The New York City Council’s Public Housing Committee on Monday passed legislation seeking to expand the JobsPlus program to all public housing residents across the city, a pipeline officials say would boost employment opportunities and direct people to a stable career pathway.
Councilmember Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat who chairs the committee and a co-prime sponsor of the bill, said the citywide expansion of JobsPlus has the potential to lift thousands of NYCHA residents into the middle class and reduce unemployment. The plan would offer site-based career services, training and financial counseling.
“I’m concerned about the concentrated poverty in public housing and the impact it has on access to employment and opportunities,” said Torres. “So the question is, ‘Are there models that have been shown to not only employ, but dramatically improve the earnings of public housing residents?’ The best model that I know of is JobsPlus. It’s been implemented in various parts of the country and parts of New York City. It has been shown to increase the earnings of public housing residents, by as much as 17 percent, which are significant gains.”
The expansion would be spearheaded by the city’s Center for Economic Opportunity, which is part of the Mayor’s Office of Operations and oversees the pilot program. The pilot currently serves 24 of the 334 NYCHA developments — in areas including, Brownsville, East Harlem and the South Bronx that have the highest concentration of public housing.
The bill requires CEO to submit a plan within a year after the law goes into effect. It must be sent to the Council Speaker, the Comptroller and Mayor before for the expansion is available to every public housing resident.
Asked if Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the bill, a City Hall spokesperson said, “The mayor’s office typically does not comment on legislation at this stage.” Torres said he “anticipates no opposition.”
A NYCHA spokesman did not respond to request for comment.
The pilot was launched in 2009, and since then, officials said it has offered more than 3,500 residents with job opportunities. More than 5,900 have achieved at least one financial or educational outcome, including access of the earned income disallowance – a rent based incentive.
According to CEO said about 46 percent of working-age residents in the public housing developments do not report employment income, and about 84 percent of such households earn below the city’s $50,711 median income. The group’s Deputy Executive Director, Carson Hicks said at a recent Council hearing that expanding JobsPlus “is an exciting prospect. However, we recognize that such an expansion would require significant resources and are concerned about developing a plan for expansion without a better idea of what resources may be available.”
He added that the “discussion of the expansion may be better had within the budget process. Furthermore, the program is still undergoing evaluation, so it is difficult at this stage to make defined recommendations about specific geographical and temporal expansion.”
Talks to expand JobsPlus come in the wake of a recent effort by the city to direct NYCHA residents to jobs opportunities. Last month, NYCHA and the city painter’s union announced that they have created a $26 million apprenticeship program to provide an entry into civil service construction work for 100 residents. After completing the training, graduates are eligible to work on private-sector jobs or with NYCHA. The project labor agreement runs through 2018.
Another bill the Public Housing Committee approved on Monday seeks to measure the successes of the JobsPlus program. It mandates the city to provide annual reports on the effects of services provided to public housing residents, such as the outcomes of educational programs and effects of financial assistance. It also requires the city to report on the health of public housing residents and determine whether they have access to health insurance.
At Tuesday’s stated meeting, the City Council is expected to pass both measures.