Speaker Carl Heastie today announced that he has appointed an Assembly Majority work group to undertake an evaluation of the drastic increase of New Yorkers living in poverty and identify solutions to combat it.
"Nearly 1.4 million people in this state currently live in conditions of extreme poverty. There are unacceptable rates of poverty among New York's children, elderly, women and minorities," said Heastie. "We need to find ways to break the vicious cycle that forces people to focus on getting by and never allows them to focus on getting ahead."
Citing the need to address this growing problem holistically, Heastie has convened an Anti-Poverty Work Group made up of members from varying committees and expertise who will focus on lifting New Yorkers out of poverty. The work group will analyze ways to address challenges New Yorkers face related to:
The work group is charged with identifying ways to work together within the Assembly as well as with our partners in government to eradicate poverty. The members of the work group include:
Heastie said that issues of poverty were a consistent theme during his tour of New York State last year and that it is imperative to take bold action to address it. The Speaker's home county of the Bronx suffers from extreme poverty - more than 30 percent of its residents live in poverty - but it is also a problem in other areas where many upstate rural counties have poverty rates of close to 20 percent.
Assemblymember Cymbrowitz, chair of the Committee on Aging, said, "According to the 2013 American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau, approximately one in 10 New Yorkers aged 65 and over are currently living in poverty. I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve prevention efforts and find any gaps in services that may require review or may lead to the creation of new initiatives that can reverse this trend. Older adults are living longer due to better health and medical advances, but their quality of life can suffer when they need to make difficult sacrifices with severely limited resources."
Assemblymember Glick, chair of the Committee on Higher Education, said, "American's dramatic economic success in the 2nd half of the 20th century, can be traced directly to the GI bill which expanded access to higher education. We have long known that the avenue out of poverty passes through institutions of higher learning. I am pleased to be working with my colleagues to ensure access for all New Yorkers."
Assemblymember Gottfried, chair of the Committee on Health, said, "Poverty is a major cause of poor health. And illness and paying for health care is a major cause of job loss, family financial instability, and poverty. Our health insurance system with high financial barriers to care contributes to poor health, income inequality and poverty. Fighting poverty and providing universal access to health care go hand in hand. I commend Speaker Heastie for this sensible and holistic plan to move New York forward."
Aileen Gunther; chair of the Committee on Mental Health, said, "We can't address poverty in our state without also addressing the health of New Yorkers, including their mental health. Early detection and treatment of mental illness are key to leading a healthy, productive life, but unfortunately, the stigma of mental illness delays treatment and creates yet another hurdle to economic self-sufficiency."
Assemblymember Hevesi, chair of the Committee on Social Services, said, "For New Yorkers who are struggling to make ends meet, housing costs can be an overwhelming burden pushing many into homelessness. Underlying issues such as domestic violence, mental health and substance abuse can make the affordable housing crisis even more challenging. Making sure New Yorkers are equipped to handle these challenges is a key component to fighting poverty."
Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, chair of the Committee on Children and Families, said, "In order to build upon the progress that we have seen in New York State, we have to recognize the level of poverty many of our communities are facing. There are more than three million people living in poverty in New York-including 900,000 children. A problem as difficult as poverty requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach."
Assemblymember Nolan, chair of the Committee on Education, said, "I commend Speaker Heastie for forming the Assembly Majority's first-ever work group on New Yorker's living in poverty. This group will help our house more effectively focus on the daunting challenges facing the growing number of poor New Yorkers. I am confident that this group's efforts will lead to a range of poverty-fighting initiatives, including education policies that will better prepare our students for the well-paying jobs of the future and expand opportunities for the working poor to gain access to the middle class."
Assemblymember Rosenthal, chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, said, "This new work group will allow us to more effectively zero in on many of the Assembly's legislative proposals that aim to help the poor escape poverty and the effects of alcohol and drug abuse. The creation of this work group also signals the urgency my colleagues and I feel toward advancing long-overdue measures that will bring stability, opportunity and hope to individuals who are struggling so desperately to improve their lives."
Assemblymember Titus, chair of the Committee on Labor, said, "By establishing the Assembly Majority Work Group on Poverty, Speaker Heastie recognizes that the growing ranks of the working poor are a significant problem to the state's future, and it can't be overlooked any longer. "I believe this group will help us marshal our resources and expertise so we can better address the many formidable financial difficulties that impact many of the state's hard working families who are just a paycheck away from financial hardship and are in need of a higher and more realistic minimum wage."
Assemblymember Bronson, chair of the Commission on Skills Development and Career Education, said, "In order for New York to thrive and continue to be a great place to live and raise a family, we must offer not only support to our most vulnerable population, but also the opportunity to achieve financial stability and overcome poverty. Growing up in poverty has provided me with life experience to understand the struggles too many families face, too often. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Anti-Poverty Work Group to take on this issue at a statewide level to create a brighter future for all New Yorkers."
Assemblymember Crespo, chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said, "Two reports my office released last year clearly show there is no doubt that poverty threatens the social and economic stability of our communities and our state. When so many families and elderly are living paycheck to paycheck, it is critical that we find meaningful solutions to help those who are struggling. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Anti-Poverty work group and all our partners in government to give New Yorkers the tools they need to achieve self-sufficiency and regain their dignity, while increasing their opportunities to secure financial security."
Assemblymember Hunter said, "I thank Speaker Heastie for recognizing the need for a more holistic approach to addressing the growing rate of poverty in New York. There is no one simple solution to the issue. We must address the issues collectively-raising minimum wage, providing affordable child care, health care, housing and access to higher education are all a part of the conversation. Only when we look at the big picture and address the complexities can we truly make strides towards reducing poverty in New York."
Assemblymember Walter Mosley said, "The underlying and often ignored causes of poverty in this state will be exposed by this work group. As a member of this newly formed group, I look forward to developing proposals that will close the ever-widening income gap, increase the availability of affordable housing and help people remain in the middle class, which far too many New Yorkers are disappearing from."