Last week brought encouraging news that as our economy and population grow, Philadelphia’s poverty rate has retreated to its lowest level since the 2008 recession, 24.5%.
While the decline is progress, there is no denying it is still too high and we cannot relax our efforts. In fact, we must be bolder and pick up the pace. As Washington remains mired in partisan gridlock, the burden falls heavily on all of us locally.
As mayor of our great city, I believe any strong and sustained reduction in Philadelphia’s poverty rate will only be achieved when we listen to the voices of those in poverty and when all sectors of our economy – government, philanthropy, corporate, civic, education, nonprofit, labor – work together to help at least 100,000 Philadelphians rise out of poverty over the next decade.
It gives me confidence that leaders across our city are committed to addressing our greatest challenge. Presidents and chief executive officers such as Jerry Sweeney, Brandywine Realty Trust; Sidney Hargro, Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia; Sharmain Matlock-Turner, Urban Affairs Coalition; Bill Golderer, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey; Donald Guy Generals, Community College of Philadelphia; and Jerry T. Jordan, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, representative of sectors across our economy, join me in declaring our shared commitment to reducing poverty and bring all that we have to that fight.
Together we applaud that Philadelphia has created many strong poverty reduction policies and social service programs, and we honor the hundreds of organizations working hard every day to provide an essential social safety net for our residents, many of whom experience trauma. But that net, while important, is not enough.
In a good economy, where the benefits of growth are not shared equally, we need more scalable solutions that raise incomes and grow good-paying jobs. It is clear this, above all else, will have a lasting impact to change the trajectory of those living in poverty.
To raise incomes so people can lift themselves out of poverty, we commit to these goals:
We’re also committed to fighting systemic drivers of poverty through related policies, to name just a few:
It is painfully clear a family can barely sustain itself and achieve their dreams on a household income even if they’re just above the federal poverty line. Simply put, to reduce the poverty rate, incomes of people in poverty must rise. This is especially urgent as two-thirds of our adult residents in poverty aren’t working or are unable to work, often due to barriers such as low literacy, disabilities, caregiving responsibilities, or a lack of educational credentials.
So, you have our word. We are committed to working together to grow our job base and to lift residents out of poverty — for good. To advance our commitment, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will bring together civic leaders and experts focused on reducing poverty and exploring a public-private fund that tests, evaluates, and scales solutions that work with and for residents.
View the original Op-Ed here.
Jim Kenney is mayor of the City of Philadelphia.