It’s no secret that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made fighting poverty a major goal of his second term. In January, he named former homelessness commissioner Linda Gibbs his deputy mayor for health and human services, a newly created position. In March, he announced the Commission for Economic Opportunity, a board of business and nonprofit leaders that he charged with finding new ways to serve and empower New York City’s poor.
And there’s more to come, promised Gibbs, during a speech at New York Law School on Friday. “The foundation that was created over the first four years of this administration has really put us in a place…to bring all of the agencies together…and to tie them together in a more powerful way,” she said.
Gibbs, who oversees 11 agencies including the Human Resources Administration, Department of Correction and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said Mayor Bloomberg wants to develop anti-poverty measures that will stay in place beyond the remaining three years of his term.
There are currently 1.5 million residents, or nearly 20 percent of New York City’s population, living below the federal poverty line—roughly $20,000 for a family of four in 2005, according to U.S. Census figures. To help reach these residents, the city is experimenting with new ways to ease access to benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps. Last month, it launched a one-stop Web site, ACCESS NYC, that allows families to check their eligibility for different programs and subsidies.
Several new initiatives will also likely come out of the Commission for Economic Opportunity report, released in September. At the time, the mayor called for both traditional approaches, such as parenting training and child care, along with unconventional ones, such as cash payments to encourage people to use medical services and pursue education.
Bloomberg said at the time he wanted each relevant agency to “develop an action plan within the next 60 days” on how to implement the Commission’s recommendations. During her Friday remarks, Gibbs said she expects the city agencies to announce their plans shortly after Thanksgiving. [11/20/06]