Health & City Services

Fighting Poverty

Under Mike Bloomberg, New York City’s welfare rolls fell 25 percent, and nearly 900,000 people moved from welfare to work. The Mayor created the Center for Economic Opportunity to find new ways to tackle poverty, and in 2012 the Center won the Harvard Innovations in American Government Award.

NYC is the only major city that did not experience an increase in its poverty rate since 2000.
From 2000 to 2013, NYC was the only major city that did not experience an increase in its poverty rate.
Child Care Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit
The Child Care Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit Initiative incentivized and supported working families.
Office of Financial Empowerment
The Office of Financial Empowerment was the first municipal office designed to educate, empower, and protect low-income New Yorkers and help them make the most of their financial resources.

Progress: Fighting Poverty


Poverty Rate Remained Flat: In 2013, New York City was the only top 20 city that did not experience an increase in its poverty rate since the 2000 U.S. Census. The increases in poverty rates in other large cities ranged from 3% in El Paso, TX to 17% in Philadelphia to 22% in Chicago to to 88% in Indianapolis, IN.

Life Expectancy: Life expectancy increased by 3.7 years in high poverty neighborhoods from 2001 to 2011.

Economic Mobility: NYC ranked 7th among the 21 largest metropolitan areas in the country on a key measure of economic mobility.

Job Placements: The Human Resources Administration and Department of Small Business Services increased job placements, helping over one million individuals find jobs.

Student Meals: From 2001 to 2013, the City increased the number of school breakfasts served by 33%, serving more than 221,000 breakfasts every day in FY 13.

Housing Subsidies: In NYC, housing subsidies lifted 6.2% of the City’s population out of poverty in 2011, compared to only 0.3% from federal subsidies nationally.


Decline in Street Homelessness: From 2005 to 2013, the number of people living on city streets, parks or other public spaces declined by 28%.

Ratio of Street Homeless to Overall Population in New York and Other Cities:

  • NYC 1 to 2,662

  • San Francisco 1 to 241

  • Los Angeles 1 to 294

  • Seattle 1 to 312

  • Miami: 1 to 764

  • Washington, DC: 1 to 931

Homebase: In 2004, the City launched a homeless prevention program designed to help families and individuals overcome immediate problems that could result in becoming homeless.

Mobile App Created to Report Street Homeless: The app is used to report homeless individuals and dispatch an outreach team to his or her aid.

NY/NY Agreement: In 2005, the City and state reached an agreement to create 9,000 units of supportive housing over the next ten years.

“Next Step” Shelter: In 2006, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) opened the first “Next Step” shelter for clients who need intensive case management to return to their communities.

Operation Home: DHS partnered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to create a task force on veteran homelessness.

Created a New Family Intake Center: The new facility replaced a rundown facility where people slept on the floor. The new, modern center improved the experience of interacting with City government.


Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO): In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg launched the Center for Economic Opportunity to break the cycle of poverty in New York City through innovative programs that build human capital and improve financial security. Many of CEO’s most successful initiatives were replicated nationally.

CEO Poverty Measure: CEO developed an improved measure of poverty that revises the official measure’s income and threshold sides. The measure widened the definition of income to include the effect of income and payroll taxes along with the cash value of in-kind benefits, like Food Stamp benefits. Families’ resources were also compared against a set of poverty thresholds that reflect New York City’s cost of living.

2010 Study on Center for Economic Opportunity Programs Found for Participants:  


  • 16% decrease in poverty

  • 33% decrease in food insufficiency

  • 38% decrease in families who reported that they did not get medical care because of costs


  • 42% increase in adults having a bank account

  • 20% decrease in using a check casher

  • 58% increase in families who have any savings


  • 66% decrease in students repeating 9th grade


  • Decrease in using Emergency Room for routine care

  • Increase in having two or more dental visits in first two years

  • 18% decrease in high school students reporting having a health condition

Work & Training

  • 6% increase in parents having a license or certificate

  • 32% increase in parents having an associate’s degree


WorkAdvance: This program aimed to increase income for low-wage workers through job upgrades, access to work support and asset building activities.

Employment Works: This partnership between the NYC Department of Probation and workforce development providers was created to increase the number of probationers connected to jobs that lead to economic self-sufficiency.

Food Handlers Training: This initiative certified Rikers Island inmates as food handlers, providing them with a tangible employment asset for re-entry.

Jobs-Plus: An evidence-based employment and training program was placed in a housing development in East Harlem.

Customized Training: Grants were developed to help businesses train, retain, and promote their existing low-wage employees.

Low Income Fast Track Entrepreneurship Program: This program was launched to support low-income entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses by providing (1) space and individualized technical support, (2) access to loans, (3) partnerships with local anchor institutions.

NYC Training Guide: A web-based service was developed to match job seekers with appropriate training programs to promote skills building and career advancement. This directory is the first comprehensive listing of NYC training programs.

Office of Financial Empowerment: Housed in the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, the Office of Financial Empowerment was the first municipal office designed to educate, empower, and protect low-income New Yorkers and help them to make the best of their financial resources.


Food Policy Coordinator: Established in 2007, the coordinator is responsible for convening the Food Policy Taskforce and coordinating the efforts of City agencies to improve access to healthy food.

Family Rewards: To help break the cycle of poverty, conditional cash payments were offered to incentivize families to take steps that would help improve their capacity to escape poverty.

SaveUSA: Eligible individuals can receive a 50 percent match if they deposit a portion of their tax refund into a “SaveUSA Account” and maintain the initial deposit for approximately one year. This initiative was a second generation pilot of SaveNYC, which the Obama Administration adopted and took national.


Child Care Tax Credit: New York became one of the only cities in the nation to adopt a local child care tax credit, which helped offset the cost of child care for low- to moderate-income families with children under the age of 4. The Credit offered up to $1,733 for qualifying families.

Earned Income Tax Credit Mailing: This initiative helped eligible low-income New Yorkers claim the earned Income Tax Credit by providing them with completed amended returns for prior tax years.


Reduction in Cash Assistance: The number of city residents on cash assistances dropped by 462,000, a nearly 25% drop.

Welfare to Work: An annual average of 80,000 of people moved from welfare to work, just under 1 million during the administration.

Responsible Fatherhood: Innovative programs were developed to connect low income fathers to the workforce and help them become a more stable presence in their children’s lives. Just one program, which works with unemployed non-custodial parents, led to payments from participants of approximately $36 million in child support in 2011 alone.

Wellness, Comprehensive Assessment, Rehabilitation and Employment (WeCARE): This program was established in 2005 to assist those with clinical barriers to employment achieve self-sufficiency. After its inception, over 18,000 found employment and over 38,000 permanently disabled clients were awarded federal disability benefits. 


Public Health Insurance: The number of New Yorkers receiving public health insurance increased from 1.7 million in 2002 to over 3 million in 2013. Less than 5% of NYC children are uninsured, due in large part to the role of the Bloomberg administration's efforts to promote public health insurance.

Food Stamp Benefits: The number of New Yorkers receiving food stamps benefits increased from 798,400 in 2002 to 1.85 million as of September 2013, partly as a result of the Federal government broadening eligibility requirements.

Collections of Child Support Dollars: Collections of child support dollars from non-custodial parents increased by 50% from $489 million in 2002 to $740 million in 2012. The paternity establishment rate for child support clients increased from 58% in 2003 to 72% in 2012.

Enhanced Child Care Options: In 2007, 33% of children were in group day care settings and by August 2013 that number had grown to 50%.


Services for Victims of Domestic Violence: The number of emergency shelter beds increased from 1,539 to 2,228 between 2002 and 2012, an expansion of 44%.

Served New Yorkers with HIV and AIDS: Homelessness among HIV/AIDS clients was reduced by increasing the number of families and individuals receiving special rental assistance, from 19,950 in January 2002 to over 26,000 in 2012.


Increased Annual Recoveries and Collections: Funds from benefit overpayments, hidden assets, settlements and other sources increased from $98 million in 2003 to $116 million in 2011. 

Deterring Fraud and Waste: A partnership was formed with the Brooklyn district attorney to prosecute Medicaid provider fraud and formed initiatives using technology to detect inaccurate payments and locate hidden assets that could lead to investigations of fraud and abuse.