Russell Sykes

Russell Sykes is a senior fellow at the Empire Center for Public Policy. He joined the Center in December of 2011.

Most recently, he was the Deputy Commissioner for the Center for Employment and Economic Supports (CEES) in New York’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). In that role he was responsible for policy development, federal, state and local relations and the state oversight of many of New York’s major income support programs. These included the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant to states, Welfare to Work Programs, the Federal Food Stamp Program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the State Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program, and the development of New York’s online integrated access portal, “MyBenefits.”

Sykes is a nationally recognized expert in TANF and other human services programs, having served as a Board Member of the American Public Human Services Association. He also was past President of the National Association of State TANF Administrators (NASTA). In that role he testified before Congress, organized Congressional Briefings on TANF Reauthorization. and was quoted in articles appearing in both USA Today and the Washington Post.

Sykes has been a frequent op-ed writer for the Albany Times Union, Newsday, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and was often quoted in major news articles related to human services and tax policy, including USA Today and the Washington Post.

Over his more than 30 years of policy and operational leadership, Sykes has served in numerous capacities. For 17 years, he was the Vice President of the State Communities Aid Association (now known as the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy), managing their policy portfolio in economic security. He was the major architect of New York’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) legislation enacted in 1994 and of its expansion in 1998 and 2003. From 1994 to 2003, Sykes was also an elected member of the Board of Education in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District, where among other things he was a principal negotiator of one four year contract and also served on the curriculum and instruction and school finance committees. Prior to that, Sykes worked on hunger policy with the Washington DC based Food Research and Action Center, and a rural Pennsylvania based four-county community services organization.

Sykes is a graduate of Gettysburg College.

Email Russel: RSykes@EmpireCenter.org

Phone: 518.434.3100