Utica Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI)
Brand-new Childcare Center: Academics First
United Way of the Mohawk Valley's Utica ESPRI project was unveiled in July 2020, as a brand-new childcare center that will offer care during evenings and weekends.
The childcare center, Academics First, is currently operating Monday through Friday, 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, with the intention to offer their extended hours soon! Academics First offers care for children raging in ages from 6 weeks to 12 years of age.
This project is centered on providing safe, affordable childcare, with education in the forefront. The childcare center hopes to be a model for change in our community, as the modern family's work hours vary beyond generalized business hours. This project was designed and launched to meet the needs of our community to enable job advancement, higher education attainment and growth of strong families.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled a proposal to combat poverty and reduce rampant inequality through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative in 2016. The $25 million program will bring together state and local government, non-profit and business groups to design and implement coordinated solutions to increase social mobility in sixteen communities across New York State, with Utica as one of the chosen cities. Read the official announcement.
United Way of the Mohawk Valley was designated lead agency on this project, with partners at the time including Mayor Robert Palmieri, now Congressman Anthony Brindisi, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties. Utica ESPRI brings together human service agencies, community leaders and people living in poverty to turn our story around - creating mobility for residents and advancing the common good for all.
The 2017 Kids Count Data ranks NYS, 41st for economic well-being. Based upon the 2017 NYS Community Action Agency’s Poverty Report, Oneida County has approximately 233,558 residents with 17.1% of the individuals living in poverty.
Utica, however, has approximately 62,235 residents with:
- 30% of the individuals living in poverty
- 47% of the children below 18 years-old living in poverty
- 72% of the African American children living in poverty
Based upon the A.L.I.C.E. Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), done by Rutgers University, Utica also has 23,828 working poor households. When considering housing affordability, job opportunities and community resources, in addition to the 30% poverty rate, another 32% of the families struggle to afford basic needs. Utica rises to 62% of the residents financially unstable.
In addition, the City of Utica conducted a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) in 2014 – 2015. This was a four-step process that included the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and other Federal, State and local partners. The CNA helped Utica identify its priority needs, providing a framework for a 2-year Action Plan. The goals and report can be found at by clicking here.
When Governor Cuomo’s new ESPRI was launched, the Utica ESPRI CORE Team and Steering Committee Leaders decided that additional data needed to be collected from the voices of poverty. The CNA data would be built upon. The end project identified for Phase II of ESPRI would include the community voices that struggle every day to overcome the barriers of poverty.