President Barack Obama will announce on Thursday that a section of West Philadelphia will be selected as a "Promise Zone" as part of his effort to focus on income inequality in the lead-up to his State of the Union address.
Promise Zones are areas where the federal government provides tax incentives and grants to help communities tackle poverty. Obama first announced the initiative during last year's State of the Union speech.
The White House says Obama believes investing in and rebuilding economically challenged communities is crucial to helping children have a chance at success.
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“Being selected as a Promise Zone is an important step in the transformation process for a neighborhood struggling with high poverty, high crime, high vacancy, low educational attainment and low employment rates,” said Mayor Nutter. “Being a Promise Zone will enable the City to align existing resources and apply for new federal funding - building on efforts already at work - through a multi-faceted, focused approach. I want to thank President Obama and his Administration for this recognition and the opportunities it will provide.”
Philadelphia's Promise Zone will be focused around the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia, an Obama Administration official confirmed to NBC10. That area is north of Drexel University, bounded by the Schuylkill River to the east and the Philadelphia Zoo to the north.
The Promise Zone area covers 33,315 residents, has a poverty rate of 51 percent and the unemployment rate of 13.6 percent, officials said. Unemployment in the neighborhood is higher than the city average of 9.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The Administration has created a wonderful opportunity for communities like Mantua to be revitalized, such as increasingly affordable housing and improving safety. Now with the Promise Zone designation, we will be able to bring more resources to our community to address a comprehensive range of issues,” said Michael Thorpe, a community organizer and Chairman of the Board of Mt Vernon Manor.
Several city offices including the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, Philadelphia Police, School District of Philadelphia as well as Drexel University and other non-profits will help with the initiative, the administration said.
The Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO), the city's community action agency, will serve as the lead agency during the Promise Zone process.
“I am thrilled that the Promise Zone designation will provide federal agency support in helping us implement Shared Prosperity, our plan to fight poverty, and for this opportunity to assist residents of several West Philadelphia neighborhoods,” said Eva Gladstein, Executive Director, CEO.
Philadelphia will be one of the first Promise Zone locations. Mr. Obama will also announce that San Antonio, Texas, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma were selected. The administration received 31 applications in all for the first round of the program -- 19 from cities and 12 from rural areas.
On Thursday, President Obama will speak in detail on all five promise zones during a White House press conference. You can watch it live starting at 2 p.m. on NBC10.com.