Oswego is offering up to $400,000 to individuals, business owners and or organizations that can help the city combat poverty. It's part of the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI), which aims to help 16 cities improve the lives of their lower-income residents.
The money will be used to fund projects that alleviate the hurdles people encounter when trying to break the cycle of poverty. The city's ESPRI steering committee wants to target issues like a lack of access to transportation, education and affordable child care. Mayor Billy Barlow says creating more workforce development opportunities is also very important.
"It’s something I've heard from major employers in the area is that they just can’t select folks from the Oswego community because they don’t have the professional skills to take jobs that are available," Barlow said. "I'd like to prepare these people to be able to search and get and retain a job so that they can elevate themselves."
Barlow says these projects have the potential to identify long-term solutions.
"If there is a certain program or approach that we entertain with this $400,000 and it seems to be working and successful, that’s something we can talk about to either pursue funding to keep those programs going or if the city funds it outright out of its budget and we can make that work, that's something I'm willing to entertain if it's making a difference," he said.
Proposals are due at the end of October and Barlow hopes to have the projects start next year. A study earlier this year found that 29 percent of Oswego's residents live in poverty and another 18 percent struggle to make ends meet.
Syracuse, Watertown and Utica are also participating in the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative.