INCREASE MAY COME FOR AFTER-SCHOOL AID, BY GEORGE (SOROS)

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Billionaire philanthropist George Soros, known for his humanitarian bailouts of Eastern European countries, is apparently ready to pass some of his money to New York City’s after-school youth programs, City Limits has learned.

Although details are still sketchy, sources familiar with the new initiative say the Soros Foundation plans to create a subsidiary–tentatively named the After School Corporation–to distribute up to $25 million over the next several years. Part of the money will fund 20 to 25 demonstration projects in neighborhoods throughout the city, sources say. “I first heard about it in February,” said Brooklyn Democrat Kenneth Fisher, chairman of the New York City Council’s youth services committee. “It’s definitely been a hot item in the rumor mill for a while.”

“They are still in the planning stages, but it is going ahead,” said a source familiar with the planning efforts. An official at New Visions for Public Schools, a nonprofit that works with the foundation, confirmed Soros staffers are researching after school programs, but said the project is in its infancy. “They’re moving cautiously,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “We don’t have anything on paper yet.”

The potential Soros grant is a rare piece of good news in an area that has absorbed significant budget cuts in the 1990s. Shortly after taking office in 1994, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani began a series of deep cuts to the city’s youth service agencies. While many of those cuts have been restored, advocates say funding is still too low.

Calls to Lucy Friedman, a former city official who is coordinating the after-school initiative for Soros, were not returned. A Soros spokesman, contacted in London late on Friday, said he was unable to track down staffers to confirm or deny the project.

Soros’ foundation spent approximately $400 million last year, most of it going toward rebuilding Eastern Bloc nations. But he has become increasingly interested in domestic initiatives, spending about $50 million of his total outlays on U.S. last year.