Reducing poverty in Memphis is goal of new state/city program
10% drop in poverty sought over 10 years

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr., Chief of Staff Mark Cate, Robert Lipscomb and Governor Bill Haslam met last week to discuss a plan to reduce poverty in Memphis.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr., Chief of Staff Mark Cate, Robert Lipscomb and Governor Bill Haslam met last week to discuss a plan to reduce poverty in Memphis.

Blueprint for Prosperity, an ambitious initiative to reduce poverty in Memphis from 27% to 17% in 10 years through an intensive focus on increasing prosperity has been worked out between Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton, Jr. and Gov. Bill Haslam. An agreement has been reached that will result in city and state governments partnering on the program.

Following a meeting with Haslam, Chief of Staff Mark Cate, Tennessee commissioners, and Robert Lipscomb, director of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development, Mayor Wharton said that the agreement to work together is a major step forward for the initiative.

“We are making important progress and attracting national attention for the distinctive approach that we are taking,” he said.

Haslam said that all of Tennessee has a stake in the success of the program, because “the future of Memphis matters to all of us.”

He pointed out that state government funds an array of services and programs that address poverty in Memphis and that in working together, both Memphis and state government guarantee that the ultimate goal is not just to provide more efficient, better aligned services, but to provide people with opportunities to move into the economic mainstream.

“No city in America has a better opportunity to become a laboratory for innovations that can be replicated in other urban areas plagued by concentrated, multi-generational poverty,” said Wharton. “With the Blueprint, we are embarking in this exciting, new direction.”

The Blueprint for Prosperity concentrates on four transformative priorities to increase and sustain prosperity for Memphis’s most marginalized individuals and families: jobs, expenses, access and opportunities, and developing the support services to achieve them. Plan outcomes will explore increasing the job rate, lowering daily living expenses, providing greater opportunities and more efficient access to job centers and resources, and creating broader opportunities to prepare for and maintain lifelong prosperity. At full implementation, the plan calls for more than 63,000 fewer families in poverty; 5,200 new full time jobs at $15 per hour; $40 million in annual cost of living reductions and benefits; and 30,000 full time workers with raises of $3.21 per hour.

“The systemic change we seek cannot be realized by working in a vacuum,” said Lipscomb. “It will take an ongoing partnership between the federal, state and local governments to build sustainable prosperity for the most marginalized individuals and families.”

The Blueprint will identify high-impact, transformative actions that create greater efficiency, tighter alignment and coordination, and significantly improved services in eight key areas: job creation/economic development, transportation, job training/job placement, education, including early childhood, health and wellness, housing/community/ neighborhood redevelopment, and energy.

One of the plan’s unique aspects is its plan to use Legacy Schools as resource centers where families can access services, apply for jobs, develop work skills, afterschool tutoring for students, and more. Many Legacy Schools are historic buildings in areas with the highest rates of concentrated poverty.

Another key innovation of the plan will be the creation of an independent non-profit organization, the Center for Prosperity and Empowerment, which will be responsible for executing and monitoring the plan, sharing research-based practices, and the developing accountability strategies and performance metrics. The Center will be a public/private partnership.