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Aid Haitians, Immigrants to Help NYC Economy
Reuters
oan Gralla; Editing by Jan Paschal

January 21, 2010
View the Original Article


Earthquake-stricken Haitian New Yorkers should be given the federal immigration agency's support of "Temporary Protected Status" so they can find better-paying legal jobs and send more money back home, Bloomberg said in a copy of his annual State of the City address.

New York City has the largest population of Haitian descent outside Port-au-Prince, the earthquake-torn capital city of this Caribbean nation.

Bloomberg, who won a third term by a slim margin, is an independent who has long campaigned for national immigration reform. He called on law firms, charities and community groups to form a new public-private partnership to help Haitians qualify for this legal status.

The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City has raised $621,001 to help Haiti.

New York City's tax revenues slid when Wall Street nearly capsized last year, and the city's resulting deficit makes it much harder for Bloomberg to pay for ambitious new programs.

Several of his new initiatives rely on the private sector, and he also promised to "stretch" every public dollar, by merging agencies and excising fat in the form of unneeded office space and car fleets. Duplicative functions, such as human resources, will also be combined.

"We will continue going full tilt -- full time," he said.

"And, even as we face difficult budget choices, which will require painful cuts, we will continue insisting that government remain on the side of every hard-working New Yorker," Bloomberg continued.

A PLEA FOR 'LIVING WAGE'

Local politicians, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Comptroller John Liu, both Democrats, largely praised the mayor's plans.

But a spokesman for the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank, said the "home-grown," untrained or undereducated residents, need more help learning new skills to avoid getting "stuck in low-wage jobs for years to come."

The Drum Major Institute said Bloomberg should boost salaries by enacting a "living wage" law to avoid increasing the ranks of the working poor who often need public aid. For example, city employers will hire 22,000 cashiers and 32,000 retail clerks in the next seven years -- but only pay them $17,000 to $22,000 a year, the research group said.

FOCUS ON LOANS AND JOBS

Another public-private program, a new loan pool, will give New Yorkers now "drowning in credit card debt at huge interest rates" a fresh start with the first-ever bank accounts that require no minimum balances and have no hidden fees, he said.

New "financing fairs" for immigrants will let them meet with lenders who speak their languages, he said. Some 5,000 more of the "newest" New Yorkers will offered English classes.

All business owners will benefit from a lighter paperwork burden, as license applications will be sped and coordinated among agencies, kick-starting new enterprises with a new business 311 telephone line.

Shifting $750 million to the housing marketplace rescue program from the capital budget will help protect tenants in "distressed" apartment buildings, he said. Landlords who own such buildings overpaid for their properties and overmortgaged them; upkeep and services can fall if foreclosures result.

Though New York City's foreclosure rates are lower than in some of the nation's other largest cities, 1,000 middle-class families will be able to refinance their homes at "reasonable terms" with a new $10 million mortgage assistance fund, Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg, who has made improving public school education a signature issue, proposed new anti-truancy and anti-pregnancy initiatives, noting that black and Hispanic young men are twice as likely not to graduate from high school and "far more likely" to become fathers than their white and Asian peers.

Further, poverty rates for black and Hispanic young men are 50 percent higher than for Asians and whites, while their unemployment rates are 60 percent higher, the mayor said.

Using federal stimulus money, he proposed creating 2,000 public and private-sector jobs for young people.