Printer Friendly Format Email a Friend

PR- 026-09
January 19, 2009


Builds on Success of New York City's Center for Economic Opportunity

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today outlined details for a proposed $5 billion urban innovation fund, overseen by the White House, to fight poverty in large metropolitan areas.   The fund would draw on the success of New York City's Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), which Mayor Bloomberg created in December 2006 to implement an ambitious anti-poverty strategy.  Since then, CEO has launched a range of new anti-poverty programs, policy proposals and research projects which represent nationwide best practices and cutting-edge ideas that can make an impact where traditional methods have failed.  The Innovation Fund is just one component of the Federal Economic Recovery Bill the Mayor recently proposed, outlining priorities for New York City.   The Mayor made the announcement at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, D.C. 

"Poverty is one of the most complicated and troubling challenges every mayor in America faces," said Mayor Bloomberg.  "New York City's Center for Economic Opportunity is prepared to share results and lessons learned from our work, including on the alternative to the Federal poverty measure that we developed. And we look forward to learning from successful programs in other cities.  We can and must do more to think innovatively, gather important data and try new things, and an urban innovation fund would be a smart and practical step in the right direction."

"Our goal in New York City is to help families lift - and keep - themselves out of poverty," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs.  "We've shown over the past two years through new initiatives that we can move parents into stable careers and families out of poverty, help young people get their GEDs and engage at-risk youth in community service.  Our lessons learned are more important than ever as we face a recession."

"The Center for Economic Opportunity has become a nationally recognized research and development laboratory for testing new antipoverty strategies," said CEO Executive Director Veronica M. White.  "By creating a fund like this, the federal government can help provide immediate relief for those in poverty while building a data-driven foundation for the next generation of anti-poverty policies."

Mayor Bloomberg suggested that all initiatives supported by the Fund should be implemented quickly, be accompanied by a plan for evaluation, and be complementary to other new Federal aid.  Drawing from CEO's experience designing dozens of ground-breaking anti-poverty initiatives, the Mayor proposed five key areas of focus:

Work opportunities for high-need populations. 

  • " The Fund would focus not only on newly dislocated workers, but on identifying strategies that promote stable employment, wage progression, and opportunities for the "hard to employ," including the underemployed, disabled, and those with histories of incarceration.  The bulk of the funding in this category would be in paid public works jobs; the remainder would be spent on training and career advancement so that program participants leave job-ready.

Enhanced youth employment. 

  • Young adults that come of age during an economic crisis may face life-long hardships; those can not obtain work by their mid-twenties are at much greater risk of permanent unemployment and dependence on public assistance.  The Fund would invest in new initiatives that, through job experience, training and internship opportunities, will prepare at-risk youth - particularly those who neither enrolled in school, nor work - for self-sufficient adulthoods.

Improved school to work linkages. 

  • The Fund would support students in their educational pursuits with innovative initiatives that allow them the opportunity to complete their degrees and prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, rather than forgoing education and training to settle for low-paying, low-growth jobs just to make it through the recession.

Community service initiatives. 

  • The Fund would support service projects whose benefits are two-fold.  Service projects promote responsible behaviors, helping at-risk individuals stay on track for success.  At the same time, these projects help create a strong sense of community and fill in the gaps where cash-strapped local governments, non-profits and foundations are no longer as able to keep neighborhoods clean and safe on their own. 

Incentives to work. 

  • There is evidence that earnings supplements and other financial incentives can boost employment and earnings, reducing poverty.  The Fund would support pilots that improve work supports and public assistance programs that address disincentives to work.

In addition to distributing grants, the Fund would manage a national plan to revise the official poverty measure.  An accurate measure will allow for evaluation of the impact of the government's new investments. 

During the Mayor's State of the City speech last week, he identified several new anti-poverty initiatives that could be supported by federal funds which encourage work.  First, he proposed a pilot program that offers jobs to struggling students - on the condition that they stay in school.  Second, he spoke about the "Jobs Plus" initiative, a successful model piloted in other cities, which will provide place-based employment assistance and training referrals to public housing residents while limiting rent increases as their earnings grow.  The Mayor also called for a pilot to expand the popular and successful Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in New York City.  This would substantially increase the amount of money that low-wage single adults and non-custodial parents can receive in tax credits.


Stu Loeser /Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958

More Resources