New York City can revive its economy by helping Haitians and other immigrants get small business loans, creating jobs and other programs for at-risk youths, boosting anti-foreclosure efforts, and setting up neighborhood credit unions, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Wednesday.
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, a third-term mayor who won re-election as an independent and who has long campaigned for national immigration reform, called on law firms, charities and community groups to form a new public-private partnership to help Haitians qualify for this legal status.
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.
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.
All business owners will benefit from a lighter paperwork burden, as license applications will be sped and coordinated among agencies, kick-starting new enterprises.
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 to their properties and overmortgaged them.
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.
© AFP 2013