monkey-bars-smiles.jpg850,000 New York children in low-income families will receive $200 each for back to school supplies from wealthy financier George Soros. Soros and his Open Society Institute today announced a $35 million gift for kids across the state for purchasing supplies and clothing for the new school year.

The grants enable the state to draw upon another $140 million in federal stimulus matching funds. Governor Paterson, who announced with Soros the program at a Harlem elementary school, said helping families who are on public assistance and food stamps was most definitely an economic stimulus.

“Even in the toughest of economic times, starting the school year right is key to a child’s success,” said Mr. Soros. “When I was a student after World War II, I had no money. I received financial help, and I remember how important that was to my education. Since then I have been very fortunate and am happy to have the opportunity today to help others. I hope these funds will relieve some of the financial burden on New York’s families,” added Mr. Soros.

The $35 million donation will go to the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which oversees programs for low-income families. The matching funds will arrive via the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families emergency contingency fund. This fund was established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is solely dedicated to covering benefits and services targeted to needy families.

Starting today, the $175 million sum will provide eligible families of school children, ages 3-17, with a one-time payment of $200 per child.

“This first-of-its-kind partnership in New York is an example of how the public and private sectors can work together to foster a brighter future for the low-income families of our state,” Governor Paterson said.

Mayor Bloomberg said: “Over the past year in New York City, we’ve attacked the national recession by connecting New Yorkers to employment, job training and the critical financial supports they need. George Soros’s generous gift — combined with federal funding — will also pump money into our local economy at a time when we need it most.”

As part of this landmark effort to provide financial relief to families across the state, Payless ShoeSource, Princeton Review, Staples, and Target are partnering with Back to School New York to help promote this unique one-time benefit. An in-store display at supporting retailers will offer helpful tips like shopping for basic items first and involving children in getting ready for the new school year.

soros-small.jpg Mr. Soros’s $35 million gift follows a $50 million pledge in May to help people in New York City living in poverty. These gifts, totalling $85 million, are among the largest ever made to satisfy basic necessities. In June, Mr Soros gave $100 million to help communities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, regions deeply affected by the global downturn. Over the past 25 years, his charitable foundations have given away some $7 billion to strengthen communities and justice around the world.

Open Society Institute

(Top photo courtesy of Sun Star)

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