Niagara Gazette

January 30, 2014

EDITORIAL: Isaiah 61 a great place to send JP Morgan funds

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It’s hard to believe a company, any company, could agree to pay a $13 billion settlement and remain in business.

But, when you are a financial giant like JP Morgan Chase, these things happen. 

The firm’s settlement with the federal government stems from its role in the subprime mortgage crisis.

New York’s cut of the deal is $613 million. The funds are to be distributed under an agreement reached between the offices of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The AG’s office has announced plans to use its $81.5 million cut of the first $163 million settlement share to support anti-foreclosure programs statewide. Coumo’s office has already said its portion will be used for housing programs. 

Last week, state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, wrote a letter to Cuomo, encouraging the governor to allocate a portion of the money to the Isaiah 61 Project, an effort being led by a local non-profit group that is rehabilitating homes in Niagara Falls while providing skills training to residents in need of careers.

As Maziarz said, the project is proving to be a success in Niagara Falls and, with additional funding from the state, could be a “win, win, win” for all parties involved. 

We heartedly endorse the use of JP Morgan settlement dollars to support Isaiah 61 Project’s local efforts. 

The project, organized by founder Jim Haid, has already grown from humble beginnings. It involves construction students, typically unemployed or underemployed, who divide their time between the classroom and vacant homes in the city. Participants hone their construction skills while rebuilding houses, learning everything from blue print reading, to electrical, plumbing and drywall installation.

Last year, the program received a significant stamp of approval from the Oishei Foundation, which agreed to provide it with $200,000. 

The city of Niagara Falls, under the leadership of Mayor Paul Dyster and Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo, have fully embraced the project as well.

Maziarz’s suggestion to the governor is a good one. 

Additional funding from the settlement source can only enhance the efforts of the Isaiah 61 Project and help it grow in a community where the housing stock desperately needs all the help it can get. 

JP Morgan’s role in the subprime mortgage crisis is now well documented. The whopping settlement about says it all. 

The fact remains that the state of New York will enjoy a cut of the money and those dollars will be spent somewhere.

Why not in Niagara Falls and why not on a project with so much promise and potential? 

We encourage Gov. Cuomo to strongly consider the senator’s recommendation and invite all elected officials representing the community to join in on the advocacy effort. 

The Isaiah 61 project seeks to rebuild dilapidated homes in Niagara Falls one at a time while helping city residents learn valuable new skills.

Sounds like a sound investment to us.