HRA Plays Vital Role In
HRA Plays Vital Role In
Aiding NYC Residents
By Richard Gentilviso
As 2003 ends, the stock market closed at its highest level since March, 1999 on December 11, serving further notice that the country is coming out of recession. But some other economic indicators, particularly the 2.7 million lost jobs, are proving much harder to regain and the number of Americans living in poverty grew by more than 1.3 million last year to nearly 35 million people, 12.4 percent of the population of the United States.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in September, 2.7 million residents of New York state live in poverty, defined as a single person under age 65 with annual income no more than $9,200 in 2001.
"Human Resources Administration (HRA) provides financial assistance and social services to New Yorkers who do not have the means to provide for themselves," Borough President Helen Marshall said in a preface to a presentation by Barbara Ramirez–Giove, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, HRA Office of Constituent and Community Affairs, at the December 16 meeting of the Queens Borough Cabinet.
"HRA runs many programs but our job centers affect the majority of our clients," said Ramirez–Giove. Since Congress passed reform of welfare in 1996, welfare spending has shifted from direct cash assistance to child care, education, training and other services designed to help people gain employment and stay off public assistance.
Two model job centers will soon be opened by the city in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and another is planned for Queens. The city gained 11,100 jobs in September and October after losing 235,000 private sector jobs between January 2001 and August 2003. Some 421,500 people received public assistance in New York City in 2003, a 35-year low, down from 430,400 in 2002 and 497,100 in 2001.
However, the number of residents receiving Food Stamps jumped by 80,000 last year in the city to a current total of 909,000. Even with that increase, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has found the city guilty of turning away applicants for the federal food program because they were ineligible under stricter rules for welfare benefits. "The people that we’re talking about are the poor of New York City," said Marshall.
"We have many seniors who are desperately reaching out for assistance, especially Food Stamps," said Marshall. Ramirez–Giove said "Food Stamps in the form of coupons in a book will soon be replaced with a debit style card.
Families living in poverty, that is two adults and two children with annual incomes of less than $17,960, went up by more than 300,000 from 6.6 million in 2001 to 7 million families nationwide in 2002. Furthermore, the number of children in poverty rose by more than 600,000 in the same time to 12.2 million.
As of October, the 8.2 percent unemployment rate in New York City was still higher than the national rate, which stood at 6.1 percent in August. City Comptroller William Thompson expects New York City’s economy to grow by about 2.5 percent in 2004 with the addition of about 35,000 jobs.
But to reduce the unemployment rate and create real gain, the private sector must create 150,000 to 200,000 jobs a month nationally. For example, 57,000 jobs were added across the United States in November, according to the United States Labor Department.
In a second presentation, Sybil Dodson, director of the community outreach and notification unit, Department of Design and Construction (DDC), said only 33 community construction liaisons were on site at about 240 ongoing citywide construction projects. "I can’t imagine residents having major construction projects on their street without them" Dodson said of the DDC community liaisons.