Summit to tackle soaring local poverty rate

Damon C. Williams, The Philadelphia Tribune, Nov. 16, 2014

Mayor Michael Nutter, shown here giving remarks during a recent Comcast internet essentials event.

Mayor Michael Nutter, shown here giving remarks during a recent Comcast internet essentials event.

Mayor Michael Nutter has made confronting poverty a staple of his administration’s five-year financial plan. Strategies include increasing training opportunities for low-skilled workers, language proficiency challenges and ex-offenders.

Plans also include developing a pipeline to municipal job opportunities for low-income residents, launching four benefits access centers and increasing awareness of public benefits.

“Poverty is a persistent and debilitating problem in Philadelphia, affecting more than 28 percent of our citizens,” Nutter said. “The continuing problem of poverty is unacceptable. By reorganizing and focusing on poverty reduction and opportunity creation efforts, we can better serve individuals in need and build a brighter future for our great city.”

Nutter will discuss these plans during a Uniting to Fight Poverty summit on Monday at Community College of Philadelphia.

“About 1,500 families become homeless every year,” according to a poverty survey report. “Children are the most frequent users of emergency shelters, outnumbering adults almost 2 to 1. Many Philadelphians live above the federal poverty line but still struggle to make ends meet, and face difficult choices between paying a utility bill and putting food on the table.

“Philadelphia has been slower to emerge from the 2008 global recession than elsewhere in the country,” the findings continued. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were fewer jobs in Philadelphia in 2012 than there were in 2011, and fewer jobs than there were in 2008, the first year of a two-year recession. The unemployment rate decreased in 2013, but not by enough. There are still too many people out of work.”

Poor education and a dearth of job training are significant contributors to the city’s poverty index.

Jobs in education and the health services have increased 18 percent in the last ten years, according to recent statistics. Twelve of the city’s 15 largest employers in 2012 were in the education and health sectors. The jobs in these sectors require skills and higher education or post-secondary training, which many Philadelphians who want to be in the workforce are lacking.

It is estimated that by 2030, 600,000 Philadelphians, nearly 39 percent of the current total population, will not have the skills to secure the types of jobs that will be available in the city.

Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. and members from the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity will also participate in the summit. Shared Prosperity Philadelphia is sponsoring the event, and the organization has provided sobering details illuminating the depth of the city’s poverty epidemic.

Stunning examples: Philadelphia has the worst poverty rate among the nation’s ten biggest cities at 28 percent. Between 430,000 and 440,000 people live below the federal poverty level, including 39 percent (135,000) who are children, 27 percent (265,000) who are work-age adults and 17 percent (32,000) of whom are seniors.

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