The Community Service Society of New York applauds the announcement of changes in the work requirement policies at the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA). In addition to the valuable allowance of college and English as a Second Language classes to fulfill work requirements, CSS is especially glad to see the focus on offering individuals without a high school diploma—who comprise 60 percent of the HRA caseload—the chance to receive the educational services that will let them build skills, and better enter our workforce and civic life.
In addition, the new focus on providing targeted services to young adults through age 24 represents a major positive public policy shift, for which HRA Commissioner Steven Banks and Mayor de Blasio deserve significant credit. Until now, HRA programs for this population had been hugely unsuccessful, as we documented in a 2011 report. Under these new reforms, HRA is using its resources to provide poor New Yorkers with the skills they need to improve their economic status, rather than penalize them for ending up at the wrong end of the income distribution.
It’s particularly gratifying to note that these changes echo recommendations in our 2011 report. Two years ago, findings and recommendations from the report led to the passage of City Council legislation making it easier for young people to access educational programs and meaningful services to help them escape poverty. I want to acknowledge the efforts of CSS Director of Education Policy, Lazar Treschan, who is lead author of the report and has worked diligently to draw attention to the hardships faced by the city’s 177,000 disconnected youth.