citywide average wait time for those presenting to resolve a Cash Assistance (CA) missed appointment at 45 minutes. When we calculated the data weighting the amount of time against the amount of tickets for missed CA appointments, we calculated an average wait time of 1 hour and 37 minutes, more than doubling the city’s reported figure.  

3. Averaging-in zeros: According to the data, not all centers give out every ticket type in any given month. It is unclear if this is because each center employs its own practices of assigning tickets, or if some centers simply do not see certain needs in a given month. Regardless, the fact that HRA includes the tickets without any data (and therefore zero-minute wait-times) in their overall averaging provides a highly skewed presentation of what is actually happening. For instance, HRA reported (in response to our FOIL request) that the citywide average wait time to see a supervisor was 30 minutes in September. However, five centers did not report any tickets given for waiting to see a supervisor. HRA is including zero-minute waits from these five centers, which skews the citywide average.

4. Exceptional waits for Bronx residents: Repeatedly, Bronx Centers had the highest wait times reported. In September 2018, the Citywide Average Wait time for a supervisor was 30 minutes. However, at Concourse Center in the Bronx, wait-time to speak with a supervisor was 1 hour and 16 minutes. Bronx Centers had the highest (or second highest) wait times for almost every issue area we reviewed, including childcare, cash assistance application interviews, cash assistance recertifications, cash assistance reopenings, cash assistance missed appointments, and cash assistance mandatory dispute resolutions, among other appointment types.

5. Excluding service times: The publicly posted wait-time data fails to capture the additional time that individuals spend in the Center actually completing the services they came for, or the “service-time data,” which can be hours.

For the application interview, the citywide service time average in September 2018 was 47 minutes. Combined with the average service time for the application itself (5 minutes) and the wait times for both the application and application interview, an individual who needed to apply for Public Assistance in September 2018 was spending, on average, over 2.5 hours at the center. If they requested to speak to a supervisor for any reason, the overall time would go up to over 3 hours and 20 minutes. In cases where someone is waiting for multiple appointments in one visit, it is likely they will spend the majority of their day at the Center.

The extensive wait-times for benefits is yet another example of how New York City punishes people for poverty. Available data shows that people of color are disproportionately forced to rely on benefits to survive, and that women are disproportionately the “heads of household” for a family’s benefits case. To make matters worse, almost none of the mandatory services for Public Assistance applicants or recipients can be done online or over the phone. That means that in order to receive Public Assistance benefits, one must be prepared to wait – for hours and repeatedly.

While Commissioner Banks says improvements are coming through technology – and we have already seen some of the city’s technological developments unfold for SNAP-only cases – we remain very concerned that there is a significant need for increasing staff at the centers rather than simply focusing on robotic solutions.

And we are very concerned about HRA’s closure of a third SNAP Center this coming month. Of note, that closure will push SNAP recipients assigned to the St. Nicholas Center in Central Harlem to the East End Center in East Harlem, which is already known by advocates to struggle with caseload requirements that lead to long waits and often very serious case errors.

The waiting imposed on poor New Yorkers is long-standing and punitive but is it not inevitable. Increasing staff at HRA centers, increasing the number of benefits centers in each borough, and making it easier for New Yorkers to resolve problems and complete needed actions over the phone and online would all help significantly. Halting the closure of SNAP centers is another immediate step that can be taken to prevent excessive waits and pervasive errors in people’s cases.

Different decisions about allocating resources can be made that would reduce the notoriously frustrating length of time poor people spend waiting for and interacting with the city’s benefits bureaucracy. The question is whether our city is willing to do so.  

***
by Kiana Davis, Isabel Hellman, Craig Hughes, Khadija Hussain & Helen Strom of the Urban Justice Center – Safety Net Project. On Twitter @SafetyNetUJC.

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

]]>
As HRA Announces Closure of Another Food Stamp Center, Research Finds Excessive Wait-Times Wed, 12 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
What's The [Data] Point? 18.6%, New York's Inequality & Social Safety Net https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8113-what-s-the-data-point-18-6-new-york-s-inequality-social-safety-net https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8113-what-s-the-data-point-18-6-new-york-s-inequality-social-safety-net whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 60 -- 18.6%, Inequality and the Social Safety Net, with Greg David and Cara Eisenpress [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

gregdavid caraepress amazon18.6% is the poverty rate in New York City. Greg David and Cara Eisenpress, both from Crain's New York Business and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, discuss their recent reporting exploring New York City's safety net, how it's funded, and how it compares to other places, while showing that the city's robust safety net is made possible by the city's vast inequality and tax structure.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
What's The [Data] Point? 18.6%, New York's Inequality & Social Safety Net Fri, 30 Nov 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Dissecting Mayor De Blasio's Record As He Seeks Reelection https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection Mayor de Blasio Chirlane McCray City Hall Reelection Parade

Mayor Bill de Blasio & First Lady Chirlane McCray (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


As Mayor Bill de Blasio, a first-term Democrat, seeks reelection this fall, a close examination of his record is essential. De Blasio came into power promising to address inequlality in a variety of forms, including income, educational, policing, racial, and opportunity inequities he identified during his 2013 campaign. In this year's election de Blasio is running in part on his record, which is headlined by the implementation of his campaign promise to provide universal pre-kindergarten for the city's four-year-olds. But, there is much more to the mayor's record than UPK, which has clearly been his biggest success.

In this series, Gotham Gazette, with election coverage partners City Limits and WNYC radio, examines de Blasio's record on a variety of important issues. While this is not completely exhaustive, it should be helpful to voters and others seeking to evaluate de Blasio this fall. With our partners, Gotham Gazette will release articles and audio pieces on the following aspects of de Blasio's record -- those already published are linked below.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.

More to read/view/hear:

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
Dissecting Mayor De Blasio's Record As He Seeks Reelection Wed, 01 Nov 2017 23:26:00 +0000
De Blasio's Record on Poverty and Inequality https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7280-de-blasio-s-record-on-poverty-and-inequality https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7280-de-blasio-s-record-on-poverty-and-inequality de Blasio equality shaking hands crowd

Mayor de Blasio at an announcement (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


This article is part of a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits. Find all pieces of the series here.

**********

Bill de Blasio ran for Mayor in 2013 as an unabashed progressive, painting the image of a city cleaved in an even two by its wealth distribution. There existed, he explained, a relatively small class of New Yorkers at the top holding the majority of the city’s wealth and making immense sums of income each year. The rest, a large underclass of New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, left behind during the boom of the Bloomberg years and decades of insufficient federal policy, especially on taxes and redistribution of wealth. De Blasio envisioned, with lofty rhetoric and ambitious policies, bridging that gap and pulling up those at the bottom while asking those doing very well to chip in a bit more.

He was elected overwhelmingly.

“New York has faced fiscal collapse, a crime epidemic, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. But now, in our time, we face a different crisis – an inequality crisis,” de Blasio declared in his inaugural address as mayor on January 1, 2014. “It’s not often the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It’s a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before.”

Equity became the foundation of the de Blasio administration, enshrined in virtually every policy coming from City Hall and, more comprehensively, in the OneNYC roadmap for the city’s future, which sets poverty reduction and other goals to fulfill de Blasio’s promises.

Whether it’s affordable housing, sustainability, economic development, community infrastructure, or education, the administration has sought to build equity, though de Blasio has at times been accused of not going far enough by those who had immense expectations of him. Tellingly, under de Blasio, the annual Mayor’s Management Report, which is mandated by law and details the accomplishments of more than 40 city agencies on hundreds of performance indicators, included for the first time evaluations of agency efforts for their “focus on equity.”

With data showing an acute poverty problem in New York City, amid its immense wealth and gleaming towers, de Blasio sought to drastically increase opportunities available to poor, working class, and middle class people, and reduce the number of people in or near poverty, a rate that stood at roughly 21 percent -- or 1.74 million people -- when he took office.

De Blasio set the city on a path that he believes will reach the OneNYC goal of pulling 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty by 2025. And though the results of many of his policy actions cannot easily be gauged in the short term, there are a few clear indicators that the city’s approach is working. Notably, between 2014 and the end of 2017, about 281,000 New Yorkers will have left poverty or near-poverty simply due to an increase in the minimum wage to $11. That wage, set by state policy that de Blasio and his allies have helped influence, is set to jump to $13 at the start of 2018 and hit $15 per hour in New York City on December 31, 2018 for companies with 11 or more employees (the wages will be $12 then $14 for smaller companies).

According to five-year estimates from the American Community Survey for 2011-2015, about 20.6 percent of New York City residents lived below the federal poverty level. The latest one-year ACS supplemental estimates for 2016, released September 14, show improvement. People living under the poverty level in New York City, measured by the federal threshold, fell to 18.9 percent or 1.59 million New Yorkers, itself still an astonishingly large number. And, the number remained marginally higher than the pre-recession poverty level of 18.5 percent in 2008 and far higher than the national poverty level of 14 percent in 2016.

The federal measure only takes into account pre-tax cash income. New York City has its own poverty measure which also accounts for non-cash benefits, tax credits, and housing subsidies, and sets a threshold that includes housing costs to judge poverty more accurately. By city estimates, poverty in the city is at its lowest since the Great Recession, at 19.9 percent in 2015, down from 20.7 in 2013. The city’s data does not account for the latest ACS microdata yet.

Although the mayor has little control over the broad contours of the economy, he has been able to use the significant authority at the local level to enact a multi-faceted approach to lifting up wages, giving low-wage earners better opportunities, and enhancing access to city services for New York’s most disadvantaged residents.

In his first term, de Blasio has invested heavily in early childhood education and the universal pre-kindergarten program, his signature achievement, is serving nearly 70,000 children in 2017 (up from 20,000 prior to the UPK expansion) and is estimated by the city to have put $1.4 billion back in the pockets of New Yorkers who do not have to pay for child care. About 500,000 people were covered by the city’s expansion of paid sick leave in 2014, especially helping low-wage workers become more likely to keep their jobs if they get sick and need to miss work.

And though the city’s homelessness crisis continues to be blight on the mayor’s record, he has taken steps to stem the tide by funding free legal assistance for tenants in housing court and increasing rental subsidies for low-income families. In the lead up to Election Day, de Blasio announced an expansion of his affordable housing program, from a target of 200,000 affordable rental units over 10 years to 300,000 over 12.

On Tuesday, the mayor said he would also double the number of units planned for seniors from 15,000 to 30,000. This, after having adjusted his housing plan earlier this year to increase the number of deeply affordable units and those for seniors.

De Blasio has increased funding and attention to NYCHA, the public housing authority home to about half a million New Yorkers, while launching a community parks initiative and a variety of other programs aimed at equity across neighborhoods and demographics. IDNYC, the city’s municipal identity program with 863,464 card holders, allowed more New Yorkers, particularly undocumented immigrants, to avail of city services. These are among other initiatives, both large and small, that the administration has set in motion to increase opportunity, especially for those struggling.

Most significantly in terms of income inequality, de Blasio made a concerted effort in his first term to push for a higher minimum wage at the local and state level. The increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 in 2013 to $11 has had its intended consequences. Last year, the mayor approved an increase to a $15 minimum wage, by the end of 2018, for all city employees and nonprofit human services contractors, the groups for which he has discretion. He also instituted a paid family leave program for 20,000 city workers whose contracts are not part of labor union collective bargaining. New York State followed in the city’s footsteps by announcing its $15 minimum wage program, which is phased in faster in New York City than several other parts of the state, and a paid family leave program that begins its phase-in in 2018.

“De Blasio deserves a lot of credit for that, and it appears to be having a pronounced effect in reducing poverty,” said James Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policy at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, of the minimum wage efforts.

Other than the paid sick leave law and universal pre-kindergarten, according to Parrott, a chief accomplishment of the administration has been the settling of 99.1 percent of expired municipal union contracts, which gave many low- and moderate-income workers wage increases. Parrott also cited other positive developments, including new labor protections for freelancers and the creation of an Office of Labor Standards at the Department of Consumer Affairs. “I’m not gonna give [de Blasio] all the credit but the things he has done have led to some pretty remarkable improvements in wages and incomes of the bottom 30-40 percent of the income distribution since 2013,” Parrott said.

Parrott also noted that there are limitations in judging progress from the federal poverty measure or from the Gini coefficient, a statistical tool used by the U.S. Census to measure income inequality. Instead, Parrott prefers to use income tax data, which he said shows a more complete picture of wealth distribution, combined with other data measures on wages and family income. All these together, he said, have shown “the best improvements in the last 30 to 40 years, it could even be 50 years if we had comparable data to make a careful comparison.”

An encouraging trend, evinced from 2016 census data, is that median household income in 2016  was $58,856, up from $56,457 in 2015, and surpassing the pre-recession peak level of $56,982 in 2008, according to an analysis by the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. Median incomes for families with children grew at 10.4 percent between 2015-2016, outpacing overall household income growth. Black and Latino New Yorkers benefited from the largest decreases in poverty rates -- nearly 2 percentage points each -- and poverty fell across racial and ethnic groups. The report did point out some worrying trends. Poverty on Staten Island, for instance, was 3.2 points higher than pre-recession levels; income increases were concentrated in Manhattan and Brooklyn; and the gap in median household income for racial and ethnic groups, which expanded during the recession, has continued to grow.

Jennifer March, executive director of CCCNY, praised numerous policies enacted by the de Blasio administration that are “positioned as vehicles to combat income inequality,” including universal prekindergarten and its planned expansion to three-year-olds, the paid sick leave expansion, the minimum wage increase, the recent implementation of free universal school lunch and universal after-school programs for middle school students. She also commended initiatives such as the piloting of child savings accounts, and the overall efforts at creating affordable housing and rent freezes for rent-regulated tenants.

“Those things combined really suggest that he has an ambitious multi-pronged approach to help families and New Yorkers afford to live here and to reduce the gap between those that are earning more and those that are really struggling,” she said.

In 2015, de Blasio launched an ill-fated attempt to influence the national conversation around income inequality through a nonprofit organization that brought together progressive elected officials, leaders, and celebrities from across the country. The nonprofit, the Progressive Agenda Committee, fizzled out after an unsuccessful bid to host a presidential candidate forum in Iowa in late 2015, and de Blasio’s message about economic inequality and the need to put it at the forefront of the Democratic platform was largely subsumed by the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, de Blasio has doubled down on his agenda, pushing multiple proposed tax increases on wealthy New Yorkers -- which would require action by the State -- to fund items such as affordable housing for seniors and subsidized transit fares for low-income commuters. De Blasio has regularly criticized the Hillary Clinton campaign for not focusing on economic populism enough.

As he heads toward an expected second term, de Blasio has announced a shift to actively creating better paying jobs in burgeoning economic sectors and building talent pipelines to ensure that New York City residents are the beneficiaries of city-funded economic growth. He acknowledged, in a sobering State of the City speech this year, that “people are so fundamentally challenged by the affordability crisis that this city simply must do more and must do it quickly.”  

“So many people love this city. But here is a blunt truth,” he said. “They love it, but that doesn't mean it's easy to live here. Right? For a lot of seniors, this is not an easy place to live. For a lot of young people just starting out, it's not so easy. For folks struggling to make ends meet, this can be a punishing environment.”

De Blasio announced the broad contours of a plan to use city resources to spur the growth of 100,000 jobs paying at least $50,000 over a 10-year period. A few months later, he and his team unveiled a more detailed plan, which was met with snickers about a lack of detail and questions about its necessity, or whether it is more of an election year gimmick.

As many people evaluate the mayor in his reelection bid, the stubborn nature of income inequality and the fact that so many New Yorkers continue to struggle to live secure, decent lives raise questions about de Blasio’s ability to deliver on his core 2013 promises. The mayor has largely shifted his lens, at least when speaking publicly, from income inequality and toward efforts to lift up those at the bottom.

De Blasio is, in part, a victim of his own rhetoric, says Alex Armlovich, adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. “That wasn’t a good promise to make on the mayoral level,” said Armlovich, of the mayor’s commitment to fight the “tale of two cities” that he evoked on the campaign trail. “Inequality is a national issue. At the local level, [population] displacement and retention effects are going to swamp your efforts to reduce inequality.”

In a report released earlier this month, Armlovich noted that income inequality as judged by the Gini coefficient has in fact remained flat under de Blasio and that changes in income inequality were affected by compensation trends in the financial sector rather than by the city’s policies. The Gini measures income distribution on a scale of 0 to 1, and the higher it is, the higher the inequality. The city’s Gini score in 2016 was about 0.55. Armlovich pointed out that city policies that help poor New Yorkers live in the city, such as more affordable housing, naturally increase the Gini, even though they are laudable policy goals, because they wind up keeping many low-income people from moving elsewhere.

Debate over the use of the Gini notwithstanding, Armlovich said the mayor should focus on providing equitable services across the five boroughs. “That’s what you can hold the mayor accountable for, because the mayor doesn’t control the economy,” he said. “His whole mistake in all of this was making himself politically accountable for a statistic that he doesn’t control.”

In an interview with The Daily News editorial board, the mayor insisted that the static Gini score was not reflective of a failure by his administration. “I'm very comfortable saying when I think something that I've done has not worked, or hasn't worked well enough,” he said. “But on this one, because we have seen job growth, we have seen wage growth, we have seen people getting out of poverty, we certainly have tangible evidence of reducing people's economic burdens. I think the central question is, were we going to give folks, low-income folks, working class people, middle class people, all of whom felt economically stuck, were we gonna give them more upward mobility? That's the central question in New York. It's also the central question in the country. Here we've been able to prove, not just because of public sector policies, but sustainability because of public sector policies, that we can increase upward mobility. That doesn't answer the question about the rich getting richer. Now, again, how do you address that? In my view, most notably, through tax policy.”

Indeed, income is one measure of inequality, and de Blasio has consistently sought to go further, whether in his attention to NYCHA or his parks or community schools efforts. He’s increased the city’s annual operating budget by about 18% since taking office, up to its current $85 billion, in large part to expand services and add to the public payroll, including thousands more early education teachers, police officers, and others. While some can aptly criticize this budget growth and others question how effective additional spending has been in certain areas, there is little question that de Blasio has heavily invested taxpayer money in building equity.

The CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance devised the NYC Equality Score, a tool for a more holistic view of inequality in the city, first published in 2015, with 95 indicators across six areas: economy, education, health, housing, justice, and services. Out of a possible 100, the city’s 2016 score was 46.01, up from 45.45 in 2015. “These scores suggest that NYC continues to be characterized by vast inequalities, and that when looking at the city as a whole, little has changed,” the report reads. “Generally speaking this score means that overall, the disadvantaged groups represented here are almost twice as likely as those not disadvantaged to experience negative outcomes in fundamental areas of life, as measured by the Equality Indicators.”

“It’s such a daunting challenge,” said City Council Member Stephen Levin, chair of the general welfare committee, which tackles with issues including poverty and homelessness (and was once chaired by de Blasio himself), “because you’re dealing with broader economic issues, you’re dealing with the persistent challenge of lack of affordable housing, and you’re dealing with the issues in Albany.” Levin was referring to state government, where Republicans hold power over the state Senate and often put the kibosh on progressive legislation floated by Democrats who control the Assembly and supported by de Blasio. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who de Blasio often feuds with, is inconsistent in his support for policies backed by the mayor, regularly opposing any tax increases.

Levin, a fellow Brooklyn Democrat who has endorsed de Blasio for reelection, said the mayor’s dedication on equity is “indisputable.” “This mayor and administration are using every tool in their toolbox,” he said, lamenting their inability to affect larger trends that can be influenced much more strongly by either state or federal policy. “I expect that over the next four years, this continues to be a priority.”

De Blasio does face significant challenges ahead. Federal policy proposals on taxes and healthcare threaten to blow holes in the state and city budgets, and could shred the city’s social safety net. Large-scale budget cuts at a time when the city’s budget has ballooned by billions of dollars would put the mayor in a tough spot, despite the significant rainy day funds built up over the last four years.

“What remains to be fixed is the highly regressive nature of the local tax structure, and mainly the property tax system,” said Parrott, of the New School. “He has to really work on it to figure out how to build the alliance in Albany. And he’s gotta keep making tweaks to his policies on affordable housing, homelessness, and education.” De Blasio has promised to push property tax reform if he’s reelected but has not provided specific details for addressing a system that is seen as disadvantageous to many middle-class New Yorkers of color because of how assessments are made in part based on geography.

CCCNY’s March said the mayor should advocate for deepening the earned income tax credit and the child care tax credit, both of which bolster the finances of working families and would require the state to pass legislation. “I think the challenge he will face moving forward, assuming he’s reelected, is the federal context in which we’re working,” she said, noting for instance that 900,000 children in New York rely on some form of public health insurance, which face proposed federal cuts. She also stressed the need for increased investment in affordable housing and reducing family homelessness. “One of the biggest conundrums will be that incomes have not kept pace with rising rents in the city,” she said, pointing to a challenge frequently cited by de Blasio and his top aides, like social services Commissioner Steven Banks.

“Many of the things that he started in his first term, we will see the real benefits of years from now,” March added. “Whether that’s universal pre-K, universal school lunch, or universal after-school for middle school, all of those things. It’s the consistent access that populations have to programs that are designed to promote school preparedness or reduce hunger or promote a college-oriented identity, over time we will see the results of these things.”

Mayoral spokesperson Eric Phillips declined to comment for this article. Emails and messages to spokespersons for the Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services went unanswered.

A Quinnipiac University Poll from July 31 showed that a majority of New Yorkers, 63 percent, disapproved of the way de Blasio has handled poverty and homelessness while only 29 percent approved. In eight polls conducted by Quinnipiac between 2015 and 2017, it was the worst appraisal the mayor received on the issue, likely due to the problems de Blasio has had in controlling and reducing homelessness.

Another particular issue related to poverty and inequality where de Blasio has disappointed advocates has been his lack of direct support for the “Fair Fares” proposal, which would provide half-price MetroCards to 800,000 low-income New Yorkers.

The proposal was created by two advocacy groups, the Community Service Society and Riders Alliance. De Blasio refused to fund the proposal in the city budget and wouldn’t support a pilot program floated by the City Council either, instead insisting the state-run MTA should provide the funds to those riding its services. Eventually, in his “Fair Fix” proposal for funding mass transit through a tax increase on the highest-earning New Yorkers -- which would need state-level approval -- the mayor included a set-aside for Fair Fares, which he called an “ultimate act of justice” despite his hesitance to identify the roughly $200 million to cover it annually. It’s unlikely that the state Senate, run by Republicans, or Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who largely opposes tax increases, would approve the so-called millionaires tax in 2018, which is a state-level election year.

“That would have a significant impact on low-income New Yorkers, first financially, but also by helping them access better jobs, training, things that would increase their upward mobility,” said Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy, research and advocacy, CSS. “It’s unfathomable to us why [Mayor de Blasio] wouldn’t want to do something that’s at the core of what he says his administration is about. That’s why people voted for him. That’s a practical step that would make an enormous difference in people’s lives.”

Council Member Levin holds out hope that the balance of the state Legislature would shift in next year’s election cycle towards Democrats who are friendlier to New York City and its progressive priorities. “Hopefully some of the dynamics shift and we can move the dial in a more accelerated way,” he said.

Jesse Laymon, director of policy and advocacy at the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, an organization comprised of more than 150 workforce providers, praised the de Blasio administration for leveraging economic growth into lifting wages at the bottom of the economic ladder, but nonetheless had pointed criticism for their policies. “It’s one thing to make it less terrible to be poor in New York, and I think they’ve done a good job of making it less terrible to be poor, but they have not done a great job of making it easier to get out of poverty,” he said. “And that’s really the goal that they should focus more attention on in the second term.”

**********

This article is part of a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits. Find all pieces of the series here.

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
De Blasio's Record on Poverty and Inequality Tue, 31 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Touted Bloomberg Anti-Poverty Incubator Sees New Life in De Blasio Era https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6499-touted-bloomberg-anti-poverty-incubator-sees-new-life-in-de-blasio-era https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6499-touted-bloomberg-anti-poverty-incubator-sees-new-life-in-de-blasio-era Bloomberg city of innovation speech

Above: Mayor Bloomberg speaks (Ed Reed). Below: Gibbs & Doar on panel


Data-driven Center for Economic Opportunity paves way for workforce development vision in Career Pathways

On July 14, former Bloomberg Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Robert Doar, former commissioner of anti-poverty efforts, participated in a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., fielding questions about the poverty-fighting efforts they led through New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity. It came just after their written series on the CEO and the Bloomberg approach to reducing poverty in New York, in which they argue for it as a national model.

Two-and-a-half years after Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office, the two former officials wrote in Washington Monthly of the Center for Economic Opportunity’s role in pioneering a disruptive, systemic, data-driven approach to reducing poverty and creating opportunity, claiming impressive results: the city, from 2000 to 2013, reported a declining poverty rate as comparable American cities saw a 36% spike and nationwide figures climbed from 11.3% to 14.8%, they wrote.

A representative for Gibbs reported that the New York City poverty rate dropped from 21.2% to 20.3% over Bloomberg’s full tenure. Though a modest decline, relative to the poverty-rate growth elsewhere, New York City was a positive outlier, and in their series, Gibbs and Doar aimed to encourage a national fight against poverty modeled after CEO efforts.

Bloomberg’s successor, current Mayor Bill de Blasio, came into office promising to address socioeconomic inequities, and appears to have seen the positives of CEO. De Blasio’s anti-poverty campaign employs many of the same tactics that CEO popularized. While CEO is no longer the same standalone program incubator it was, it is still part of the city’s anti-poverty efforts and de Blasio administration has adopted a data-centric workforce development vision that takes a similarly holistic approach to tackling the underlying sources of unemployment.

The most recent newsletter from CEO, published August 26, says the center has released two new evaluation reports detailing the progress of municipal identification program IDNYC and the New York Times-heralded career advancement program, WorkAdvance.

Originated in 2006 as a commission evaluating the root causes of poverty, the aptly-abbreviated CEO was institutionalized within the Mayor’s Office in 2007 to pilot programs to address the working poor, young adults aged 16-24, and families with children. Bloomberg - the billionaire entrepreneur mayor - tasked Gibbs, then Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, to define the shape and scope of the anti-poverty incubator, with assistance from Doar, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner.

The CEO team collaborated with agencies and advisors to implement, manage, and evaluate the efficacy of its programs, taking an experimental approach aimed at finally designing initiatives that really work.

Success was measured in the context of CEO's precedent-setting, citywide poverty data measures, which were developed in-house. These evaluations were designed to improve on a federal model that did not take into account changes in the economy, demographic trends, and public policies, and were made possible through collaboration with partners like nonprofit research organizations MDRC and the IT-training Per Scholas.

Keen on informed risk-taking, the center pioneered both divisive flameouts like the conditional cash transfer Family Rewards program and nationally-replicated breakthroughs like the Obama-cited CUNY Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative, which provides a support network of counselors and peer engagement groups, along with stipends for supplementary funding for books, transportation, and tuition not covered by financial aid. Over eight years, CEO launched over 60 initiatives. In its infancy, the center found its footing in accomplishments like the Office of Financial Empowerment. Soon, the center created successful job training and education programs like WorkAdvance and Project Rise that would continue operating through Bloomberg’s tenure and into the current administration.

"Through these programs, we are providing evidence of what works, and we hope that through these investments we will find the key to break the pattern of poverty that still persists despite all the opportunity our city offers," Bloomberg said at a 2007 press conference celebrating a first year of program launches.

In their recent series reflecting on CEO, Gibbs and Doar write: “The story of New York’s success to date is one of repeated experimentation, a willingness to take risks and the occasional failure. Most significantly, New York’s experience confirms that solid evidence can trump the liberal-versus-conservative stalemate when the welfare of the country’s most vulnerable people is at stake.”

Today, Mayor de Blasio has based his entire administration on reducing inequality, creating opportunity for those who have not had it, and treating the ills of a New York that has worked for those at the top of the socioeconomic ladder, but not many others.

De Blasio has outlined a plan to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty and near poverty by 2025; the course of action in his OneNYC plan hinges on the transformative potential of a $15 per hour minimum wage and a combination of equity-focused initiatives to expand prekindergarten enrollment, construct affordable housing, and improve access to 21st-century essentials like broadband, transportation, and childcare.

Much like in other areas, the de Blasio administration has a different anti-poverty approach than its predecessor. Under de Blasio, the Center for Economic Opportunity has indeed been deemphasized as a program creator. Instead, this administration has adopted a set of workforce development initiatives through “Career Pathways,” which is inspired by aspects of CEO, like attacking the root causes of poverty and unemployment and employing strict data accountability.

Today, CEO is primarily used for its quantitative capabilities, evaluating new initiatives and streamlining existing ones while expanding its role in data analytics. Both Gibbs and current CEO Executive Director Matthew Klein, hired in 2014, are enthusiastic about de Blasio’s efforts.

In an interview with Gotham Gazette, Klein explained the ways in which the center has evolved. “The mayor has a strong focus on broad, big-scale change,” Klein explained of his boss, de Blasio. This means adjusting to the mayor's priorities: the CEO is now working closely alongside the Department of Education to monitor the implementation of the universal pre-kindergarten program, which Klein described as an "all hands on deck effort across the administration." Klein also appeared at the American Enterprise Institute panel to detail CEO’s new direction.

The city’s new Career Pathways approach, one that has been adopted at federal, state, and local levels across the country, relies on a network of industry partnerships that unites public and private stakeholders to design and develop curricula and training programs that match workforce shortages. In short, Career Pathways provides the skill development and Industry Partnerships provides the jobs: Career Pathways the supply, Industry Partnerships the demand.

The Office Of Workforce Development, formerly the Office of Human Capital Development, has assumed a coordinating role to oversee the complex maze of agencies, providers, funders, and stakeholders that the plan requires to produce its anti-poverty and workforce development programs.

By shifting to Career Pathways, the administration abandoned an old model of rapidly pairing workers with available jobs (“rapid-attachment”), instead investing in the skill building and education that produce lasting employment. The de Blasio administration is making an informed decision: the Career Pathways model has received support from The US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, as well as the US Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

At the beginning of de Blasio’s term, the CEO poverty rate was at 20.7%, with 45.2% of New Yorkers living in near poverty - a term identifying the population living below 150% of the CEO poverty line. The administration claims that new training, entrepreneurship, and “bridge programs” have already served over 18,000 residents as of December 2015. There were also significant increases in youth employment, with the Summer Youth Employment Program expanding to reach 54,000 participants.

The new de Blasio strategy hinges on a dramatic redirection of the Human Resources Administration, which has been under the direction of Steve Banks since de Blasio appointed him in 2014. Moving away from pre-existing job placement initiatives, the agency now instead prioritizes redirected HRA programs and new bridge programs that provide low-skill job seekers with education and remedial training to find career-track employment in needy job sectors.

Like those of CEO, these programs are held accountable by data collection. The de Blasio administration calls these evaluatory statistics "common metrics," outlined in its original OneNYC plan, designed to align data and definitions to create a shared data collection system across all workforce programs.

While the Career Pathways approach has a place for successful CEO programs like WorkAdvance and Project Rise, the only CEO program highlighted in the OneNYC workforce development vision is the star CUNY ASAP initiative. The de Blasio administration has decided to chart his own path, with its own programmatic approach, instead of relying on the experimental nature of CEO.

So far, the Career Pathways vision has proven to be unwieldy for the same reasons it is heralded. The large web of new and redesigned education and training programs are more intensive and expensive than the preceding placement programs. In addition, the common metrics that provide accountability are in place, but somewhat disorganized: over a year into the approach common metrics have not been fully coordinated and integrated. The CEO is collaborating with the current administration to coordinate this data collection.

If the budding Career Pathways strategy succeeds, the current administration will, in part, have Bloomberg’s groundbreaking CEO to thank.

Bloomberg’s Incubator
A brainchild of a 2006 poverty commission, the "laboratory for experimentation" known as the Center for Economic Opportunity took advantage of a $100 million budget to pilot over 60 unconventional anti-poverty programs, each subjected to statistical evaluations that would determine its longevity.

Under the initial direction of executive director Veronica M. White, the CEO’s center’s initial funding came from a public-private partnership comprised of a new investment of tax dollars and philanthropic partners; the philosophy was indicative of the larger Bloomberg approach to government: infuse private sector principles to the public sector.

Gibbs Doar panel 1Over time, CEO’s staunchly quantitative approach to anti-poverty reform fostered what Gibbs describes as "an accountability for outcomes and evaluation.” It’s data-centric design was a reaction to its environment, typical of the slow-to-change government that Bloomberg often railed against.

"People, particularly in the social services, fall behind many other sectors," former Deputy Mayor Gibbs told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview. "We do things because we believe they are the right thing to do, we believe they are good and virtuous and helping people in need, but we don't always give ourselves the same level of accountability for whether or not our great idea will actually produce good."

The CEO's Darwinian approach reflected the entrepreneurial mind of its captain, a mayor more than willing to experiment with city government.

One of CEOs early successes was the Office of Financial Empowerment. Created within the Department of Consumer Affairs in 2006, OFE fought to "make work pay" through expansions of income supplements, public health insurance, and the earned income tax credit, among other programs.

According to Gibbs and Doar, an early evaluation showed $3 million in savings for 22,000 clients, and $22.5 million in total debt reduction. In July, Gotham Gazette reported that OFE has been incrementally expanded during Mayor de Blasio’s tenure, now headed by Executive Director Debra-Ellen Glickstein, who signed on in 2015.

Other CEO initiatives, like WorkAdvance, provided vulnerable New Yorkers with occupational skill training and industry-recognized certifications before coordinating placement in high-demand sectors. This humanistic approach included both pre-employment and job retention services to ensure effectiveness and instill confidence in job seekers. The program was hand-picked for national replication through a partnership with the Social Innovation Fund (SIF): a public-private partnership identifying evidence-based approaches to social challenges.

At the American Enterprise Institute panel with Gibbs and Doar, Gordon Berlin, president of MDRC, emphasized the significance of the grant, citing the "cross city partnership" it created. "The SIF really helped secure the CEO's future, role, and position in the national debate about federal poverty policy," Berlin said.

Tested in New York, Northeast Ohio, and Oklahoma, the expanded WorkAdvance program boasted two-year advantages at all sites (when compared to a control group) of 31% in training completion and 12-41% in sectoral employment, along with instances of earnings boosts up to 26%, according to an MDRC report.

The only CEO program highlighted in Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC Career Pathways workforce development vision is the aforementioned CUNY ASAP, now available to 17,000 full-time students across 24 campuses. The CUNY program helps students earn associate degrees by providing supplemental financial and personal assistance with the goal of increasing credits earned and lowering cost per degree.

The effort rose to national fame when President Obama mentioned ASAP by name in a 2015 address regarding a proposal to offer free tuition for more community college students. Creating an educated, debt-free workforce could have significant anti-poverty ramifications: a 2015 ASAP study claims that by 2020, an estimated 35% of job openings will require a bachelor’s degree, and 30% more will require a college or associate’s degree. The country’s student debt crisis is well documented.

As of June, the program claims a 53% to 23% (control group) advantage in graduation rates. The current incarnation of CUNY ASAP, located at all six city community colleges, reported a Spring enrollment of over 8,000 students, and projects to double that total this Fall. CEO Deputy Executive Director Carson Hicks told Gotham Gazette that the program is on track to reach 25,000 students by the 2018-2019 academic year.

Expanded Vision
Mayor de Blasio hopes the Career Pathways approach, made possible by strategic industry partnerships, will build on the CEO legacy of impactful training and education programs held accountable by stringent data collection and evaluation.

Three new HRA programs include CareerAdvance, CareerCompass, and YouthPathways, which replaced programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

A Center for an Urban Future analysis of Career Pathways, released last month, commends the change, observing that old TANF initiatives were both low-paying and unaligned with the career goals of clients. There was also a lack of individualized assessment, made evident by the fact that the programs did not take into account the age of their clients.

De Blasio also cites Computer Science for All as an early success and part of long-term plans to create opportunity and reduce poverty. Launched in 2015, the program aims to deliver computer science education to public school students through elementary, middle, and high school. The administration says it will make the program available to all students by 2025 in order to accommodate a job market that increasingly rewards the technically proficient (CSFA references a 57% tech employment hike 2007-2014).

Computer Science for All is funded by a public-private partnership with the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education and the Robin Hood Foundation, and is part of the mayor’s Equity and Excellence agenda, which includes AP for All: a program designed to provide students at all 400 city high schools with access to five AP courses by 2021. Both programs intend to address the troubling disparity between education opportunities for many black and Hispanic youth and their more privileged counterparts.

The administration has also overseen a new investment in bridge programs that provide remedial training for skill-deficient workers. The CEO was brought in to develop programs connecting participants with healthcare training opportunities, also collaborating with CUNY to launch the Building Bridges Professional Development course that gathered over 50 community-based organizations in summer of 2015. That same winter, The NYC Bridge Bank was established to provide program curricula, design manuals, and teacher guides for Career Pathways implementation.

Across workforce development, the de Blasio administration is operating with increased capital: according to the same Center for an Urban Future report, the city has increased its annual spending budget for workforce services from $500 million in fiscal year 2014 to just over $600 million in fiscal year 2016. Mayor de Blasio has committed to increasing occupational and training programs to $100 million and bridge programs to $60 million annually by 2020.

To coordinate these moving parts, the administration converted the once-perfunctory Office of Human Capital Development into the Office of Workforce Development to serve the essential role of guiding and coordinating with the three main agencies that together control almost all of the money that flows into workforce development: the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), and the Human Resources Administration (HRA), according to Christian Gonzalez-Rivera, a senior researcher at the Center for an Urban Future.

Lazar Treschan, director of youth policy at Community Service Society, a nonprofit focused on poverty reduction, is supportive of the new Career Pathways direction. “The reforms have been terrific in terms of vision, planning, ideas,” Treschan told Gotham Gazette. “One thing that is missing is additional investment,” he added. “Ideas will only take you so far. At some point we do need the money.” Treschan noted that new money would come from the city, as current workforce money largely comes from the state and federal government.

Reality Check
Despite the promising launch of initiatives like HireNYC, a targeted hiring program that connects job seekers to positions created by the city’s purchases and investments, there has not been enough permanent funding in the workforce system and investment in provider organizations to bring about the advanced system of referrals and partnerships that the nascent Career Pathways strategy requires, analysts say.

"The new system really shows a lot of promise to consolidate programs that once existed in silence," Rivera said. Published in July, Rivera conducted a comprehensive evaluation of Career Pathways, informed by interviews with over 30 workforce development experts. "The city for the first time is actually investing in bridge programs…it's really on the ground level right now. So a lot of investment has been made already. A lot of shift in culture has happened," Rivera said.

However, Rivera wonders about whether the de Blasio administration has overreached. "When you look at all levels, there is not enough money to serve all the people who need to be served with these higher touch expensive programs…the bridge programs are at least one-and-a-half or even two times more expensive as regular adult basic education programs. We're going to need more investment in order to make this happen."

In his report, Rivera uncovered why there isn't enough money flowing into Career Pathways initiatives. "The programs tend to be funded at least in part through private philanthropic dollars and to operate on a limited scale. Public investment is hampered at the federal level by restrictions and rules imposed by funding sources, and at the local level by a limited understanding on part of city agencies of the needs of community-based organizations in the cost structures of the programs they run."

Data Accountability
Another key shortcoming of the Career Pathways rollout involves the coordinating office, which is, as of April, headed by Executive Director Barbara Chang. In its current incarnation, the Office of Workforce Development (WKDEV) has limited power and influence to make programming and funding decisions, according to Rivera.

Unlike the CEO model where design, evaluation, and funding are all consolidated into one adaptable, independent body, WKDEV purely serves a guiding role. "CEO actually has money to pilot programs, the Office of Workforce Development just has enough to basically pay salaries," Rivera explained. "That's one of the problems: basically, it's a coordinating agency, it should be an agency that should have more control over program development, but it doesn't." Rivera’s critique, which relates to CEO, boils down to: "Work-dev [WKDEV] can advise, but in the end they are not accountable."

One of the Office of Workforce Development's chief responsibilities is to create a set of common metrics to measure performance of Career Pathways programs. However, Rivera reports that WKDEV is only now sitting down with the different agencies (HRA, SBS, DYDC) to catalog outcome measures, compare definitions, and determine relevant measures for integration into each program.

Rivera explained why this will be a difficult process. "Even a measure like number of people served can have a different definition from one agency to the next," he explained. "The other problem is that programs work with very different populations. You can’t expect an organization that serves community college students to have the same outcomes as one that serves high school dropouts who read at less than the sixth grade level."

The avoidable disorder of data systems begs the obvious question: why weren't common metrics squared away earlier? "That was actually a question I asked the director of the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development,” Rivera said. “Why start with programs instead of the common metrics?" His answer? The decision had less to do with accountability and more with self-preservation.

"These agencies depend on meeting certain outcomes to continue receiving money. So, HRA has to prove to the federal government that it did what the federal government wanted it to do in order to continue receiving money and not get penalties. And so any kind of outside evaluation that shows that maybe they are not doing their job as well as they said they are, or basically if you measure them with a different yardstick that says they're not doing as well, anything like that, can potentially be threatening. So it's very dicey. It's very political, for that reason."

There is the obvious comparison to the way the CEO closely monitored its initiatives. "These are (CEO) programs that still have an evaluation component, and they basically represent the gold standard for how these (Career Pathways) programs should be measured.”

"In fact," Rivera added, "that's part of the inspiration that work-dev took in order to start measuring common metrics."

Today’s Driver
Today, the Center for Economic Opportunity is less of an active player than it was under Bloomberg, assuming a supporting role in the current administration. The center still manages to conduct annual poverty measures and build on existing initiatives like the redesigned Young Adult Literacy Program, while spearheading others like an upcoming mental health service integration project made possible by a 2015 Social Impact Fund grant.

Mayor de Blasio is eager to capitalize on the CEO's analytical capabilities: Executive Director Klein reported at the American Enterprise Institute panel that there are 39 CEO evaluations either launched, underway, or completed within the last two years.

Klein also detailed CEO’s role in establishing common metrics among the dissimilar Career Pathways programs. When challenged on the rollout, Klein emphasized that the right plan was there from the beginning, even if execution faltered somewhat. “Common metrics was largely set in terms of the definitions of the metrics themselves by the time the (Career Pathways) report was issued," Klein said, before offering an addendum. "There may have been one or two areas that needed final refinement to align across agencies."

“It sounds very simple, but it’s a complex undertaking…you’re talking about a changed management approach across multiple agencies and dozens of funding streams with old legacy data systems,” Klein said. “I don’t feel that bad about the timeline that we’re on.”

By large, de Blasio's appreciation for the CEO approach is evident in the way he conducts his anti-poverty and workforce development reform. Even former Deputy Mayor Gibbs spoke with warmth when describing the current mayor's efforts.

"We very much hoped that the de Blasio administration would continue with the CEO as an institution, and a framework, and also hoped that we could share the lessons so that others could do it as well, so we were super excited when de Blasio did exactly that," Gibbs said. "He embraced it and continued it, and I think what's really great is that he made it his own as well.”

***
by Benjamin Jurney for Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
Touted Bloomberg Anti-Poverty Incubator Sees New Life in De Blasio Era Mon, 29 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
The Week That Was in New York Politics, September 14-18 https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5894-the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-september-14-18 https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5894-the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-september-14-18 week in review bus readers

photo: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York


Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday 

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Mayor de Blasio delivers an education speech, via The Mayor's Office on flickr; NYPD Commissioner Bratton is briefed as the city prepares for the Pope's visit next week, via NYPD; the Mayor's administration faced off with the City Council in softball, via John Kenny

BdB edu speech

bratton briefing

bdb mmv softball

TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:

1. De Blasio Education Announcement: The mayor gave an "Equity and Excellence" education speech Wednesday, outlining a wide-ranging education policy plan that will commit about $186 million per year to enhance the performance and readiness of the city's students. Key elements include expanding computer science and advanced placement courses and adding reading specialists. The pieces will work in conjunction with previously announced de Blasio education initiatives including pre-kindergarten and community schools.

2. Cuomo Commits $ to Hudson Rail Tunnel: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sent a letter to President Obama offering to fund half of the Hudson River rail tunnel project if the federal government pledges to pay for the other half. The project could cost up to $20 billion and has been the source of tension between federal and local officials.

3. Crackdown on K2: On Wednesday, authorities announced that they had dismantled an international ring responsible for manufacturing and distributing synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or spice, which drug officials say has caused a public-health crisis. The mayor has designed a multi-agency strategy to combat the proliferation of K2 and several bills have been introduced into the City Council.

4. Papal Visit, UN General Assembly Create Security Challenge: Pope Francis' visit next week coincides with the annual U.N. General Assembly, which will bring 170 world leaders to the city, creating what Police Commissioner William Bratton called "the largest security challenge the department and this city have ever faced." Federal and city agencies are preparing for the security and transit logistics.

5. Bharara Investigates Cuomo's Buffalo Billion: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is reportedly investigating Gov. Cuomo's controversial Buffalo Billion revitalization project, according to The New York Post. The investigation focuses on the multimillion-dollar contracts awarded to build facilities for high-tech, drug-development, and clean-energy businesses.

THIS WEEK'S NUMBERS:

  • $60 billion was spent on education in the 2013-14 school year in New York State, averaging $21,812 for each of the state’s 3 million students.
  • Up to $20 million in federal funds will be given to New York City as part of a pilot program to decrease traffic injuries. As many as 10,000 vehicles will be fitted with smart devices designed to reduce traffic injuries, congestion, and pollution by 2017, and traffic lights will also be set up to beam information.
  • 20.9% is New York City's poverty rate, according data released by the Census Bureau on Wednesday, meaning that the poverty rate has not lowered at all since last year.

THE GLORY AND THE GOAT:

  • It was a good week for Columbia Law School Professor Tim Wu, who joined Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office while he is on sabbatical. Wu, who coined the phrase "net neutrality," will serve as a senior lawyer and special adviser to Schneiderman focusing on technology and the law. Wu was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2014.
  • It was a bad week for former Assemblymember Bill Scarborough, a Democrat, who was sentenced to 13 months in prison and two years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to state and federal corruption charges.

THE FLASH:

  • Around this time 95 years ago, on September 16, 1920, Wall Street was hit by a bomb blast outside the headquarters of J.P. Morgan. The blast killed several dozen people and injured hundreds more. Authorities believed it was the work of anarchists, but the bombers were never found.
  • Around this time 23 years ago, on September 16, 1992, thousands of off-duty police officers stormed City Hall to protest Mayor David Dinkins' support for an all-civilian police complaint review board.
  • Around this time 4 years ago, on September 17, 2011, a demonstration calling itself "Occupy Wall Street" began in New York.

GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:

Cautious Optimism Ahead of Hearing on Citywide Ferry System, by Christian Zhang

Rumored Scheme Brings Scrutiny to Bronx Political Machine, by David Howard King

Did Bill De Blasio's Tirade Help Andrew Cuomo Get His Groove Back? by David Howard King

How To Become A New York City Council Member, by Catie Edmondson

MORE FOR THE WEEKEND:

  • Gotham Gazette's David King appeared on The Capitol Connection to discuss the latest with Governor Cuomo and more.
  • The Economist looks at how Mayor de Blasio is "doin'."
  • New Quinnipiace poll results show how New Yorkers are feeling about their elected officials and more.

***
NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle @GothamGazette.

If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here. And have a great weekend!

***
by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max

]]>
The Week That Was in New York Politics, September 14-18 Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:25:20 +0000