Rachel Barnhart called for the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative to release its annual budget, including staffing, contracts and other spending.
“We know millions of taxpayer dollars have been diverted to RMAPI, but these off-the-books expenditures are not transparent. We need to know how this money is being spent. We cannot evaluate this major initiative without this information,” said Barnhart.
Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and Mayor Lovely Warren started RMAPI in 2015 after obtaining state funding. The United Way appears to be running RMAPI.
Barnhart filed open records requests with the City of Rochester and Empire State Development. Both replied they have no information about RMAPI’s budget or spending. She has requests pending with the state comptroller and Monroe County.
Barnhart also asked Dr. Leonard Brock, head of RMAPI, and two other United Way staffers for this information. Brock did not respond to an email and an associate did not respond to a phone message. Another United Way staffer referred her to Brock.
“There is zero information on the RMAPI website about spending. Citizens have a right to know how this money is being used,” Barnhart said. “Lovely Warren has been very involved with RMAPI, but not to the extent she has any budget documents. Who is minding the store?”
“I’m concerned we have created another anti-poverty bureaucracy without any clear plan. We have a lot of agencies and programs to fight poverty. We don’t fund them properly,” Barnhart said. “RMAPI should be focused on policy-level problems. They should be tackling affordable housing, childcare, transit, job-training and the benefits cliff.”
Instead, the only thing RMAPI has come up with to help people is an adult mentoring program, which will cost a reported $3 million to help 300 families, a cost of $10,000 per family.
“Perhaps we should cut those families a check,” Barnhart said. “Studies show giving poor people money is beneficial. RMAPI appears to be designed to give everyone but poor people cash. That’s why I’m asking today, where is the money and what governmental entity is responsible for monitoring RMAPI?”