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Budget includes funding for Obama inner city program

ALBANY — A small, little-noticed part of the state’s $156 billion budget is funding for New York’s version of the My Brother’s Keeper program, a signature effort of President Barack Obama to help inner-city youth, which supporters say will pay dividends for decades.

Assemb. Michael Blake (D-Bronx) gave an impassioned speech Friday about the budget’s $20 million in funding for the program as well as other elements of the state budget being passed Friday that include paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage. Blake spoke of how his father cleaned floors and his mother managed to raise a family while surrounded by poverty. Blake said elements of the state budget being voted into law Friday would provide a critical leg up for families like his.

After marathon budget sessions Thursday and Friday, Blake spoke of going to school at P.S. 79 among minority youths “being condemned to unemployment, condemned to poor schools.” But now “We’re changing the narrative.”

Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), , left his office to make an uncommon walk onto the Assembly floor to embrace Blake.

Assemb. Catherine Nolan (D-Queens), its Education Committee chairwoman, said New York will be the first state to get the Brothers Keeper jobs program running. The 2014 program using public and private funding will work in conjunction with the state Education Department. The program aims to develop best practices from around the nation in raising young men to help African-American and Latino males from childhood to adulthood. The program seeks to develop programs to help raise them from poverty and disadvantage.

Obama described the initiative as “helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works — when it works, in those critical, life-changing moments.”

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