17 August 2010

Ms. Foundation Grantee Leads "Recovery Tour" in New York State

Remember the $787 billion our federal government earmarked to help "jumpstart" the economy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or ARRA)? Ever spent any time thinking about what's become of that money and whether it's working? In New York State, Ms. Foundation grantee Community Voices Heard is providing some much needed answers to those questions by showing officials first-hand how federal dollars are --and aren't --helping to stimulate growth in local communities.

CVH is an organization made up primarily of women with welfare experience, working improve the lives of families and communities throughout New York State. On July 28th they led a day-long "Recovery Tour" of New York State, stopping in four communities where they have chapters to show the impact public investment under ARRA has had on low-income communities. Representatives from the NYS Senate, the NYC Housing Authority, the NYS Recovery and Reinvestment Cabinet and the NYS Department of Labor -- along with council members from a number of local districts -- participated in the tour.

Traveling from New York City, through Yonkers, on to Newburgh and then Poughkeepsie, participants visited public housing developments, transitional jobs programs, soup kitchens, road reconstruction projects and the site of a future transportation hub -- all sustained through the allocation of ARRA funds to these communities.

However, the visit also made clear just how much work is left to be done, and how many communities continue to struggle under the weight of the continuing recession. In Newburgh, residents pointed out how a "home rehabilitation" loan program had failed when few applicants were approved for loans. "Some of the money definitely could have been spent differently [here]," noted CVH leader Brenda McPhail.

CVH board member Agnes Rivera underscored the need for continued, strategic investment in these communities if any version of success is to be forthcoming. "Low-income communities have been suffering long before the current economic downturn and the first round of stimulus funding wasn't even enough to fill the gap of what the recession created," she said. "We are going to need more substantial public investment in job creation and funding for critical programs if all of our communities are going to recover and New York State is going to get on safe footing."

CVH members didn't let the day end without taking direct action to ensure that federal government continues to invest in struggling communities in New York State: the group placed a number of calls to US Senator Chuck Schumer's office, encouraging him to sign on to the Local Jobs for America Act, which would bring upwards of 50,000 jobs to New York State. (Senator Kristen Gillibrand has already stepped up as a co-sponsor of the bill.)

Talk about democracy in action!

For more information about how Community Voices Heard is helping to empower underserved communities, please visit their website.

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