THE BLOG
12/13/2012 10:03 am ET Updated Feb 12, 2013

Post-Sandy: Remaining Focused on the Poor

Last night, more than 13,000 people came to Madison Square Garden and hundreds of millions of people around the world tuned in to watch an amazing concert. They listened to legendary musicians -- including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys and Dave Grohl -- and, far more importantly, contributed millions of dollars to the Sandy relief effort. Thanks to the generosity of concert organizers, sponsors, and Robin Hood's board of directors, every single penny from ticket purchases and donations will go to organizations helping the superstorm's victims -- many of whom are the poorest members of communities across our area.

Unfortunately, we know from long experience that memories are short, perspectives are limited and the excitement of the moment will dissipate. We worry that the plight of the impoverished of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, who were disproportionately affected by this devastating storm, will receive insufficient attention. As discussions turn toward requests to the federal government for long-range, multi-billion dollar rebuilding packages, we must continue to address with great urgency the immediate needs of the poor, such as food and shelter, as well as more long-term needs, such as housing, job training and assistance navigating relief programs.

Poverty was already a major issue in New York City before Sandy hit; according to the Center for Economic Opportunity, the number of New Yorkers who were classified as poor in 2010 increased by nearly 100,000 from the year prior, raising the poverty rate to 21 percent. Representing one out of five New Yorkers, this is the highest level and the largest year-to-year increase since New York City adopted a more detailed definition of poverty in 2005.

From everything we have seen, Sandy has significantly exacerbated these statistics, adversely affecting the entire poverty infrastructure. Thousands of minimum-wage day jobs were eliminated when the superstorm destroyed waterfront businesses; one estimate from The New York Times puts the job losses as high as 10,000. As of November 14, the Small Business Administration has issued more than 59,000 disaster-relief loan applications to affected businesses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut -- a great many from the construction, transportation and food-service industries.

Prior to Sandy, New York City was already grappling with a substantial number of homeless individuals, reporting 46,000 in shelters each night, including 20,000 children. As a result of the storm, as many as 30,000 to 40,000 additional people were added to that figure.

Learning from Robin Hood's 24 years of experience, including working closely with the victims of the September 11th attacks, we know firsthand how important it is to address the immediate needs of the underprivileged, especially children, who are invariably the most vulnerable when economic and social conditions take a sudden turn for the worse.

The good news is that opportunities to help are prevalent and there are already numerous examples of aid reaching those who need it most. So far, Robin Hood has made grants to more than 140 different nonprofit organizations in the regions that were hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Within hours of the storm, Robin Hood-funded projects and nonprofits provided critical supplies such as blankets, hot food, heaters, generators and supplies to the residents in Red Hook, Coney Island, the Rockaways and other areas across the region.

Now, in the five weeks following Sandy, Robin Hood has distributed more than $14.8 million to organizations in the tri-state area, including the Children's Health Fund, Red Hook Initiative, Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Affordable Housing Alliance, Food Bank for New York City, Family League Service, Project Hospitality, SCO Family of Services, and Team Rubicon.

With more than two decades of experience, we know how to effectively and efficiently deploy resources to best alleviate the suffering of New Yorkers in need. Working closely with local nonprofit organizations with a proven record of success is essential, as they are an integral part of the communities hardest hit and are best able to deliver appropriate and timely care.

Last night was a wonderful display of generosity by the performers and participants in 12-12-12 The Concert for Sandy Relief, all of whom wanted to lend a helping hand. Now we must find a way to harness the momentum and the good will generated by this joyous event to address the ever-present needs and problems of the poor in this region. When we call upon the best within us, we have the ability and wherewithal to make a huge difference in the lives of millions of individuals.

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