By Sam Bojarski
Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed Jacques Jiha, an economist with three decades of public and private sector leadership experience, to serve as New York City budget director starting Nov. 1.
Jiha will lead the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, after serving as commissioner of the city’s Department of Finance since 2014. He will be tasked with overseeing New York City’s $88 billion budget, which funds such services as education, public health, policing, small business and immigrant programs.
“The city is facing some serious fiscal challenges,” Jiha, 62, said. “[I will be] working with the mayor and his staff to ensure that we put resources behind the objectives we have set for the city.”
The appointment comes amid a pandemic that has already forced the city to slash spending in the face of what some call a “financial abyss.” Sales taxes have already dropped this year as businesses close, and personal income tax revenues could drop by $2 billion this fiscal year.
In September, De Blasio announced a coronavirus recovery plan that Jiha said will factor into budget discussions. The recovery plan includes deploying more coronavirus testing, attracting public health research to the city and expanding services to neighborhoods that have suffered from economic and health inequities.
Jiha will draft the city’s budget and evaluate proposals from government bodies, including the City Council, to ensure the city’s plans are fiscally sound.
“He’s right now dealing with all the financials of the city,” Jose Bayona, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said about Jiha. “He’s a highly qualified person to hold this position.”
As finance commissioner, Jiha oversaw the agency responsible for collecting more than $40 billion in revenue to fund city services. He helped modernize the Department of Finance by introducing new technologies and data analytics, the mayor’s office said in announcing the appointment.
“In the process, [we] also modernized some of the tax laws, so that they became more transparent [to] make life a lot easier for the average taxpayer in New York City,” Jiha said.
Jiha lives in Queens with his wife, Marie Chantale Fulcher, and daughters Christine, Amanda and Kimberly.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Jiha immigrated to New York City from Haiti in 1979, at the age of 21. To pay for his bachelor’s degree in economics at Fordham University, he worked as a parking lot attendant. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in economics from The New School for Social Research in 1990.
Prior to his role as commissioner of the Department of Finance, Jiha served as chief operating officer and chief financial officer at the parent company of Black Enterprise magazine. He has also served as a deputy comptroller for both New York State and Nassau County.
Now, Jiha is taking the budget helm at a time when the city faces a $9 billion deficit due to the coronavirus crisis over the next two years. The prospect of laying off more than 20,000 city employees is a potential outcome in the absence of financial assistance, city officials have said.
“I understand the role of government in trying to create opportunities for those folks who are very vulnerable among us,” Jiha said. “So I will continue to work as hard as I can to make sure that the doors of opportunity remain open.”