By Tracie McMillan
Daily Intelligencer • Dec. 18, 2006
They say New York is just for the rich these days, but today one of its richest — Mike Bloomberg — unveiled a plan to help those who aren’t. His Commission on Economic Opportunity unveiled its anti-poverty strategy, and, at a ceremony at the stalwart Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, the mayor pledged a $150 million annual commitment to fund it, including $25 million to be raised from private foundations. That chunk of change will go first into an Innovation Fund, which will oversee the budget and — this is a first, folks — measure programs’ success at actually alleviating poverty.
There’s also a new Office of Financial Empowerment, where the poor can make sure they’re getting all the tax credits they’re due (like a new childcare tax credit for parents of children under 3), learn about public benefits for which they might qualify, get basic financial-literacy help, and report scams they encounter, such as predatory lending schemes. But the heart of the effort will likely be at the new Center for Economic Opportunity, which will coordinate the programs between city agencies, from cash bonuses paid to the poor who make it to doctor’s appointments to complicated “career ladder” programs trying to turn low-wage home health aides into middle-class nurses. One more good omen: Representative Charlie Rangel, who’ll be chairing the influential Ways and Means Committee in the House, was standing proudly at Bloomberg’s side — which suggests some federal help could be on the way, too.