OSWEGO — The Port City is moving forward with the expansion of a program aimed at assisting families and individuals by increasing their income and reducing their reliance on public assistance through education, job training and other measures.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow announced the second round of the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program in a press release Thursday, noting the city was awarded a $54,000 grant to fund the initiative, which is administered by the city’s Rental Assistance Office. The $54,000 grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will allow the city to enroll 50 Oswego families in the FSS program and assist with career building and financial security.

“The city of Oswego’s Rental Assistance Program continues to reinforce a ‘hand up’ approach while assisting families and individuals, versus the all too common ‘hand out’ approach, when it comes to social services,” Barlow said in a statement. “Our Family Self-Sufficiency Program provides real help to Oswego families, putting them on track to true self-sufficiency by assisting with employment opportunities, budgeting, home ownership and other skills that can help a family achieve long-term success without continued dependence on social services from the government.”

The FSS program partners the city’s rental assistance program with Section 8 enrolled families by entering the two parties into a five-year contract. Rental assistance officials then develop an individual training service plan, advise the family on finances, and assist with education, transportation, job training, employment counseling, home ownership and other services.

Section 8 rental assistance is a federal program administered by HUD aimed at increasing housing choices for low-income families and individuals by paying landlords the difference between what a household can afford and the actual cost for privately owned rental units.

Under the FSS program, each family’s earning power and wages are expected to grow, and in turn the family’s share of rent would increase. While the family’s rent responsibility increases, the rental assistance program credits the family’s increased portion of rent to an escrow account each month, and when the program concludes the families may access and use the escrow for any purpose. 

Jen Gallagher, director of Oswego’s Rental Assistance Program, said the city is excited about the opportunity to increase the FSS program, which she called rewarding for both the city staff and the Section 8 clients. Gallagher said the program provides families with the necessary tools to achieve self-sufficiency.

A successful FSS pilot program in the city previously graduated six individuals, and city officials are looking to utilize the program to help more people.

The expansion of the FSS program builds on the city’s 2017 overhaul of the Section 8 housing program, which revised the ranking system prioritizing who received assistance and tied the program to workforce development. Barlow said the FSS program and the Section 8 reforms advance the same objectives, including encouraging and placing a greater value on work, school and progress.

Individuals and families in the FSS program will work with the city to create specific goals, and the program is aimed at helping them achieve those objectives, which will largely include increasing their income and reducing dependence on public assistance and rental subsidies. City staff works with the families to track finances and provide counsel to help them achieve their goals.

City officials said that in order to graduate from the program, families must seek and obtain full-time employment and/or be without public assistance for 12 months.

The city’s Section 8 Rental Assistance Program is located at 159 Liberty St.  More information can be found at www.oswegohousing.org.

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