Nearly two dozen agencies across Central New York have been selected to receive a combined $14 million over five years to address poverty in the region. The funding comes from a pot of $50 million designated for solely that purpose under the Governor Cuomo’s Upstate Revitalization initiative.
Onondaga County is the lead agency of the 24-member Alliance for Economic Inclusion. County Executive Joanie Mahoney says everyone came to the table and prioritized which agencies and services could have the biggest impact.
“We’re not just putting fires out. We’re looking at us as a region, and we’re looking at systemic problems, and we’re trying to address as many of the components of a very complicated issue of poverty as we can. The beauty of this is we have real resources behind hit now to fund these agencies that have been doing good work.”
Wayne O’Connor is regional executive director of the Hillside Family of Agencies, which is home to the Work Scholarship Connection. The agency is receiving $600,000 this year, and a five year allocation of $1.8 million.
“This funding will enable us to add 150 young people at the middle school level, the 8th grade level this coming year. We will stay with them 12 months a year until they graduate. If they go up to OCC, we’ll stay with them up there.”
He says 95 percent of the middle and high school students they serve are in poverty, a risk factor that puts graduation in jeopardy. Awards were broken down into six categories, including education, transportation, and workforce development. Syracuse mayor Ben Walsh says the projects will be game changing for the community.
“We’re still early on in our administration. But one of the first things we did was establish a vision. Our city’s vision is to be a growing city that embraces diversity and creates opportunity for all people. I can’t think of an initiative or a program the helps us fulfill that mission more than what here talking about today.”
Funding was also allocated to programs in Cayuga, Oswego, Madison, and Cortland Counties. Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin says poverty isn’t just restricted to larger cities.
“The city of Cortland, we have about 20,000 people, 48,000 in the entire county. So it’s easy for us sometimes to not be a priority. But we’re dealing with the same issues that we’re dealing with throughout the region and throughout the state.”
There will be an additional round of funding to allocate the remaining $17 million of the award. Joanie Mahoney says the Alliance will likely give priority the 10 final applicants that fell short this year, and the 60 others who sent in proposals. Twenty million dollars was previously set aside for Say Yes to Education.