Language Diversity and English-Speaking Ability in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse

June 12, 2017. Many institutions in upstate New York cities and metro areas are wrestling with translation services, language access, and other ways to help integrate local residents who didn’t grow up speaking English. And, while the immigrant share of the population is not as big as in cities like New York or Los Angeles, the diversity of languages spoken can make for its own challenges.

An analysis of the 2015 American Community Survey 5-year data for Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse cities and metro areas demonstrates how languages spoken vary from the suburbs to the cities.

As in most of the country, the most common language for people who don’t speak English is Spanish. Yet, while nationwide 62 percent of people who speak a language other than English speak Spanish, in upstate New York Spanish is considerably less dominant—the parallel figures for the cities and metro areas shown here range from 31 to 46 percent.

After Spanish, there’s a striking range of languages spoken. Chinese, French, Italian, Polish, and Arabic feature prominently in many areas—sometimes spoken by new immigrants, sometimes by older immigrants from a previous generation. Quite a few of the languages spoken in these communities are not even enumerated in the data – the comparatively large “other Asian languages” category, for example, includes Nepali, spoken by refugees from Bhutan and a number of distinct languages spoken by refugees and immigrants from Burma, among many others. This in part reflects the diversity of immigration, and in part the substantial refugee resettlement programs in the region.

The languages spoken in each city may vary significantly from those spoken in the corresponding metro area, which includes both the city and its surrounding suburbs. That’s because the characteristics of immigrants living in the city vary quite a bit from those of immigrants living in the suburbs.

However, not all individuals who speak another language need translators or translated documents because there is a variation of English speaking ability among different languages. Those that speak a language other than English are more likely to live in the city than in the suburbs, for all three upstate areas.

In the Rochester metro area, for example, at least 50-percent of all people that speak another language speak English “very well.” The only exceptions are those that speak Vietnamese, Laotian, and other Indic Languages. The English-speaking ability data are reported for the metro area.

by Cyierra Roldan

Below are links to the downloadable data for Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.




Trump Budget Would Shift Huge SNAP Costs to New York and Put New Yorkers at Risk of Going Hungry

For Immediate Release: June 13, 2017                                                    

Media Contact:
Ron Deutsch (FPI) 518-469-6769

Sherry Tomasky (Hunger Solutions) 518-414-2570


Trump Budget Would Shift Huge SNAP Costs to New York and

Put New Yorkers at Risk of Going Hungry


Albany, NEW YORK –  President Trump’s budget proposal would shift a significant share of the cost of the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program’s (SNAP, previously known as Food Stamps) benefits to states and, for the first time, allow states to cut SNAP benefits, seriously threatening SNAP’s extraordinary long-term success  in reducing severe hunger and malnutrition, according to a new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Read Full Report here:

“This proposal threatens to dramatically increase the number of New Yorkers at risk of going hungry,” said Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “This type of seismic cost shift would be unconscionable. New York’s congressional delegation must reject any proposal that puts New Yorkers, including children, seniors, and people with disabilities, at risk of going hungry.”

“The President’s proposal threatens the nutrition safety net for the nearly 3 million people who rely on SNAP in New York.  SNAP is a lifeline for children, seniors, veterans, and adults struggling with low wages, temporary joblessness and involuntary part-time work, and all will suffer if this proposal is realized,” said Linda Bopp, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions New York.  “SNAP is one of government’s most effective programs and serves as the first line of defense against hunger. It lifts and keeps New York families out of poverty, improves nutrition and health, and boosts the economy. It is one of the nation’s very best investments. The damage that these proposed cuts would inflict — combined with additional threats to programs that lower income families rely on – will create untold suffering for New Yorkers. These cuts must be rejected by Congress.”

Historically, SNAP benefits have been financed with federal funds to ensure that regional disparities in hunger, poverty and resources are properly addressed which has helped ensure that low-income households have access to adequate food despite where they might live.

The President’s budget would end this longstanding and successful approach by forcing states to cover 10 percent of SNAP benefit costs beginning in 2020, and increasing that share to 25 percent in 2023 and later years. The proposal would cut federal SNAP funding by $116 billion over a decade.

Once the provision was fully in effect, New York would face $1.2 billion in additional annual costs, and over the full ten years of the Trump budget, New York would face at least $8.5 billion in additional costs.

“New York would be unable to absorb such significant cost shifts without cutting SNAP benefits and taking other steps that could increase hunger and hardship,” said Susan Zimet, executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State. “And New Yorkers would face longer, deeper recessions, since SNAP plays a key role in sustaining demand at local food stores during economic downturns.”

New York State is already struggling to meet existing needs, let alone absorb new costs. New York has child poverty levels reaching over fifty percent in some upstate cities and over 80,000 people experiencing homelessness throughout the State. On top of those issues, the state is forecasting that revenues will be far short of projections for the coming fiscal year. More than 2.9 million New Yorkers received SNAP benefits in March 2017, down slightly from a year ago.

And, these added costs would come on top hundreds of billions of dollars in additional costs shifts to states in the President’s budget. In total, the President’s budget would shift about $453 billion annually to states and localities once the cuts were fully implemented in 2027.

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Essay: NY Should Pass Driver’s License Bill For Undocumented Immigrants

June 9, 2017. In this op-ed Jennifer Hirsch argues that issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants can help with economic development and provide additional revenue to help with economic struggles, such as flooding and urban blight. Hirsch goes on to argue how immigrants are not able to contribute to the local economy if they do not have transportation to local shops.

You might not think of access to driver’s licenses for our state’s estimated 775,000 undocumented immigrants as economic development. But an analysis by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer estimates it would boost statewide auto sales by 2.7 percent and lower individual auto insurance rates. The Fiscal Policy Institute projects $26 million in one-time tax revenues and $57 million in annual revenue through license and title fees and vehicle, parts and gasoline sales taxes.

The bill would ensure that drivers on our roads have been tested on our rules, provide access to insurance, and give the state more information about who lives in our midst. Twelve other states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar legislation, which does not violate the federal REAL ID act. Law enforcement officials and politicians from Dayton, Ohio, to Los Angeles see these laws as about public safety: New Mexico, for example, saw substantial declines in both traffic fatalities and uninsured motorists. Voices from across the state, from Ithaca to Buffalo, including Syracuse Mayor Kathy Miner, also support the legislation.

Here is the link to the Democrat & Chronicle.

Groups Seek Action in Albany to Counteract Trump Policies

June 5, 2017. FPI, along with other organizations, are urging the New York legislature to make changes that will counteract some of the harm from Trump’s policies. These include expansion of the Millionaires’ Tax, the right to clean water and air, expansion of voting rights and help for the homeless, as well as protection for immigrants and prevention of bid-rigging and bribery.

Ron Deutsch, who is with the union-backed think tank Fiscal Policy Institute, said Cuomo and lawmakers should act to address an economic development scandal in the governor’s office that’s led to nine former Cuomo associates charged with crimes including bid-rigging and bribery. Trials could begin as early as October.

“Many members of the governor’s inner circle are intertwined in this bid-rigging scandal,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch said one of the bills would reinstate the authority of State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to review the economic development projects before they are finalized to flag potential conflicts or illegalities.

Here is the link to WXXI News.

Watchdog Groups to Senate and Assembly: Don’t Come Home Without Passing Comprehensive Clean Contracting Reforms

For immediate release: June 5, 2017

Ron Deutsch, Executive Director
518-786-3156 (o), 518-469-6769 (c),


Watchdog Groups to Senate and Assembly: Don’t Come Home Without Passing
Comprehensive Clean Contracting Reforms

Legislature has yet to act on massive corruption risks revealed by biggest bid rigging scandal in New York State history

Watchdog groups again called on New York State Senate leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to pass comprehensive Clean Contracting legislation.

To date, the legislature has not passed the comprehensive reforms needed to reduce the enormous corruption risks revealed by the alleged rigging of $800m in upstate economic development contracts. In late October, nine people, including senior state officials, prominent Upstate real estate developers and political contributors to the governor, will go on trial for their alleged part in the scandal.

The groups specifically urged Flanagan and Heastie to pass the Comptroller’s Clean Contracting bill (S. 3984-A/A.6355) in its entirety and expressed strong support for the bill’s key provisions including:

  • Forbidding state controlled nonprofit organizations from contracting on behalf of the state unless specifically allowed by the legislature. (State controlled nonprofits like Fort Schuyler Management Corporation are at the center of the Upstate bid rigging scandal.)
  • Requiring state authorities to use procurement guidelines consistent with state agencies.
  • Giving the Comptroller the authority to pre-review SUNY/CUNY construction and  construction services, materials and printing contracts,  and OGS centralized contracts.
  • Requiring Comptroller approval of state funded SUNY Research Foundation contracts of over $1 million.

The Groups believe independent oversight is the only way to guarantee basic fairness to state vendors, including MWBE firms and small businesses.  The Comptroller’s review of existing contracts has already stopped 777 contracts and transactions valued at $28.15 billion this year alone due to fraud, waste, or other improprieties.  The average review of contracts took just six days in April.

Both Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate President John Flanagan have expressed support for procurement reform.  The Senate has moved the Comptroller’s bill out of committee and made amendments resulting from negotiations with the business community.  The Assembly version does not yet reflect the amendments.  One third of the Senate has co-sponsored the bill while the Assembly legislation has 25 co-sponsors.

The Comptroller’s legislation contains three of Five Clean Contracting Reforms Proposed by Watchdog Groups:

  1. Require competitive and transparent contracting for the award of state funds by all state agencies, authorities, and affiliates. Use existing agency procurement guidelines as a uniform minimum standard.
  2. Transfer responsibility for awarding all economic development awards to Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and end awards by state non-profits and SUNY.
  3. Empower the Comptroller to review and approve all state contracts over $250k.
  4. Prohibit state authorities, state corporations, and state non-profits from doing business with their board members.
  5. Create a ‘Database of Deals’ that allows the public to see the total value of all forms of subsidies awarded to a business – as six states have done.

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