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Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper urges change in state grant stewardship

Deputy state Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) speaks

Deputy state Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) speaks during a town hall meeting in the Hempstead Public Library on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Credit: Jeff Bachner

The deputy state Assembly speaker decried the choice of the United Way of Long Island to administer an anti-poverty grant in Hempstead Village during her town hall meeting on Wednesday night.

Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) has been a vocal critic of Mayor Wayne Hall Sr.’s decision to put United Way in charge of the $1.5 million state grant through the Empire State Anti-Poverty Initiative.

Hooper said Wednesday she wants the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County to be in charge of the grant instead. She said she believes the United Way does not meet the initiative’s criteria to be the grant’s lead agency.

“You have sent me to Albany to be your voice, and God had asked me to be his tool” to do what is right for residents, Hooper said. “I refuse to step back, but I cannot do it without your voices, your bodies.”

Hooper told about 200 people in the audience at Hempstead Public Library that “there is a misunderstanding in the village” about who allocated the funds to Hempstead. Residents were led to believe Cuomo was responsible for it, but Hooper said she selected Hempstead Village over Freeport to receive the grant.

Earlier this month, a coalition of ministers, officials and nonprofit groups wrote letters to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration saying Hooper was delaying the project, trying to control which social-service agency will distribute the money in the Village of Hempstead.

Hall did not attend Wednesday’s meeting but has accused Hooper of interference with the grant distribution. He said in an interview: “I felt the best company to do this was the United Way.”

Residents asked Hooper about how United Way was selected for the grant, job training opportunities in the village, local library funding and school districts concerns.

Hooper, in a Jan. 13 letter to the agency distributing the grants, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, urged to “sequester the $1.5 million” grant “until the vetting and approval process is completed and reviewed by OTADA and me in accordance with my understanding and agreement with the governor’s office.”

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