NEW YORK (Reuters) - Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager George Soros are putting tens of millions of dollars of their own money into a New York City campaign aimed at helping black and Hispanic youth overcome racial disparities, the mayor said on Thursday.
The Young Men's Initiative will invest more than $125 million over the next three years in programs focusing on jobs, education and family issues, Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg's philanthropic foundation and Soros' Open Society will each donate $30 million and another $67.5 million will come from the city.
"We believe it is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive attacks on racial and ethnic disparities among young men that any city has ever taken," Bloomberg told business and community leaders.
"When we look at poverty rates, graduation rates, one thing stands out: blacks and Latinos are not fully sharing in the promise of American freedom and far too many are trapped in circumstances that are difficult to escape," said Bloomberg, a billionaire now in his third term as mayor.
"We know that the crisis of unemployment among black and Hispanic men is inextricably linked to another major challenge: the revolving door of our justice system," Bloomberg added, noting that almost three of every four men who leave New York's Rikers Island jail facility will return.
The new program also will overhaul the city's probation system, which Bloomberg said "will transform itself into an agency designed to hold people accountable while connecting them to employment and educational opportunities."
The initiative also includes reforms to the city's education system and mentoring programs, including encouraging fathers to be more involved parents.
On Wednesday Bloomberg said he and five other donors who he declined to name each gave $250,000 to pay for tests required for graduation from city high schools that were canceled early this year due to state budget cuts.
(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr.; editing by Chris Michaud and Vicki Allen)