New York State is providing $200 back-to-school grants for more than 800,000 children in low-income families through the use of $140 million in federal stimulus money and a $35 million grant from billionaire George Soros. State officials and Soros made the announcement today in Manhattan, saying Soros’ gift allows the state to access $140 million in a four-to-one matching grant program through the federal stimulus package. The goal is to have needy families use the money to buy back-to-school supplies for their families.
“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,” Gov. David Paterson said in a statement.
Critics have questioned how the use of stimulus money for the program will help the economy. Also, the $200 will be deposited into the state-issued debit cards used by families who receive public assistance and food stamps. So there doesn’t appear to be any requirement that the money be used solely for children’s back-to-school supplies.
“It should be done on a programmatic basis where you have accountability and you know how it is being spent,” said Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef, a Republican.
Families who receive public assistance or food stamps are eligible for the one-time $200 bonus if they have school-aged children between ages 3 and 17.
Soros, a global financier and political activist, donated the money through his Open Society Institute.
“I hope these funds will relieve some of the financial burden on New York’s families so their children can start the school year off with a measure of optimism and hope for the future,” he said in a statement.