Mayor’s office creates plan to reduce poverty

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Mayor Michael Nutter formed the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) in 2013 and gave it the task of reducing poverty in Philadelphia, which currently stands at roughly 28 percent — meaning nearly 440,000 Philadelphians are living in poverty.

To that end, the office created the ambitious Shared Prosperity Plan that outlines the steps the city could and should take in efforts to eradicate poverty. Now, a year after the plan’s publication, the community empowerment and opportunity office is seeking feedback on the progress of the plan via a public poll on its website,

“Shared Prosperity Philadelphia builds a foundation for systemic, long-term change in how the city assesses, confronts and reduces the effects of poverty to create a thriving Philadelphia for everyone,” wrote CEO executive director Eva Gladstein in a statement released in conjunction with the plan. “Shared Prosperity Philadelphia focuses on maximizing the impact of every federal, state and philanthropic anti-poverty dollar coming into the city while pursuing additional funding. To aid collaboration among the many individuals, organizations and agencies involved in fighting poverty, it promotes a philosophy of ‘collective impact’ that establishes a common agenda, a shared measurement system and continuous communication.”

The office is tracking progress through four wide indicators: education, employment and workforce development, housing assistance, and hunger and food access.

With those indicators in mind, Shared Prosperity Philadelphia will also use five broad approaches: Ensuring that children enter school prepared to learn and expand opportunities for year-round learning; focusing job creation and workforce development efforts on adults with the greatest barriers to employment; increasing housing security and affordability; expanding access to public benefits and essential services; and strengthening economic security and asset-building.

The city is currently implementing two initiatives based on the Shared Prosperity Philadelphia plan.

The Department of Commerce and Philadelphia Works are reviewing long-term economic trends to make it easier to match potential workers with opportunities. To spur new job creation, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation deployed a total of $110 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits between 2008 and 2012.

In terms of education, the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy and the Freedom Rings Partnership “will continue to aid thousands of participants to improve literacy and digital skills.” Groups like the Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success and programs such as PhillyGoes2College will sustain aid to students of all ages as they move into higher education.

Job training within the prison system will continue to be expanded.All told, there are more than two dozen city departments and agencies participating in the Shared Prosperity Philadelphia plan, and there are several metrics that stakeholders will strive to reach.

For example, in the job creation and workforce training portion, involved stakeholders are aiming to increase the number of jobs in Philadelphia by 25,000 by the end of 2015; narrow the gap between the national and local unemployment rate; annually create 100 new subsidized employment opportunities with support and job training; increase the number of seats available to low-income people in high-quality, post-secondary education and literacy training; add at least 1,700 jobs in the hospitality industry and hire 50 unemployed people through the First Source program every year.

The complete metric measurement profile is also available on the CEO’s website.

“Shared Prosperity Philadelphia is the first step in creating and implementing a comprehensive strategy to address poverty in Philadelphia. Persistent poverty is one of the biggest threats to our city’s future prosperity,” Gladstein said, noting collaboration is essential to the success of the plan. “It costs us tax revenue while increasing our already high demand for city services. Worst of all, it deprives thousands of our citizens from accessing their true potential. Poverty has increased from generation to generation for decades.

“CEO will convene stakeholders from the government, philanthropy, academia, business and consumer communities to achieve a common understanding of Philadelphia’s poverty problem and everyone’s role in its ongoing solution.”

Empowerment and Opportunity executive director Eva Gladstein, at podium. (Photo Courtesy The Benefit Bank Twitter Feed)

Empowerment and Opportunity executive director Eva Gladstein, at podium. (Photo Courtesy The Benefit Bank Twitter Feed)

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