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Agencies across CNY to split more than $13 million to fight poverty

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney announces funding from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative Monday

Organizations that help impoverished central New Yorkers get an education, find jobs or decent housing are getting a boost from a pot of state money meant to help the poor. 

Wayne O'Connor, of the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection of Syracuse, said the extra cash will help expand his organization that focuses on workforce development, starting in the middle school years.

"It will enable us to hire five youth advocates, and some support for those advocates,” said O’Connor. “Every time we add more students, we grow the culture, we grow the program, so it’s significant."

Hilliside is one of almost two dozen organizations in five counties, awarded a piece of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant. The 24-member Alliance for Economic Inclusion decided to split over $13 million between agencies that had successful programs dealing with poverty, as well as some newer ones.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said these funds can have a long-term impact.

"We’re not just putting fires out. We’re looking at us as a region and looking at systemic problems, and we’re trying to address as many of the components of a very complicated issue of poverty as we can,” said Mahoney.

$20 million out of the initial $50 million has already been earmarked for the Say Yes to Education program in the city of Syracuse. There will be another round of awards to determine winners of the $17 million dollars that’s left. 

Syracuse Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens said it’s vital that funds get pumped into programs for the poor in a city with one of the worst poverty rates in the country.

“It’s the first step. We have many more steps to take, but we are well positioned to initiate these programs, to learn from what we are about to do, and to even make it better,” said Owens.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.