Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2069 Thu, 09 Apr 2020 10:29:53 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Coronavirus Threatens to Perpetuate Generational Inequality, Leaving Young People Behind Yet Again https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9290-coronavirus-threatens-to-perpetuate-generational-inequality-leaving-young-people-behind https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9290-coronavirus-threatens-to-perpetuate-generational-inequality-leaving-young-people-behind 17 sots address

Young people are again in highly precarious positions as the economy crumbles (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


If we have learned anything from the Great Recession just a decade ago, it’s that young adult generations that enter the labor market in an economic downturn are at a serious disadvantage, impacting their ability to successfully launch a career and reach financial security and self-sufficiency like the generations before them. Members of the Millennial generation, people who came of age during the Great Recession, make 20 percent less in wages and have a net wealth that’s half as much as their Baby Boomer parents. 

Although it’s important not to pile on the fear, hysteria, and unknown brought on by the new coronavirus, COVID-19, it’s equally critical that we are diligently participating in and watchdogging how policymakers respond to the economic fallout from the global pandemic -- with nearly 10 million Americans filing for unemployment insurance in just a two-week period and nearly 60 percent of Americans fearing they will lose their jobs. This is especially true as officials at all levels of government put forward major New Deal-style investments and policy reforms that can shape what the future looks like for generations to come. 

Without a radically new approach to level the playing field for today’s younger generation, the fear of generational inequality will become a reality in a post-coronavirus economy.

What is most concerning about the new economic downturn is that prior to COVID-19, the economy was not actually working for everyone, which means any efforts led by policymakers in a recovery should be careful not to focus on reverting to the pre-coronavirus status quo, which was driving greater inequality across the United States. Nine of the ten most-held jobs in the state, collectively held by 1.7 million New Yorkers, pay less than $32,000 a year, leaving many New Yorkers especially vulnerable to the immediate and long-term economic fallout wrought by the coronavirus.

Homeownership rates in New York have also steadily declined, raising questions about the financial well-being of families, especially younger families that represent the future of our state. 

Unfortunately, New Yorkers largely lack the necessary skills that could attract industries with good jobs as 42 percent of New Yorkers have a high school diploma or less in school achievement. More than 2 million New Yorkers have some college credits but not a degree, likely leaving them with debt and nothing to show for it. These realities are worrisome considering that by 2027 70 percent of jobs are estimated to require some type of postsecondary education or training, and we know that the more education and training you have, the higher your earning potential is. 

For young adults, prior to COVID-19, the statewide unemployment rate, those without a job but actively looking for work, was 20.7 percent for 16- to 19-year-olds and 11.6 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds, a troubling trend in the wrong direction, since we know that early work experience increases earning potential and better prepares rising generations to enter an increasingly competitive labor force. Yet career and technical education and work-based learning in the K–12 system is largely treated as a nice-to-have, even as the economy has continued to make clear it's a must have.

In New York City, a recent analysis done for JobsFirstNYC by The Community Service Society of New York found that 16 percent of 18-30-year-olds were out-of-school and out-of-work, a number likely to balloon as unemployment continues to skyrocket in the coronavirus fallout. What’s more is that younger New Yorkers are leaving in droves, while the population continues to grow older, raising questions about what New York’s economy and labor force will eventually look like. 

As Annie Lowery, a reporter at The Atlantic, points out in her sobering article “The Great Affordability Crisis Breaking America,” the costs associated with college, housing, child care, and health care are rising significantly faster than wages, further hardening growing inequality across the country and especially in places with higher costs of living already, like New York.

Long story short is that despite record growth with a bullish stock market, high GDP, and low unemployment, the economy was simply not working for the majority of Americans. All of these realities provide us with a baseline understanding of the deep and growing inequalities that existed prior to the unraveling economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The question is what does a post-coronavirus economy look like and how do we begin to rebuild the American Compact for rising generations?  

To start, our elected leaders at every level need to adopt a new paradigm of radical equity that rebuilds the economy, and with it our approach to education and workforce development. One that is future-focused on realizing shared economic prosperity by reviving a steadily fading middle class. This new paradigm must also explicitly renew the broken promise made to rising generations who, with the economic fallout of COVID-19, will almost certainly have experienced significant disadvantages as they launch their adult life in a deep recession.

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Kevin Sump is Senior Vice President at JobsFirstNYC and co-chair of the Invest In Skills NY coalition. On Twitter @KevinStump, @JobsFirstNYC & #InvestInSkillsNY.

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

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Coronavirus Threatens to Perpetuate Generational Inequality, Leaving Young People Behind Yet Again Wed, 08 Apr 2020 04:00:00 +0000
Resources: How New Yorkers Can Access Help with Food, Unemployment, Health Care, Domestic Violence, Small Businesses, & More https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/9275-resources-how-new-yorkers-can-access-help-with-food-unemployment-health-care-domestic-violence-small-businesses-more https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/9275-resources-how-new-yorkers-can-access-help-with-food-unemployment-health-care-domestic-violence-small-businesses-more 1 cm carlina rivera baruch

(photo: John McCarten/City Council)


As the coronavirus outbreak causes more and more health, social, and economic damage, many New Yorkers need help. Below is a guide to some available resources (please let us know if there’s something we should add).

For updates from New York City about the pandemic, you can text the word “COVID” to 692-692, or “COVIDESP” to 692-692 for the same notifications in Spanish. 

Unemployment Insurance
If you lost your job due to the coronavirus outbreak and its fallout, the state is waiving the seven-day waiting period to claim unemployment insurance benefits. But the state’s Department of Labor has been overwhelmed with website traffic and calls, which the governor has said a large team is working to remedy. Visit the New York Department of Labor here.

Those filing for unemployment insurance should do so based on the first letter of your last name: A-F, file your claim on Monday; G-N, file your claim on Tuesday; O-Z, file your claim on Wednesday. (You may file Thursday, Friday, or Saturday if you missed your filing day.)

Last week, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2.1 trillion package that provides various aid programs during this crisis. For unemployment insurance, it provides “$1 billion emergency grants to states and 100 percent federal funding for extended benefits in states with an unemployment rate above 10 percent”; expands eligibility to include part-time workers, independent contractors, self-employed, and gig economy workers; $600 per week increase in unemployment insurance benefits for up to four months; allows for additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance beyond what your state already provides; and “funds states with existing work-sharing programs, such as New York.”

Jobs
While there are many jobs websites across the internet, New York state government offers the NY Hire Now portal of job listings, and the Department of Labor itself is hiring, while also offering a variety of tips and services related to job searches.

New York City’s Workforce1 Centers are offering virtual help to individuals looking for work, and the city’s Department of Small Business Services also runs a jobs listing.

Food Access
435 schools across New York City have been allowing students and families to pick up three meals per day. Mayor de Blasio announced Thursday that starting Friday, any adult who needs food could also access it at those locations. He said family hours are 7:30-11:30 a.m. and adult-only hours are 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. People can find the location nearest them through this web portal run through the Department of Education website.

People can also text FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 to get food access information from the city.

Many food pantries and soup kitchens across the city are open and available for people who need food assistance, though some have had to close and others may be on the brink, both due to the spread of the virus and challenges with supply lines. To find a nearby option, people can use this city website to find a food provider. 

City-funded senior centers are closed but providing pick-up and delivery meals for seniors who may not have access to food services.

Many grocery stores are adjusting hours to accommodate more people and opening early for seniors to be able to shop without exposure to the rest of the population. People should check the websites and social media feeds of their grocers.

Under the CARES Act, $15.5 billion was approved to support participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and temporary ability to expand the program, and $450 million was allocated for food banks.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed earlier this month, “provided the WIC Program with $500 million to remain available through Sept. 30, 2021 for increases in program participation,” according to the federal government’s Food and Nutrition Services website.

The New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) has moved its application process online, so New Yorkers can apply for SNAP benefits digitally, increasing access during this time of social distancing and when walk-in offices are closed.

For those with SNAP benefits, they can now be used online at three retailers for those who wish to protect themselves and avoid being around other people. SNAP benefits will be accepted online in New York at Amazon, Walmart, and ShopRite, as designated by USDA.

The Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center is in the process of creating a comprehensive rundown of food resources by neighborhood, across all five boroughs, called Coronavirus NYC Neighborhood Food Resource Guides

Utilities/Mortgage/Evictions
Utility companies in New York have halted gas, electric, and water shut-offs until further notice.

All evictions have been halted by New York State Courts as of March 16, with Governor Cuomo ordering a 90-day moratorium on evictions. According to the NYC Coronavirus (COVID-19) and City Life website, this means people “will not need to apply for rent arrears (back rent) to stop an eviction until further notice,” and that “you will be able to stay in your home during this health emergency.”

For a period of 90 days, the Department of Financial Services (DFS) issued an order that requires “New York State regulated financial institutions provide residential mortgage forbearance on property located in New York. This will be for a period of 90 days and applies to any individual residing in New York who can demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Health Care Coverage and Insurance
New York State of Health, the state-run marketplace for health insurance, reopened enrollment for health insurance for “uninsured individuals to ease coronavirus fears.” The special enrollment period will remain open through April 15, allowing for many uninsured individuals to access health care.

In New York City, “NYC Care provides low-cost or free healthcare for all New Yorkers regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. This is not an insurance plan. Call the 24-hour NYC Care service at 646-NYC-CARE (646-692-3373) to enroll and make an appointment. Primary care, specialty, and emergency services (including hospital stays) are all available for NYC Care members. For help in other languages, visit https://www.nyccare.nyc/.”

Mental Health
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and its fallout, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is providing tips and resources for how to manage the stressful situation, including limiting screen time, keeping connected with people, and maintaining daily routines. The city points people to federal CDC guidance around coronavirus “stress and coping.

Beyond tips, there are other resources available, including through NYC Well, a free, confidential service with counselors available 24 hours a day, who can “provide brief counseling and referrals to care in over 200 languages” for New Yorkers. People can call NYC Well’s helpline at 888-NYC-WELL.

Seniors specifically can call the city’s helpline at 212-AGING-NYC and military veterans can call 800-273-8255.

Governor Cuomo announced on March 29 that more than 12,000 mental health professionals have volunteered to help New York State provide free online services to those who need it during the crisis. This service can be accessed by calling 1-844-836-9314.

Domestic Violence Survivor Resources
There are widespread concerns that the coronavirus fallout will include increases in domestic violence.

“Domestic violence often escalates during and after a disaster,” said Connie Neal, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence in a press release from the office of Attorney General Letitia James. “Because survivors of domestic violence are often already isolated, with limited access to financial resources and social networks, it can feel even more challenging to find and receive the support they need.  But help is available through a network of domestic violence advocacy services across the state of New York. Advocates can provide confidential assistance with safety planning, emotional support, shelter, and referrals for a range of other community services.”

In an emergency, people should call 911.

The New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-hour hotline is 1-800-942-6906.

The National Domestic Violence 24-hour hotline is 1-800-799-7233. The 24-hour live-operated bilingual (English/Spanish) hotline for the Violence Intervention Program is 1-800-664-5580.

The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a list of available programs, broken down by county.

Safe Horizon, a non-profit serving individuals in New York City, can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-621-4673. Safe Horizon also has a one-on-one online chat system.

The NYPD’s Domestic Violence Unit has also put out some tips.

Small Businesses
Mayor de Blasio announced in early March that New York City will provide relief to small businesses impacted by the economic downturn brought on by coronavirus.

The NYC Employee Retention Grant Program offers small businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40% of payroll costs for two months in an effort to help the businesses retain employees through the crisis. To be eligible, those smallest small businesses must demonstrate that COVID-19 caused at least a 25% decrease in revenue, been in operation for at least six months, and have no outstanding tax liens or legal judgments.

For more information about the NYC Employee Retention Grant Program visit this website.

The city is also offering the NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Fund, which helps businesses with fewer than 100 employees that have seen a 25% or more revenue drop to apply for zero interest loans of up to $75,000.

For more information and to apply for the NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Fund visit this website.

Thanks to the recent $2.1 trillion federal stimulus package, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a series of relief programs that can help small businesses nationwide survive through the pandemic.

The Paycheck Protection Program “prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses.” Eligible businesses can qualify for a loan of up to $10 million determined by 8 weeks of average payroll plus an additional 25%; loan payments will be deferred for 6 months; and if the business doesn’t lay-off staff, SBA will forgive the portion of the loan used to cover two months of payroll.

The SBA is also providing the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program that can be accessed here.

The SBA will provide some debt relief for businesses. According to the SBA website, “SBA will pay the principal and interest of new 7(a) loans issued prior to September 27, 2020,” and “the SBA will pay the principal and interest of current 7(a) loans for a period of six months.”

Finally, SBA is providing the Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program that allows small businesses who already have a relationship with an SBA Express lender to access $25,000 with less paperwork and faster turnaround. “These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing and can be a term loans or used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan,” the SBA website says.

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by Katie Kirker, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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Resources: How New Yorkers Can Access Help with Food, Unemployment, Health Care, Domestic Violence, Small Businesses, & More Fri, 03 Apr 2020 04:00:00 +0000
De Blasio Names 'Food Czar' to Combat Impending Hunger Crisis with 'Mobilization We've Never Seen Before' https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9224-de-blasio-food-czar-impending-hunger-crisis-coronavirus-mobilization https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9224-de-blasio-food-czar-impending-hunger-crisis-coronavirus-mobilization action network mayor

Mayor de Blasio serves food (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)


As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has spread in New York, people have begun buying food off the shelves of local supermarkets to prepare for prolonged periods of isolation in the face of the virus. Public schools and senior centers are closing, many of which provide vulnerable New York City residents with food and meals, and tens of thousands of people appear to have already been laid off from their jobs, all leaving New Yorkers increasingly worried about food access.

While food is still coming into stores, some nonprofit emergency food providers report added premiums as demand has risen and struggles to afford the quantity of food they need during this crisis, leaving many poor New Yorkers increasingly vulnerable to food shortages. A huge surge in unemployment and lost work-hours could quickly push many New Yorkers to the brink of not knowing where their next meals will come from or how they’ll feed their children.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking a number of steps to ensure access to food for the city’s most vulnerable -- roughly 20% of New York City residents live in poverty, and just over 14% of New York City residents are food insecure, and rely on services such as food pantries and soup kitchens for meals, according to Food Bank For New York City, -- including meal handouts at shuttered schools and new measures announced this weekend.

As part of larger efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus and its impacts, de Blasio on Saturday announced a restructuring of some of his senior leadership, including naming Kathryn Garcia, currently the city’s sanitation commissioner, as “COVID-19 Food Czar,” responsible for creating, operationalizing, and overseeing “a structure for working New Yorkers to get the food they need during this pandemic. Garcia will also work with City and State agencies, including the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, as well as food distributors to take any action necessary to ensure the city’s food supply continues without disruption.”

Meanwhile, Food Bank and other nonprofit emergency food providers and their allies are also attempting to combat the impacts of the pandemic’s reach throughout society.

“1.5 million New Yorkers rely on the Food Bank For New York City every year,” the Food Bank posted on Instagram March 16. “As the #COVID19 health crisis continues to unfold, that number will grow. Our warehouse remains open and our trucks are on the road to ensure food is delivered to our network of over 1,000 soup kitchens and food pantries across the city."

On March 17, Food Bank For New York City issued a call to New Yorkers for help.

“Amid mounting concerns around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) public health crisis, Food Bank For New York City is calling on New Yorkers to support those struggling with food insecurity during this critical time. Food Bank anticipates an extreme rise in need for food and resources in the coming weeks, particularly among vulnerable New Yorkers such as seniors with chronic medical conditions, families with children who may lose up to two free school meals each day as NYC’s public schools remain closed for at least the next five weeks, and low-income and hourly workers,” it wrote in a press release.

“I'm desperately concerned that a lot of New Yorkers are running out of money and that's the money they use to buy food, among other crucial necessities,” de Blasio said at a Sunday press conference.”

Calling Garcia “one of our most extraordinary public servants,” de Blasio said that as Food Czar she will be working with many entities to “create a citywide network to ensure that food is available to those who cannot afford it.”

“It's going to take a mobilization such as we've never seen before,” de Blasio said, saying Garcia will “work with all of those agencies that currently do food relief, the Human Resources Administration, the Mayor's Office of Food Policy, obviously state agencies, Food Bank, soup kitchens, so many amazing nonprofit organizations. She'll work with all of them, but she's going to build something bigger and more comprehensive than we've ever seen in New York City.”

De Blasio said the work begins with “the assumption that food will become much more of an issue going forward and that many people will have a strain that they have not experienced previously because of huge disruptions in their own income.”

In a Sunday statement to Gotham Gazette, Garcia said:

“Ensuring that New Yorkers have a steady supply of food, whether that is a home-delivered meal or provisions from a grocery store, is a top priority. To ensure this, we have had to create brand new models to get food directly to those who need it. New York City is focused on ensuring that the COVID vulnerable population has food. That is the immediate need that we are solving for. We have the full food landscape on our radar, including the tremendous newly food insecure population as a result of job loss. Additionally, we have our eyes on the larger food supply so that we have constant awareness of any vulnerabilities and intervene. We are working with private food vendors, delivery services, and the robust emergency food feeding network to make all of this happen. We will have more to say about these efforts soon.”

The United Way of New York City has already developed a fund to help ensure all New Yorkers have access to food. “We have launched the UWNYC COVID-19 Community Fund to raise the critical funds needed for food and supplies,” Sheena Wright, president and CEO of United Way of New York City, said in an email to Gotham Gazette. “With support from New Yorkers across the City, this fund will allow us to assist in closing the gap. We want to help people who rely on pantries and kitchens to be well-resourced and prepared for this situation.”

David Greenfield, CEO of Met Council, said his organization has been preparing an emergency plan since the first case of coronavirus was identified in New York. Met Council provides food to 40 kosher food pantries in New York, serving, on average, 56,000 people per month, according to Greenfield.

“We’ve seen an explosion, really a shocking explosion and need and the people are coming to us from across the spectrum, from assessment, from anything, from housing, to social services, to seniors who are shuttered in their homes, to quite frankly, tens of thousands of people who have lost their jobs for the first time,” Greenfield said in an interview.

“I don’t think people appreciate the strain that not-for-profits are under,” Greenfield said. “Unlike government and private corporations that have deep benches of reserves, we don’t. We’re living generally month to month. And what's happened now is that because of this huge extra new need, we’re actually purchasing more food so that we can meet needs. For our organization alone, we have projected that this month, just in the next two weeks, we are spending an additional $1.1 million in our food department just on coronavirus response.”

Even before naming Garcia to the Food Czar role, Mayor de Blasio promised major pieces of a response to a potentially drastic deepening of the city’s food insecurity crisis.

New York City public schools were closed as of Monday, March 16. Given that many students rely on school for two free daily meals, officials are trying to ensure students still have access to food as the city shifts to remote learning for an indefinite period. During the first week of school closure, the city handed out meals outside of schools, from the morning through lunchtime, and, according to the mayor’s office, gave away roughly 560,000 meals.

Beginning Monday, March 23, de Blasio tweeted on Friday, “435 sites will be open for Grab-and-Go breakfast, lunch AND dinner for children. Any child under 18 is eligible. None will be turned away.”

The mayor followed that up by saying “We’re also partnering with @DoorDash to get food to the homes of medically fragile students. No child will go hungry. Not on our watch.”

According to a Friday evening press release from the mayor’s office, it’s actually going to be “439 hub sites citywide” where young people can get food, “100 of the sites were high participation sites in Summer, 2019, and the remaining sites are schools where more than 50 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced meals.”

The release also mentioned the developing partnership with Door Dash to deliver meals “to students whose medical needs are so significant that they should not be leaving the home even to get meals.”

It continues to say that “food delivery will also be made available to children who reside in City shelters.” Families can “search “Free Meals” on schools.nyc.gov or call 311 to find a site near them. Starting Monday, families can also text FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 to find a meal near them. A complete list of meal hubs is available here.”

The Food Education Fund, a nonprofit in the city, has created a webpage, the COVID-19 Food Hub NYC, to “share resources on available food sources for families and share general resources created by our partner organizations.” The website includes a map of food service providers donating to families of public school students in the city, how to volunteer, to donate, or to add resources to the website itself.

Senior centers in New York City were also closed as of March 16, suspending all activities but also still providing to-go meals to seniors who need access, and will make deliveries to those who cannot come to the centers themselves, according to de Blasio.  

As the city continues to see long lines at some grocers and runs on things like toilet paper, bread, and more, food continues to fly off the shelves and be replenished. De Blasio and others have stressed that the supply chains for food and basic household goods is sound. On March 16 he noted “a very intensive resupply in recent days,” but added that while this is good news, the bad news is everything is being snapped up quickly.

“But if there's someone in your life, someone older, someone with one of those preexisting conditions, someone who has a disability that keeps them from getting out and getting supplies they need, either help them by getting what they need for them or share your supply enough to help them out,” de Blasio said. But that was before much more restrictive orders were issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo, urged by de Blasio, to insist that people stay home as much as possible, forbid commuting for all those not deemed part of “essential services,” and stress the importance of not exposing the most vulnerable, especially older people, to infection with coronavirus.

These new restrictions, announced by Cuomo on Friday, make food access even more complicated for many. The governor did say that food delivery is an essential service.

And the supply chain remains a key aspect of the equation and nationally it is working well and increasing the amount of food distributed to meet demand, The New York Times reported on March 16. There will still be bare shelves at times as individuals nationwide continue to scoop up products and retailers figure out how to respond to demand quickly.

Greenfield argues that even though food supply is strong, it still disadvantages nonprofits. As grocery stores need more product to sell to meet need, they are willing to pay a higher premium, which forces nonprofit organizations, like food banks, to dish out more money to meet the demand they feel.

“We can’t compete with what they’re paying. They’ll pay anything. If you’re a grocery store, they will pay anything because their customers will pay anything. We budgeted a certain amount that we’ve always budgeted for the last 20 years,” Greenfield said. “We can’t afford to pay three times as much. We are, because we have no choice. What am I going to say, you can’t have eggs? So I’m buying it, but at the end of the day that’s costing me hundreds of thousands of dollars more.”

National advocates are pushing for food assistance as well. Hunger Free America wanted to see the federal government pass the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” a relief bill that would provide funds to make it easier for schools, senior programs, and food charities to provide alternative meals, and also create a “federally funded program to give extra food purchasing dollars to all families with children in closed schools,” according to a press release from Hunger Free. The bill was signed by President Donald Trump on March 18.

“This massive increase in the pre-existing hunger crisis demands a massive, highly-coordinated response by federal, state, and city government agencies, as well as corporations, nonprofit groups, and philanthropies,” Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, said in a statement. Once the Families First Coronavirus Response Act becomes law, he said, “one top priority for such joint efforts should be helping eligible families enroll in the new government food benefits available. The other key priority should be dramatically ramping-up the home delivery of meals to older Americans, children, and families who lost income.”

On a hyperlocal level, groups are taking action. The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce is helping to lead the launch of an emergency food distribution center in Flushing. “The Flushing community is proactively organizing volunteers to contact local residents, including homebound individuals, who may need emergency food assistance ahead of a possible City lockdown this week,” a press release from the group said before Cuomo gave his orders that are not a “lockdown” per se, but amount to significant limits on what New Yorkers should be doing outside their homes and who they should be interacting with.

And some individual New Yorkers appear to be quickly responding on their own. A GoFundMe fundraiser page appeared late last week to raise money for the Food Bank For New York City. The page is called “Helping New York City During COVID-19” and was started by Frederick Joseph. It quickly surpassed its $20,000 goal, with the post noting that every $1 to the Food Bank provides five meals for those in need.

“Cancellations of large events, fewer people at restaurants, and school closings means that wage workers who live on hourly pay + tips are going to be having a harder time than usual making ends meet,” Joseph’s explanation of the fundraiser reads. “It also means that some adults and children who rely on meals from these places may struggle with hunger. We need to make sure that the non-profits who serve our communities have the resources both to keep their volunteers and staff healthy and to provide food to meet rising demand.”

As the situation develops, it is unclear how demand for food will change, especially since some are predicting this will be a six-to-nine month crisis, if not longer. “With schools closed and the overall uncertainty, we need a comprehensive approach to replacing these missing meals,” said Wright of United Way. “We will have to consider new food distribution strategies, maybe even going door to door to make sure people have the food they need. This is an unprecedented event, and I am not surprised that our food pantry and soup kitchen operators, who can, continue to serve their communities. I am so inspired by their dedication. They have modified their operations to adapt to this crisis, and we are so thankful for their fast response and commitment to meeting on-the-ground need right now.”

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by Katie Kirker, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this article.

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De Blasio Names 'Food Czar' to Combat Impending Hunger Crisis with 'Mobilization We've Never Seen Before' Sun, 22 Mar 2020 04:00:00 +0000
Passage of Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act a Key Step; Here’s What Must Come Next https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9225-federal-families-first-coronavirus-response-act-good-start-what-must-come-next https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9225-federal-families-first-coronavirus-response-act-good-start-what-must-come-next coronavirus response

The coronavirus response must continue (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


Early last Saturday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed comprehensive legislation that would begin to ease the economic hardships Americans are facing right now as a result of the developing coronavirus crisis. After modifications from the House that weakened sick leave provisions, the Senate voted Wednesday to pass the The Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The legislation, which President Trump is expected to sign, provides free coronavirus testing, increases funding for states’ Medicaid costs, strengthens food security initiatives, enhances unemployment insurance, and provides paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave through refundable payroll tax credits.

Congress deserves recognition for acting swiftly on what’s being referred to as Phase Two of their response – Phase One being the $8.3 billion spending package that focused on tests, treatment, vaccines, and telehealth provisions.

However, business has grinded to a halt and millions across the nation are already unemployed. In New York City, The Center for New York City Affairs found that, as a result of public health-mandated closings, as many as a half-million low-paid and vulnerable workers in New York City restaurants, hotels, museums, movie and television production, taxis, ride-hailing apps, and other lines of work will lose their jobs and incomes. That’s more than $1 billion in lost wages. In March alone.

The severity of the coronavirus recession will depend on policy choices made now. And reflecting on the recent decade-long economic growth period – which, in part due to budget austerity, left too many Americans behind, and disproportionately people with low incomes and communities of color and immigrants  – is instructive.

We at FPWA and our coalition partners in the Federal Tax and Budget Response Team – which serves over 3 million New York City residents each year – are asking the city’s congressional delegation to prioritize low-wage and vulnerable workers and human service providers in Phase Three of the federal response to coronavirus and its effects.

By protecting those whose jobs have been sacrificed to protect the public’s health and those serving on the frontlines who are responding to the growing needs of their communities, Congress can stave off a severe economic recession.

In addition to these concerns, national advocates representing human service providers and low-wage workers are rightly concerned about the following (among other things):

The bill reduces the state’s Medicaid share by 6.2 percentage points, meaning New York will now pay 43.8 percent of costs instead of 50 percent. However, this may prove to be insufficient given the extent to which the state budget will be squeezed by falling tax revenue and increasing costs.

A paid leave provision that focused on survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking and their leave was stripped from the bill, and; the Act does not ensure that caregiving covered by both paid sick days and paid leave includes all caregiving for adults and children with disabilities.

The revised version of the Act only provides paid family leave of up to 12 weeks to people taking care of kids who aren’t in school. In the original version, all workers who received paid sick time would have been eligible for another 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds pay.

The Act does not provide resources to shelter providers to quickly and permanently house people who are homeless and at high risk of infection.

Workplace safety standards for health care workers were scrapped by industry lobbyists.

Food assistance benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be increased across the board as they were in response to the Great Recession.

Although the Act ensures access to free coronavirus testing, even for the uninsured, the legislation does not address treatment costs for the uninsured, and those with private insurance may face complications in the event of hospital bed shortages.

And while the bill addresses nutrition assistance for older adults, it does not address health insurance affordability and access to home and community-based services to reduce the risk of infection.

The coronavirus outbreak is an unprecedented crisis, but policymakers can reduce the economic risk and human toll by acting with continued urgency towards passage of Phase Three.

***
Derek Thomas is Senior Fiscal Policy Analyst at FPWA. On Twitter @dlthomasNYC and @FPWA.

The New York Federal Tax and Budget Response Team works together to protect and strengthen federal human services programs and policies that support low- to middle-income New Yorkers. We are a state-based coalition whose members include FPWA, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, UJA-Federation of New York, Fiscal Policy Institute, New York Housing Conference, LiveOn NY, Human Services Council of New York, United Neighborhood Houses, Food Bank For New York City, Urban Justice Center, and Children’s Aid. Together, the umbrella organizations represent hundreds of faith-based and human-service organizations and serve together more than 3 million New York City residents each year.

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

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Passage of Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act a Key Step; Here’s What Must Come Next Wed, 18 Mar 2020 04:00:00 +0000
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.

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

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

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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
Advancing Efforts to Hire People with Disabilities Across New York's Economy https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8439-expanding-efforts-to-hire-people-with-disabilities https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8439-expanding-efforts-to-hire-people-with-disabilities dxej efucaa3uxe

Victor Calise, front-left, is one of the authors (photo: @NYCCalise)


In the fairest big city in America, everyone deserves the opportunity to be employed. Unfortunately, the reality is that people with disabilities in the United States are twice as likely to be out of the workforce as their nondisabled peers.

Data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor shows that the proportion of Americans with disabilities ages 16 to 64 that was employed last year was only 30.4% compared to 74% for non-disabled individuals in the same age group. In New York City alone, 79% of working-age people with disabilities are currently jobless according to the most recent U.S. Census statistics. This staggering disparity is one of the most pressing challenges to full accessibility and independence of the disability community.

New York City is doing our part to increase the employment rate of people with disabilities. The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities’ (MOPD) NYC: ATWORK program is a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership, with funding from Institute for Career Development (ICD), the Poses Family Foundation, the Kessler Foundation, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, ACCES-VR, and The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City that directly connects people with disabilities to prospective employers.

For example, Chelsea Dimond is a person with a disability who reached out to NYC: ATWORK after she was previously unsuccessful in finding employment through traditional job-seeking websites. After getting guidance regarding the search and interview process, she was ultimately hired as a Peer Respite Worker by Transitional Services Inc. New York.

On NYC: ATWORK’s assistance, Chelsea says: “This program took note of exactly what kind of job I was interested in and made a perfect match for me. This job feels like it was meant to be, and now I’m able to make a difference in the lives of those who have mental illnesses like myself.” Chelsea is only one of many examples of successful placement by NYC: ATWORK.  The overall goal of this three-year initiative focuses on connecting 2,100 individuals with disabilities to internships, jobs, and careers in their field of choice.

The City’s proactive approach to increasing employment for people with disabilities is rooted in the understanding that a good job and financial security are crucial to personal and professional independence. Before connecting with NYC: ATWORK, Simon Bondar was living with his parents. After working with MOPD on his resume and interview prep, he was hired by UNIQLO as a Sales Associate. With this new line of income, Simon was able to move into a new apartment with his wife.

New York’s business community plays a crucial role in hiring more people with disabilities, in turn creating a more inclusive workplace that leverages the diversity of its employees. Through NYC: ATWORK’s Business Development Council, the City has fostered relationships with companies across a variety of sectors including finance, hospitality, transportation, retail, and technology.

Additionally, the New York City Council has hired its first-ever liaison to New Yorkers with disabilities. Together, the de Blasio Administration and Council are dedicated to including disability in conversations about diversity in hiring practices and society at large.

Having an employee with a disability can be a catalyst for a cultural shift to a more inclusive workplace. Nondisabled business owners are more likely to think about accessibility and ultimately improve the company for all of its employees and customers alike. These employment opportunities also extend to city government where the 55-a program has paved the way for qualified people with disabilities to get hired without needing to take a Civil Service exam. By obtaining employment, a person with a disability will therefore not only gain the tools they need to live independently but will also make a positive impact on their employer and the community at large as well.

While New York City has made great strides to improve the lives of people with disabilities and many businesses have joined us in hiring members of the disability community, we know this is just the beginning. It is imperative that societal attitudes shift to recognize that disability is an important aspect of a diverse work environment and, indeed, that people with disabilities are productive employees who will positively contribute to a business and the community. All of us must make a conscious effort to recruit, hire, and retain qualified people with disabilities. Only then can we have a truly inclusive society and make New York the most accessible city in the world.

***
Victor Calise is the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities. City Council Member Justin Brannan represents parts of Brooklyn. On Twitter @NYCCalise & @JustinBrannan.

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

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Advancing Efforts to Hire People with Disabilities Across New York's Economy Wed, 24 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +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:

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Dissecting Mayor De Blasio's Record As He Seeks Reelection Wed, 01 Nov 2017 23:26:00 +0000
De Blasio's Record on Jobs and The Economy https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7270-de-blasio-s-record-on-jobs-and-the-economy https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7270-de-blasio-s-record-on-jobs-and-the-economy bdb scissors

De Blasio at a business ribbon-cutting (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.

**********

In the four years since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office with the mantra of fighting the unequal “tale of two cities,” New Yorkers have seen wages rise and unemployment fall. De Blasio is currently presiding over a continuation of the longest economic expansion in the city’s history, and has used the strength of that growth to implement policies aimed at reducing inequality, largely by increasing the size and scope of city government.

But, for many, affordable housing and other aspects of a good quality of life remain beyond the reach of their means, homelessness is hovering near record highs, and the haves and have-nots remain nearly as far apart as they were under the previous administration, at least in terms of income. As the Democratic mayor seeks another term, with a recently-unveiled middle-class jobs plans, he is touting his record on the economy and promising to use city policy to spur over ten years the creation of 100,000 jobs that pay at least $50,000 annually.

There are questions, however, about the degree to which the progressive mayor deserves credit for the city’s continued overall economic boom and to what extent de Blasio has really shrunk economic inequality beyond simply income. And, to some, de Blasio is seen as a mayor who has been more focused on new mandates on businesses than he has been on helping businesses grow, though most experts agree that de Blasio has not stifled business growth or repelled businesses.

Meanwhile, unlike his predecessor, billionaire business executive Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio has not had to confront a major economic crisis (Bloomberg shepherded the city through two economic catastrophes, post-September 11, 2001 and the Great Recession that began in 2008). The de Blasio administration has been fortunate to avoid economic stressors that would truncate its ability to spend lavishly on its progressive priorities and force the mayor who likes big government to slash from the budget and workforce, though that could change in a potential second term as a widely-expected slowdown begins to take effect and federal policies threaten to wreak havoc on the local economy.

As of now, though, de Blasio appears to be taking a few more cautious steps, instituting a partial hiring freeze for city agencies, for example. He’s also been able to build reserves while quickly increasing city spending, and he’s now more focused on spurring private-sector job growth using the levers of city government.  

At his January 1, 2014 inauguration, de Blasio took “dead aim at the tale of two cities” and announced a slew of policy priorities that would help create “one city,” including the expansion of paid sick leave, curtailing stop-and-frisk policing, creating more affordable housing, and taxing the rich to fund universal pre-kindergarten.

Just over three years later, at his fourth State of the City address, on February 13, 2017, the mayor’s aim was more pointed, and his rhetoric more humble. Acknowledging that the city’s prosperity was not felt by all its residents, he said, “Everything we've been doing so far is necessary. I believe it's right. But it's not sufficient.” Having touted his administration’s affordable housing efforts, he said, “We have to now focus on the other half of the equation. We have to drive up incomes.” And he announced a goal of creating the 100,000 new “good-paying” jobs in rapidly growing sectors of the economy by using the levers of city government.

But there’s only so much control de Blasio employs over macro economic factors. He’s said so candidly in addressing the issues that he can control, which he nonetheless believes can have a powerful impact. At a February 18 event hosted by the CUNY Graduate Center, de Blasio discussed his administration’s progress on tackling inequality with Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Responding to the moderator, CUNY Professor Janet Gornick, who asked why the mayor had made such a commitment with a “limited set of policy levers” at his disposal, de Blasio said, “Now I contest, respectfully, that the limits on our tools - not to say that we can do what a state or a federal government can do, but to say that we have powerful tools. In fact, every government has powerful tools.”

De Blasio boasted of the savings that universal pre-kindergarten and free after-school programs provide to families and his affordable housing plan. “I mean all of these are ways of addressing inequality and lightening the burden...These are the things we can do. But it does not for a moment replace what the federal government could and should do.”

The mayor has also recognized that a key component in ensuring the city’s continued economic strength is consistent reductions in crime. “Obviously, everything we do has to be undergirded by keeping the city safe and making it safer,” he said at the annual State Financial Control Board meeting in August. “We can't have an effective economy, we can't have good schools, we can't do any of the things we seek to do if we don't have a safe city. And we're investing to make sure that America's safest big city is, in fact, safer than ever going forward.”

Indeed, part of the large public-sector job growth under de Blasio has been the addition of 1,300 NYPD officers, which serve the dual purpose of creating more middle-class jobs and, more significantly, helping to implement a neighborhood policing program and other measures that de Blasio and NYPD officials credit with further reductions in most major crime categories.

The city’s economic health has also allowed de Blasio to successfully defend his approach to governance and his progressive policies. The doom-and-gloom forecasts of his detractors have not come to pass, and he has continued to argue triumphantly that building a more equitable city does not come at a cost to its wealthier residents. While de Blasio continues to call for higher taxes on the biggest earners, he does not control those policies, and though they may not care for his rhetoric, CEOs and top earners on Wall Street, in law firms, and elsewhere, appear fairly at ease given how safe the city is, the record tourism the city has seen, and the continued diversification of the economy.

On most major economic indicators, the city is performing well, and better than national averages. As of September 27, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 4.4 million jobs in the city as of August, the highest number ever and up from 4.05 million in December 2013, just before de Blasio took office. In September, the unemployment rate in the city was about 5.1 percent and has hovered close to that for months.

The number of private sector jobs has grown about 9 percent in the last four years. The median family income rose about 5.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, to a high of $65,440 -- an overall increase of 9.5 percent from 2013 -- according to calculations of census data by James Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policy at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. Poverty also fell to 18.9 percent in 2016, from 20 percent the previous year, per Parrott’s analysis (That is one metric where the city was far worse than the national average, which was 14 percent in 2016).

With the economy thriving, economic experts, on the right and left, and independent fiscal watchdogs are in broad agreement that de Blasio’s policies have encouraged, or at least not hampered, the conditions for growth, both in directly measurable actions and through overarching policies with indirect, less quantifiable effects. But, there is also consensus that the administration must meticulously guide the next phase of the city’s economic development and keep a vigilant eye on variables that could threaten the city’s economic health.

The next tests for de Blasio will come as he moves his jobs plan ahead, how the city’s investments in certain places, like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, pan out, and whatever larger economic forces and policies out of Washington, D.C. may portend.

Where credit is due
It’s hard to attribute the sustained growth of the city’s economy to local factors. Macroeconomic cycles and variables, including federal policy, and national and global developments, play a broad role, and New York City has benefited from a variety of factors, while remaining a top city for the financial services sector, arts and culture, and tourism. The city has outperformed the state and the country in most aspects of economic development, showing a resiliency that other places have not.

“The underlying organic growth is not any more a function of current policies or past policies of administrations,” Parrott said in a phone interview. “It’s what goes on in the economy generally...Whatever economic dynamics work in the broader economy, any mayor can only affect those on the margin.”

Maria Doulis, vice president of the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission, echoed that view. “Economic growth at the local level is a tricky thing, because much of it has to do with national and state forces and its really on the margins that local governments can have impact. Nevertheless, the mayor, whoever the mayor is, gets credit when things go well, and gets the blame when things don’t. That’s the way things work.”

Steadily growing tax revenues allowed the de Blasio administration to focus right from the start on economic inequality, rather having to worry about broader economic development or recovery, although the mayor insists that fighting inequality and growing the economy go hand-in-hand. Giving New Yorkers more resources, whether through higher wages or greater savings or more paid sick days, for instance, are better for productivity, he has often said.

“While I certainly wouldn’t claim that the continued economic growth we’ve seen in the city is solely the product of policy decisions made by this administration, I think there are a lot of things that we have done over the last four years and that we have in the works that I think have promoted not just a continued strong economy but more inclusive growth,” said Anthony Hogrebe, a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in a phone interview.

The mayor has had such strong revenue at his disposal that he has been able to build the city’s reserves while rapidly growing the budget to implement policies to drive up wages and increase fairness and opportunity, especially for low-income families.

The city’s annual expense budget has grown about 18 percent during de Blasio’s term, to $85 billion this fiscal year. He pushed for funding for universal pre-kindergarten, which the state largely provided in lieu of the mayor’s proposed tax on wealthy New Yorkers. The policy has saved families about $1.4 billion, according to city estimates. De Blasio also signed into law in 2014 an expansion of paid sick leave to 500,000 workers across the private and nonprofit sectors. Last year, de Blasio announced a $15 minimum wage by the end of 2018 for all city employees and workers at human services nonprofits contracted by the city. His efforts helped push the state toward increasing the minimum wage for virtually all employees in all sectors, to $15 in New York City by 2019.

Parrott said the mayor has effectively controlled “policy levers” such as managing the city budget to invest in human services, infrastructure, and affordable housing, while also reducing crime to historic levels, all of which have been conducive to economic growth. “I think that overall responsible fiscal management approach has helped communicate confidence to the business sector in New York City,” he said, adding particular praise for how the mayor has built up the city’s reserves.

One of the mayor’s most significant early achievements, for which Parrott believes he deserves most credit, was settling the labor contracts for virtually the entire city’s municipal workforce, which had been expired for years under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “If you think back four years ago, people were saying this was the biggest challenge the new mayor is going to face…A lot of people concluded that it was going to be impossible to do that in a fiscally responsible way,” Parrott said. “[De Blasio] basically took that on and resolved that in his first six months in office.”

The move reaffirmed the importance of collective bargaining, Parrott said, and provided thousands of city workers with wage increases while creating significant healthcare savings for the first time. While some say it did not do enough to reform health care obligations or anything to reduce pension obligations, the settling of labor contracts eliminated a major point of uncertainty for the city and the workers involved, and the salary boosts help to lift or maintain middle-class lifestyles for many civil servants.

“I think overall he’s done a very good job,” Parrott said.

Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank, pointed out that de Blasio inherited a robust economy that has only gotten stronger. “This economic resurgence started before the mayor took over,” he said, with a reference to the city’s recovery from the collapse of 2008-2009. “I don’t think economic development has been one of the mayor’s priority areas in his first term but clearly it probably didn’t need to be. It’s important that he didn’t do anything to extinguish the economic progress that we had.”

Leaders of the city’s corporate business community have said that while they don’t necessarily appreciate the ways in which de Blasio talks about the wealthy not paying their fair share and his calls for higher taxes -- some see him as vilifying success and fostering class warfare -- he has not done much to get in the way of their priorities and he has even accomplished a few things they like, including parts of his education agenda and his choices in police commissioners.

Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, also said that the city’s achievements in bringing crime to historic lows have fostered a positive business environment. “Although he’s not fully in control of that, but crime has certainly continued to go down on his watch,” said Gelinas. “So businesses still feel safe in coming to the city, students still feel safe coming here for school, and that creates jobs.”

Generating good-paying jobs in the middle
After the global recession that began in 2008, New York City saw a far quicker overall recovery than most of the country. The economy also increasingly diversified, with expanded growth outside of the financial sector, in retail, tourism, and tech, for instance. But job growth was mostly either in high-income jobs or low-income ones, with the lower end accounting for a majority. Middle-income jobs failed to materialize at the same rate.

De Blasio took stock of this as his term wore on, and announced earlier this year “New York Works,” his plan to create over ten years 100,000 jobs that pay at least $50,000 a year. The goal has been panned as lacking in ambition -- the city’s economy has been creating on average 90,000 jobs each year (of any wage level) and extends well beyond a potential second term for de Blasio -- but it aims to leverage the city’s investments and regulatory authority to directly benefit sectors that are expected to grow or have good potential for growth with a boost from targeted city help. De Blasio and his team stress that the number indicates only jobs that will result from direct city action, not that would have been generated anyway, though it may not always be easy to differentiate.

The mayor has already inaugurated initiatives and announced investments that dovetail with the jobs plan, including $442 million in infrastructure spending for city-owned industrial spaces such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and Hunts Point; a $5-million grant to BioLabs@NYULangone to create a life sciences incubator by the end of 2017; an $81-million Computer Science For All public-private initiative that is meant to build tech talent through public schools; and a $20 million program, announced on Monday, to double by 2022 the number of CUNY students graduating each year with a tech-related bachelor’s degree.

“I think certainly early on in the administration the focus with respect to economic growth was not so much creating jobs and spurring the economy but rather focusing on economic inequality and doing more to support low-income earners,” said CBC’s Doulis. “I think in time that has shifted now with the development of their jobs plan.”

At a recent discussion hosted at The New School by the Center for an Urban Future, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen emphasized the all-encompassing nature of the jobs plan and the creation of an ecosystem that will support new job creation. “It’s really important to remember there’s a short game here and a long game and we have to play both of them,” she said.

Glen touted the administration’s focus on affordability, the use of commercial neighborhood rezonings to encourage job growth, and spoke of the “incentive structures” necessary for specific industries to meet their potential. “This is a ten-year plan,” she said. “I can’t say in year eight or nine where every single job is going to be. That would be an unrealistic expectation. So we have to be nimble, we have to be thoughtful. We have to adapt in real-time to changes in technology, to changes in capital markets, to changes in political and regional realities.”

There was near unanimous agreement by an expert panel that followed Glen’s speech that the mayor’s plan to incentivize jobs would be incomplete unless accompanied by workforce development programs and with the requisite educational achievement that will qualify New York City residents for those jobs. The experts who spoke with Gotham Gazette concurred.

“If Amazon doesn’t come here, that’s gonna be a big reason,” said Bowles, warning of the dearth of necessary skills and education for those jobs in New York as well as the dangers that increasing automation will bring to the same industries the city is targeting in its plan. “I don’t think we can go another four years without also doing some very specific things to curate the city’s economic growth,” he said, mentioning the need to help small businesses.

Bowles praised the mayor’s focus on middle class jobs, as well as the city’s increased focus on promoting minority- and women-owned businesses.

In 2014, the mayor convened the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force to create a blueprint for workforce development and fill the skills gap that kept many New Yorkers from getting adequate paying jobs. But, in the three years since that blueprint, called NYC Career Pathways, was created, there has been little progress, said Jesse Laymon, director of policy and advocacy at the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, an umbrella group of more than 150 workforce providers in the city. “There has been some organizational shifting in terms of new offices created and new people appointed,” Laymon said, “but there really has not been a lot of actual policy or funding change.”

Laymon pointed out that a key budgetary recommendation of Career Pathways was to fund $60 million in annual “bridge programs” by 2020 to help people with limited educational attainment to receive additional skills training. Three years into the plan, the Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a little over $6 million for those programs. “There has been some starting but it’s not moving fast enough to make some real substantial differences in the lives of New Yorkers,” Laymon said.

“New York is a great place to live right now if you have a college degree or in-demand skills in a particular field or trade,” he added. But the struggle, he said, is for people who lack those skills and are dealing with an economy that is expensive and does not provide opportunities much better than four years ago, or before that.

Angelina Garneva, communications director at NYCETC, added, “What we’ve been arguing for is that whenever there are conversations about economic development, workforce development should inherently be part of that conversation rather than an addendum or an afterthought or a wholly separate conversation.” She said the city needs to create an ecosystem for growth beyond only direct financial incentives, which administration officials have readily acknowledged. For instance, creating a system of collaboration between different workforce development programs and organizations.

“Putting in some oil between the mechanics of how things function so you can get bigger outcomes,” Garneva said. “It doesn’t have to be just direct programming...there’s also certain offices that can be empowered to make decisions to increase these kinds of impacts.”

EDC’s Hogrebe said the 100,000 jobs plan accounts for workforce development. “Built into that I think is a very strong recognition of the need to create a pipeline to the jobs that we are looking to build and a strong commitment to doing so and looking at innovative models of apprenticeships and other types of programming that can actually create that pipeline,” he said.

As evidenced by the jobs plan, the de Blasio-Glen approach is interventionist, both on housing and jobs, to harness and encourage market forces to benefit more New Yorkers. On both fronts, though, there are questions about whether the administration is reaching those struggling the most -- the lowest-income tenants looking for an affordable apartment, the unskilled young adult seeking a good-paying job.

Risk Factors
There are, of course, factors out of the mayor’s control that can limit growth and pose dire challenges for the city’s path ahead, which may include a second term for de Blasio.

There’s broad consensus that federal policies -- on immigration, health care, taxes,  and more -- can have devastating effects for the city’s economy through numerous direct and indirect ways. More locally, the city’s infrastructure issues and continued unaffordability for many can also serve to dampen people’s willingness to move, live, or open a business here, experts say. All that combined with an expected slowdown of the economy, after an unprecedented period of growth, could mean a perfect storm of economic uncertainty.

“The economy goes in cycles and there’s no question it’s not going to keep clicking on all cylinders, without some careful attention and support from City Hall,” said Bowles of Center for an Urban Future. “I think in the next four years, we’re going to need to see more focus on economic development. I think that there’s a good chance the economy will slow down.” He pointed to decreasing retail jobs from the last few years as one warning sign.

But the bigger issues, he said, are the ones that affect people’s quality of life and therefore the city’s ability to attract talent. Mounting subway delays and the increasingly high cost of living, he said, could have an impact. And President Trump’s immigration policies could hurt the city further.

“We’ve probably only begun to see the dampening effect from President Trump’s crackdown on immigration, on refugees,” Bowles said. ”If fewer immigrants come to the city, that’s gonna have a major impact. Immigrants are starting like half the businesses in the city and they make up about 47 percent of the workforce, and they are also a huge source of tech talent.”

Recent studies have shown that international tourism to the United States has already declined, although not definitively linked to the Trump administration. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in the first three months of 2017, there were about 700,000 fewer international arrivals compared to 2016. Tourism has been a particular boon for the city’s economy, accounting for billions in spending. A record 60.5 million tourists visited the city in 2016, a statistic de Blasio frequently cites. About 12.7 million of those were international visitors.

“It’s really about the confluence of what happens with the economy and with federal policy and then what is the city’s ability to manage that within the budget,” said CBC’s Doulis. She warned of the direct effects that federal cuts to Medicaid would have on the city, something the state and city governments are already feuding over. She pointed to President Trump’s tax plan, including the proposed elimination of the state and local tax deduction, on which high-tax states like New York rely.

Although Doulis acknowledged that the city has built up strong reserves to deal with a slowdown, or even a downturn, she said there hasn’t been sufficient “belt-tightening” at city agencies. The mayor’s response in such a situation is also hard to predict, she said. Would he propose more taxes or take a more balanced approach? “That’s an open question, and it’s likely to be one the mayor’s gonna face in the second term,” she said.

Gelinas, from the Manhattan Institute, wasn’t very concerned about Trump’s proposals, mostly since she doesn’t expect them to be enacted. She noted, for instance, the numerous failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I think one of the challenges in a slowdown would be, can the city maintain its quality of life if it loses a few billion dollars in tax revenue in any one year,” Gelinas said. “If people see that public services are slipping, they may not want to commit to being in New York.” She did, however, say that a market adjustment would be good for the city if it meant a decline in office and residential rents and property prices, allowing businesses and people to move here who couldn’t afford it otherwise. “Being too successful all the time is not that good either. We may be pushing out people to cheaper places that want to be in the arts or creative industries and that’s not good for the city in the long term,” Gelinas said.

Parrott of The New School was perhaps the only expert who doesn’t necessarily see an economic slowdown on the horizon. Cumulatively, the city’s absolute growth in terms of gross city product has yet to surpass earlier phases of expansion, he said. “If you gauge maximum level by accumulated GDP growth, this expansion could have another six to eight to nine years to go,” he said. “It depends on what sort of economic policy management we get out of Washington and the Federal Reserve. And what’s happening around the world.”

And Parrott praised the mayor’s management of the budget and reserves, which he believes will sustain the city through a period of weakened tax revenues. “There’s nothing in Bill de Blasio’s management of the budget to suggest that he’d be any less capable in approaching that,” he said, expressing an opinion not especially common among analysts of de Blasio’s leadership. There are also fiscal crises happening simultaneously at the city's public housing authority, NYCHA, and its public hospitals system, Health + Hospitals, where turnaround plans are in place, but need is dire and federal help vanishing.

Parrott also echoed concerns about the MTA and the city’s subway crisis, placing blame on both the city and state for failing commuters. “The city arguably needs to be doing more on the MTA, the MTA is really critical to the economic prosperity of the city and it’s not in good shape right now,” he said. “Partly the city is not doing what it needs to do. But on the other hand, there’s no partner at the state level to really work with on that either. So you can’t fault the mayor entirely on that. But I think that’s an area where he’s gotta do better.”

Laymon was more blunt about the city’s prospects, insisting that the biggest challenge may be continued inequality and lopsided growth. “The question is whether or not we leave behind a growing underclass of people that we have not helped lift out of poverty,” he said. “I think that is, as much as it was when he first ran, the number one risk factor for New York going forward, which is still increasing income inequality.”

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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.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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De Blasio's Record on Jobs and The Economy Mon, 23 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
‘Interventionist’ De Blasio Unveils Ten-Year Jobs Plan https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7004-interventionist-de-blasio-unveils-ten-year-jobs-plan https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7004-interventionist-de-blasio-unveils-ten-year-jobs-plan bdb jobs booklet presser works

The Mayor & his jobs plan (photo: Felipe De La Hoz)


Holding up a glossy, 114-page booklet emblazoned with “New York Works” in bold yellow lettering – the same words hanging from the wall behind him – Mayor Bill de Blasio promised on Thursday to make New York City the “capital of cyber security.”

Cyber security is one plank in the mayor’s ten-year job creation plan, which he announced from the sleek Garment District offices of SecurityScorecard, a firm specializing in cyber security monitoring and threat detection. Cyber security has been identified as a growth sector, one that will be home to more jobs if the city helps spur it along, the mayor explained.

The overall jobs plan, largely put together by Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, promises 100,000 jobs with “good wages” – defined as an annual salary of at least $50,000, which the mayor admitted was somewhat an arbitrary number – through 25 initiatives.

Ultimately, the proposal was framed as a way to create a “critical mass” of tech innovation, as the mayor put it, and ensure New Yorkers enter into fields allowing them to live in the city without being “rent-burdened” – spending more than 30 percent of one’s income on rent. The jobs plan is the other side of the coin to the mayor’s 200,000-unit affordable housing plan, which he and Glen unveiled in 2014; both of which attack the city’s affordability crisis and the inequality that the mayor promised to address as a candidate.

During the announcement and the press questioning that followed, de Blasio and Glen repeatedly stressed that the plan’s purpose was to create “jobs that would not be created otherwise” as opposed to riding the wave of growing industries and claiming credit. Glen, who said she had spent time studying other jobs plans at the municipal, state, and federal level, derided them as “usually about positioning yourself to take credit for a lot of different things that are going on in the economy already,” but insisted that this plan would supercede those by having a “quality screen” to the jobs.

She said that only jobs that could be directly traced to the administration’s efforts would be counted towards the stated job-creation goal, though the exact criteria that would be used was not made clear. The administration committed to providing yearly progress reports.

The mayor also couched the proposal as part of what he called a “high investment model of government,” and characterized the proposals -- a variety of city efforts including new uses of city land, workforce development, deal-brokering, and more -- as “investment,” with job gains the expected return.

“Private sector folks do key off of government signals, and government actions, and government investments,” he said, and alluded to conversations with tech leaders in which an obstacle had been “a certain amount of lack of cognition on how to get started in New York.” He argued that the investments would demonstrate to job-creators that New York City was serious about accepting their business.

The initiatives are subdivided into five areas: tech – the largest, with 30,000 projected jobs; life sciences and healthcare (15,000 projected jobs); industrial and manufacturing (20,000 projected jobs); creative and cultural sectors (10,000 projected jobs); and, the especially and purposefully vague “space for jobs of the future” (25,000 projected jobs). The job targets are further broken down into particular projects, in what Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett called a “framework” that would be adjusted depending on changing industries and sectors. Patchett’s job includes shepherding the plan, adjusting its pieces, and meeting the targets.

Under the industrial plank, the Brooklyn Navy Yard expansion is estimated to create 4,800 “good-paying jobs,” but some points are less clear, such as “discretionary tax incentives” leading to 1,500 jobs. The programs will be funded by $1.1 billion in already allocated spending, plus $250 million that “the administration will apply in its November and January updates to the budget.”

The job-creation plan comes at a time when the city’s unemployment rate has hovered at around 4 percent, a modern record-low and fact that has been routinely emphasized by the mayor. But, de Blasio explained the need to create jobs with good wages and long-term career options, allowing the city to “shape our own destiny” and lift more New Yorkers out of poverty.

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

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‘Interventionist’ De Blasio Unveils Ten-Year Jobs Plan Thu, 15 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Part of Rezoning Plan, City Opens New Career Center in East New York https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6664-part-of-rezoning-plan-city-opens-new-career-help-center-in-east-new-york https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6664-part-of-rezoning-plan-city-opens-new-career-help-center-in-east-new-york bdb espinal town hall

Mayor de Blasio & CM Espinal (photo: Jeffrey Reed for the City Council)


After serving jail time in 2014, Anthony McGlashan, a resident of East New York, Brooklyn, struggled to find employment for three years. While he had a certification from the Anthem Institute in the field of Information Technology, he continued to be rejected by employers due to his lack of experience and his criminal background. McGlashan then turned to one of New York City’s Workforce1 Centers, a city initiative that provides free career services by pairing employers with workers, holding workshops for resume and interview preparation, and other resources to aid the job search.

In August 2015, McGlashan enrolled in Employment Works, a city program designed to match individuals with criminal histories with full-time, permanent positions in an attempt to reduce recidivism. Through workshops and the support of the program, McGlashan was able to secure an IT support position with the State of New York Unified Court System.

“It’s been awhile, it was a struggle,” McGlashan said. “I almost felt like giving up at one time. It was only three years, but it felt much longer than that.”

“The program pushed me to look for a more permanent, full-time position,” he added. “It shows you what you have to do in life to get something, to fight for it. Stay ambitious and determined.”

Those previously involved with the criminal justice system often face significant difficulties when looking for permanent job opportunities. Despite serving their time, a criminal history makes employees much less likely to be hired. To eliminate this type of employment discrimination by employers, New York City passed the Fair Chance Act in October of 2015, forbidding employers from asking for the criminal records of job applicants until a job offer has been made.

To help further break down barriers faced when looking for a job after a conviction, Mayor Bill de Blasio, working with City Council Member Rafael Espinal and Commissioner Gregg Bishop of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), is opening a new Workforce1 center in East New York, Brooklyn on Monday. The center, part of the East New York Neighborhood Plan that was negotiated by Espinal and the de Blasio administration and passed through the City Council, is tailored to the specific needs of this neighborhood.

East New York has a high percentage of out-of-work, out-of-school youth and individuals with criminal backgrounds, according to the city. As part of the East New York rezoning that passed earlier this year, the career center is the nineteenth such center across the city. It will cost about $700,000 annually to run, according to SBS, with that money coming through a federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant. The funding for creating the facility, about $165,000, came from the $276 million allocated for community development in the East New York plan, which encompasses a key stretch of Espinal’s district that will soon be home to new housing, retail, and other development, along with other community services, like a new school. It is an underdeveloped area with high concentrations of poverty and the first neighborhood rezoned under the de Blasio affordable housing plan.

“We are investing in the people of East New York,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the new workforce center’s opening. “We are committed to providing the training, the education and the job-placements families need to work their way into the middle class.”

Council Member Espinal, who negotiated with the de Blasio administration to pass the multi-faceted, “anti-gentrification” rezoning for his district in April, called the high unemployment rate in Brooklyn, especially in East New York, “unacceptable.”

“The economic disparities in our city that have put a strain on so many New Yorker’s must be addressed,” Espinal said in a statement. “That is why I pushed so hard to secure this Workforce1 Center as part of the East New York Neighborhood Rezoning Plan. After all, a house is not affordable without a job.”

Some of the debate centered on the East New York plan -- and other rezonings being considered around the city -- revolved around the levels of affordability for new rent-stabilized housing in the rezoned area. New housing in East New York will be deeply subsidized by the city, but there are still concerns of displacement. Relatedly, Espinal and others rallied on Saturday against predatory homeowner speculation that has been occurring in the area in anticipation of community improvements and rising property value.

“All New Yorker’s should have access to good paying jobs and the tools they need to secure a bright future for their families,” Espinal said. “I am excited that the center has opened so quickly and look forward to the opportunities it will create for our community.”

Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College sociology professor, said opening this career center in East New York reflects the mayor’s understanding of the biggest challenge facing young people of color: unemployment.

“High levels of joblessness among these young people is a major contribution to participation in underground economies of drug dealing, property crime, and prostitution,” Vitale said in an email.

While these centers provide job-searching resources, Vitale said the mayor should continue to identify more ways for unemployed youth to get jobs, increasing public and private sector opportunity.

“The question is whether these centers will produce an overall increase in employment or merely rearrange who gets the few jobs that are out there,” Vitale said. “The mayor should also take steps to significantly increase the number of jobs for these young people, through public employment if the private sector is unable or unwilling to do it.”

According to the city, the new East New York center includes partnerships with community-based organizations. Espinal points out that while the unemployment rate continues to drop nationally, it has remained higher in Brooklyn, and it is even higher in East New York.

“A quality career opportunity can be a ticket out of poverty for all New Yorkers, including those who were formerly acquainted with the criminal justice system,” said Bishop, the city’s commissioner of small business services, in a statement. “This career center will be an asset for the entire East New York community.”

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by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

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Note: details of the funding for the career center have been clarified from the original version of this article.

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Part of Rezoning Plan, City Opens New Career Center in East New York Sun, 11 Dec 2016 05:00:00 +0000