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LI group pitches projects to vie for millions of dollars in state funds

A therapy horse at Pal-O-Mine Equestrian in Islandia

A therapy horse at Pal-O-Mine Equestrian in Islandia gets some love from a group of corporate volunteers in 2017. Pal-O-Mine is seeking state funds to provide training to teens and adults with disabilities. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Judges in a statewide competition for business aid were impressed Tuesday by proposals from Long Island to make job training more available to veterans and people with disabilities.

Judge RoAnn Destito, commissioner of the state Office of General Services, said she was struck by a comment in a video that accompanied the presentation by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. In the video, an executive at Spectrum Designs Foundation, a screen printer in Port Washington that employs people with developmental disabilities, said, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Destito told the council members in Albany, “I think that says it all about your whole presentation. Your workforce strategies are very interesting.”

The local council was the last of 10 from across the state to make its pitch for a portion of more than $750 million in state tax credits and grants in the 2019 Regional Economic Development Councils’ contest. Winners will be announced next month at an Albany ceremony.

Since 2011, the Long Island Council has secured $638 million for 791 projects that together will create and preserve nearly 34,000 jobs.

Council co-vice chairmen Kevin Law of the Long Island Association business group and Stuart Rabinowitz of Hofstra University, told the state judging panel in Albany that “this year our efforts are focused on breaking down barriers and investing in people.”

The pair said the council has recommended projects for state funding that would address the high rates of unemployment among veterans and the disabled, provide more affordable housing and more daycare so parents can seek full-time employment.

Among the recommended projects is Pal-O-Mine Restore to Balance, a $3 million expansion of Pal-O-Mine Equestrian. The Islandia therapy program wants to provide job training, workforce preparedness and internships to teens and adults with disabilities. It’s seeking $600,000 from the state.

Judge Roberta Reardon, state labor commissioner, said Long Island has “deep pockets of poverty” despite its reputation as a wealthy region. “What kind of training and positions are you offering at a living wage to people who have lower educational attainments, who are living in poverty?”

Council member John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, an umbrella group of unions, said unions and businesses are developing more apprenticeship programs, where people learn on the job, get paid and eventually receive more responsibility and higher wages. He said pre-apprenticeship programs, such as Opportunities Long Island, prepare people to apply for apprenticeships.

“We are addressing poverty head-on every day,” Durso said.

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