Good afternoon and thank you all for participating in this important summit.
Before I get started, I do want to extend a very special thank you to the staff at CEO and the CEO Oversight Board. Your dedication and hard work has been critical to our continued progress in the fight against poverty. And, I know that the good work you all do is made possible through the incredible relationships you have built with the other people in this room – partners, stakeholders and community leaders. I am proud to call you our partners in combating poverty.
Working together, we have seen some success, but still, the statistics are heartbreaking:
At 26%, Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of the top ten largest cities in America.
When you layer race on top of those statistics, the numbers paint a dismal picture for many Philadelphians of color: lower high school graduation rates, lower percentage of people with a post-secondary degree, higher rates of unemployment and incarceration and a higher percentage of people living below the poverty line. Throughout the day, you’ve discussed the interconnected nature of poverty, race and inequality. Honest conversations about the harsh reality many of our people of color face is the only way Philadelphia, our state and our nation, can make the changes it needs so that we reduce the number of have-nots and make Philadelphia less a tale of two cities.
It is my sincere hope that you carry the conversations had here today back with you and let them influence your work moving forward. Philadelphia can’t be a truly prosperous city unless every citizen, no matter their race or zip code, has the opportunity to succeed.
And that idea that every Philadelphian should have the chance to share in the city’s prosperity – is what I want to talk to all of you about today.
In January 2013, I was proud to sign an Executive Order that established a new office, the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, or the CEO, and charged it with centralizing, advancing and managing our anti-poverty efforts and the money that comes in from many sources. As you know, its goal is to harness and advance the City’s anti-poverty work, while integrating our efforts with those of so many others – nonprofit providers, consumers, the business sector, academia and the philanthropic community.
The result was Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, our comprehensive plan to combat poverty. It is a strategic approach that aligns available resources and assets to areas of need, focusing on education, jobs and job training, access to benefits, housing security and economic security. Shared Prosperity has been our blueprint over the last two years, a collective guide for us and all of our partners. And, like last year, I am thrilled to report we are making positive strides. Since 2013:
CEO, working with its community partners, has been the driving force behind many of these changes. We drafted and have begun implementing A Running Start, the City’s comprehensive early learning plan. Through the BenePhilly Centers, more than 4,000 people have enrolled in benefits, putting nearly $13 million into the pockets of needy Philadelphians. We have reduced debt for residents by more than $7.1 million through one-on- one financial counseling at our Financial Empowerment Center initiative.
With a coalition of partners under the Philadelphia Food Access Collaborative, we have seen an increase of more than 100,000 new emergency meals available annually to vulnerable individuals. We have seen over 1,700 households avoid eviction, foreclosure and homelessness through financial assistance and supports, and ensured homes were livable through hazard remediation for nearly 1,800 more families.
And, we shepherded nearly $35 million in new federal funds for investment in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone. Those funds have been used to create ladders of opportunities for low-income residents, enable residents to benefit from community economic growth, and ensure for many people in need that your zip code does not determine your destiny.
I just want to say a few final things before I turn it back over to Eva. Poverty is one of the most daunting challenges facing our great city. Our ability to bring more people into prosperity and out of despair will define us, and our success, as a city. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, the cost of such dire levels of poverty is too great for Philadelphia to bear. The longer we do, the greater the impact will be on our economy and the prospects of our residents.
Many of you in this room have been critical partners throughout Shared Prosperity’s first two years. You share in our successes, and your knowledge, experience and expertise will help us moving forward to identify solutions and better serve vulnerable Philadelphians. I am incredibly moved by what Shared Prosperity has been able to achieve in its first year. I know that if we continue to work together, putting our hearts and minds together, we can help more Philadelphians.