With “Participatory Budgeting,” New Yorkers Decide How to Spend Funds

By Leslie Gersing, Producer, Video Editor | May 1, 2017 | runs 1:46

On April 25, 2017, New York City Council member Helen Rosenthal announced the winners of projects to be funded with $1.27 million, as a result of voting by her constituents in the Participatory Budgeting (PB) process. See my companion print article in the West Side Rag, April 29, 2017.

For more information on Participatory Budgeting in New York City, visit http://council.nyc.gov/pb/participate/ or @PB_NYC on Twitter.

Video: Perella Weinberg Partners Completes Combination with Tudor, Pickering & Holt

By Leslie Gersing, President, Skylight Video Productions| December 1, 2016 |

Skylight Video Productions staffed and produced the video for Perella Weinberg Parners’ completion of its combination with Tudor, Pickering & Holt, an integrated investment and merchant bank in the energy service sector. The production involved budgeting, hiring and overseeing all aspects of production, including crews in New York City and Houston, Texas. According to its press release, Perella Weinberg Partners is a financial services firm providing advisory, asset management and energy security research, underwriting and trading services to a broad, global client base including corporations, institutions and governments. It has over $12 billion in assets under management.

Video: Perella Weinberg Partners

Your Smile is Your Greatest Fashion Accessory

By Leslie Gersing, Producer | September 2016 |

American Association of Orthodontists hired Vidicom to produce a 30-second video to publicize the growing number of adults seeking orthodontic treatment. The spot drew hundreds of people to AAO’s “Your Smile is Your Best Fashion Accessory” pop-up event linked to New York fashion-week. I worked with the client to come up with a strategy, interviewed AAO’s spokesperson, and produced the spot using client and outside video and participants’ corporate logos. The spot aired on local New York TV stations and was also posted on AAO’s Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

FINRA: Securities Helpline for Seniors

By Leslie Gersing, President, Skylight Video Productions | June 2015 | https://i0.wp.com/www.finra.org/sites/all/themes/finra_theme/logo.png

Skylight Video Productions staffed and field produced coverage of the Industry Regulatory Authority’s annual meeting in Washington, DC. Here, FINRA’s Susan Axelrod and Jeffrey Pasquerella discuss FINRA’s new Securities Helpline for Seniors. Lines are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577).

Farm Bill signed into law, New Yorkers brace for food stamp cuts

President Obama signed the Farm Bill today at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, while the law’s principal Democratic sponsor, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)  said the nearly $1 trillion law, four contentious years in the making,  “works for every American.”
The President praised Democrats and Republicans for coming together to pass the bill, saying, “My position has always been that any farm bill I sign must include protections for vulnerable Americans. And thanks to the good of Debbie and others, this bill does that.”
The measure cuts about $9 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, over the next decade.

Video: SNAP Changes Put Millions at Risk, Say Advocates

 Many advocates for the hungry found themselves sighing with relief at that figure; House Republicans wanted $40 billion in food stamp cuts over the same period.  Still an estimated 850,000 households are set to lose an average $90 per month in food benefits.

“We’re really very disappointed how it turned out, said Hannah Lupien, Policy Director at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger in Manhattan, the nation’s oldest grocery style food pantry.   “Our elected officials and advocacy groups are declaring it a victory. There’s nothing victorious about hungry people losing an average of $90 in benefits every month.”  Lupien says about 25 percent of them are in New York City
.

Hannah Lupien                               Policy Director                               West Side Campaign Against Hunger

 The farm bill targeted New York and 12 other states (depending on whom you talk to), that qualified people for SNAP benefits by giving them just $1 worth of home heating assistance under a program known as LIHEAP.  Congress viewed the so-called “heat and eat” program as a loophole, and raised the minimum qualifying grant to $20 per household.

WSCAH serves about 11,000 people each month. Before the Farm Bill’s passage, Lupien and her colleagues projected it would be providing emergency food assistance to 128,000 this fiscal year, up from 75,000 in 2008.

“We’re unsure what New York and other states that utilize this program will be able to do to compensate for that change from $1 to $20, says Lupien. “We’re certainly not going to able to keep everyone on the program and certainly the intention of the Congress is to make sure …again, that those 300,000 households in New York, lose their benefits.”

These benefit cuts come on top of the expiration of an emergency increase in food aid in November, which affected everyone on SNAP.  As Margarette Purvis, President of the Food Bank for New York, points out in a February 7th letter to The New York Times.

Charities will not be able to step in and save the day. In New York City, we’ve already seen what happens when SNAP benefits are cut: 85 percent of the food pantries and soup kitchens in Food Bank for New York City’s network saw more people on their lines after across-the-board cuts to SNAP went into effect this past November than they saw in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and roughly half reported food shortages in that first month alone.

Since then, emergency unemployment benefits expired for another 1.7M Americans, during a bitter winter when fresh produce is seasonally unavailable. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to restore the benefits earlier this week.

 “We know that we will see some people who we’ve never seen before  because they’ve lost those $90 in snap benefits. What we believe is that we’ll see a lot of our same customers, more frequently. As opposed to seeing someone maybe once, twice, three times a year, maybe we’ll see them 4-5-6 times a year,” Lupien says.
Meanwhile,  New York advocates for the hungry are turning to the state, to push for an increase in the minimum wage. They’re also working with New York City’s new mayor and City Council to provide universal, free school feeding programs to all children, so the low-income kids won’t have to trade between the stigma of food hand-outs and empty bellies.

Maria Coronado’s First Trip to WSCAH

Back in Michigan, the President likened the bill to a “Swiss army knife,” because it does so much more than just help farmers, it helps jobs, innovation, research, infrastructure, and energy.  He added, “The truth is a lot of folks go through tough times at some points in their lives. That doesn’t mean they should go hungry.  Not in a country like America.”
Congress did increase funding to food pantries by a total $200M over the next decade, but Lupien says, “that $200 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the cuts that have been implemented, really in a war against our low-income neighbors.”
After leaving the food pantry, I stopped off at my local grocery store. It wasn’t lost on me that I could easily go there and buy whatever I needed – or wanted – to eat.  Right in front me in the checkout, an older woman was holding her SNAP benefits card in one hand and, returning a package of coffee, a can of milk and a bottle of orange juice with the other. She didn’t have enough to cover the grocery bill.  As she left with her much smaller bundles, the cashier said, “you still have 20 cents on the card.”