Jamestown Poverty Reduction Initiative Task Force holds first meeting

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — The local Task Force with the goal of reducing poverty in Jamestown met for the first time Thursday.

The Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, also know as ESPRI, is a program first introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s during his State of the State address earlier this year. Jamestown was one of 16 cities in the state selected to participate in ESPRI. As part of the state budget, the city will receive $1 million in funding for the poverty reduction initiative.

Step one for city officials was to find a nonprofit agency to conduct the program. Last week, it was announced the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County was selected from several local groups to lead the city’s poverty initiative. City officials have up to $200,000 to spend for the administration of the poverty reduction initiative.

Step two of the process is for the formation of a local task force who will work with a state consultant. The task force will develop a plan to find new solutions to help those living in poverty. Once the plan is developed it will then be implemented.

During the first task force meeting, Tory Irgang, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County executive director, gave an overview of what the local group is expected to do during the poverty initiative process. Around 20 people attended the first meeting from several community groups and businesses. Irgang said state officials stipulated who should be a part of the local task force group. The invatation guidelines included representatives from city, county and state government; local school district and educational organizations; nonprofit and faith-based community organizations; local businesses who employee local people; workforce service entities; economic development organizations; public safety officials; and health services providers. Also, needing to be a part of the task force is someone who is living in poverty. Irgang said they haven’t reached that step yet in the process, but will in the future. The local task force will focus on working to impact those who live in poverty who live in the city, Irgang said. She said the state has given very little direction, which provides more of an opportunity for the task force to localize the program. She added that the plan will be a targeted approach to help a certain group live in poverty. For example, the local initiative might focus on assisting children who live in poverty.

“We won’t be able to help everybody,” Irgang said.

The timeline for the city’s ESPRI program indicates the local task force will continue to work to design an implementation plan that is scheduled to be submitted to the state in March 2017. From there, the group will have roughly a year, May 2018, to spend the state funding on the poverty initiative plan. In June 2018, a final report is scheduled to be submitted to state officials.

Irgang said the next task force meeting will take place in December. At that meeting, the group will analyze local demographic data to possibly determine who the city’s ESPRI funding should be targeted toward assisting.

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