As state lawmakers discuss how to reduce child poverty, the city of Rochester will soon open applications for a new grant to bolster savings accounts for kids to help strengthen economic opportunities for young New Yorkers. 

The city of Rochester's pilot program will invest $244,000 to help families establish savings accounts for their children. It's intended to lead more young people to have additional resources to improve their secondary education and future professional success.

"These savings accounts are definitely a great start," said Sen Jabari Brisport, who chairs the Children & Families Committee. "Any form of direct financial assistance for working-class kids is helpful. Studies are showing that just direct cash transfers to youth is incredibly helpful for stabilizing them in their early careers or when they're just getting off their feet."

As President Joe Biden unrolls a new repayment plan for Americans with student loans, state officials continue to look to implement new ways young people can save for college and other supplies to further their secondary education.

Pete Nabozny, director of policy of The Children's Agenda in Rochester, says these kinds of programs help young people be accustomed to saving for college and other lifelong investments.

"For a lot of families, it's really difficult to find the means to save $5, $10 a week, $50 a week, whatever it may be, to put down some money for something like college and the future," he said Monday. "For... particularly kids from low-income backgrounds, the prospect of going to college, even when we have all these tuition assistance programs and things like that out there, it's just pretty daunting."

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans says the city's program will begin in about a year and is meant to have long-term positive impacts on families' educational and economic achievements.

“This savings program is about equity and will teach our young people the skills and benefits of saving and budgeting," the mayor said in a statement last week.

Advocates want to further expand the state's Child Tax Credit, broadened earlier this year to include children under 4 years old to include nearly 630,000 additional children and increasing the income limit to expand eligibility to 525,000 low- and middle-income taxpayers at $179 million.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has pledged to cutting New York child poverty in half over the next decade.

"Fundamentally for a lot of people, being low-income, experiencing poverty, things like it, is really about a lack of resources and lack of money,” Nabozny said. “So if a program helps you save and put aside some money for something like college, it can actually afford these things and it can change your sense of horizons of what's possible for you and your future.”

Sen. Jabari Brisport, who chairs the Children and Families Committee, says a universal child care program, or making child care free to all parents, continues to be his top legislative priority looking ahead to next session. 

He says any financial assistance helps struggling New Yorkers find affordable housing, adding investments to improve the state's housing crisis could be effective, and achieved more quickly.

"By ensuring that all families have the access to direct cash transfers that wealthy families have is one way to ensure that we can reduce child poverty," said the senator, a Brooklyn Democrat.

He continues to push for the Legislature to fund the Housing Access Voucher Program to aid people on the verge of being evicted to reduce the number of homeless New Yorkers.

If lawmakers come back to Albany later this year for any unfinished business, the senator and others have said housing and eviction protections top his to-do list.

Nabozny says addressing issues like housing and consolidating other tax credits would combat middle-class poverty most effectively.

"We need to find ways to help people build more sustaining income for themselves and their families moving forward," Nabozny said.

The 2023-24 FY budget also allocated $34.5 billion in total school foundation aid, providing the most aid per pupil to low-wealth districts serving many high-need students, according to the Budget Division.

This also includes $134 million in incentives for low-income and nonpublic schools to fund free breakfast and lunch for all students to reduce child poverty.

Sen. Brisport is pressuring Gov. Hochul to sign a bill that passed at the end of session to form a committee to study reparations, or payments to New Yorkers who are descendants of enslaved people, to work toward racial and economic equity in the state.