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CITY OF OMAHA PLANS TO APPLY FOR PROMISE ZONE DESIGNATION
Before the end of the year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will announce the third and final round of competition for Promise Zone designations. Omaha will apply and we are currently gathering information to submit a comprehensive application.
President Barack Obama announced the Promise Zone initiative during the 2013 State of the Union address. The goal is to create jobs, reduce violent crime, improve public safety, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, and increase access to affordable housing in high-poverty communities. Cities compete for this designation, based on an application and strong partnerships with local community and business leaders. The objective of the Promise Zone program is to create and enhance community partnerships. A common misconception is that the Promise Zone includes federal grant funding. It does not. It also does not affect entitlement program funding such as CDBG, HOME or ESG, nor does it direct these funds only to the Promise Zone.
In the first year, Promise Zones were created in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Antonio. In the second year, nearly 100 cities, including Omaha, applied for the designation; Camden, New Jersey, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, North Hartford, CT, Sacramento and St. Louis won the designations.
HUD has established specific criteria for applicants:
- The Promise Zone must be one contiguous area within the city
- The poverty rate within the zone must be over 33%
- The population within the zone must be between 10,000 and 200,000
We will again propose a Promise Zone in north Omaha. The boundaries are slightly larger than in our first application; Cuming Street on the south, Curtis Avenue on the north, North 40th Street to 42nd Street on the west and Carter Lake Drive on the east. These boundaries could change based on community input.
The poverty rate in the area is 42.88%. The population is 26,690 according to the 2010 American Community Survey, the most recent data available.
Cities must also select up to six Promise Zone goals from a list developed by HUD; Create Jobs, Increase Economic Activity, Improve Educational Opportunities, Reduce Violent Crime, Promote Health and Access to Health Care, Increase Access to Quality Affordable Housing, Improve Community Infrastructure and Promote Civic Engagement. Applicants are not able to change the goals or create new goals.
The five goal areas to consider are: Create Jobs, Increase Economic Activity, Improve Educational Opportunities, Reduce Violent Crime, and Promote Health and Access to Health Care. A suggestion already made is to add Affordable Housing as a goal.
Five cities are likely to be selected in this final round of applications. Each city will carry the Promise Zone designation for 10 years and must commit to hiring a Promise Zone coordinator for at least five years. Five AmeriCorps volunteers and a Washington liaison will assist with the implementation of the goals. Federal grant applicants affecting the Promise Zone could be eligible for preference points. If enacted by Congress, tax incentives could be available.
It is important we have input on each goal as we prepare to apply. Each goal area and the activities we have identified to achieve the goal are outlined below. You can help by identifying community organizations that can help achieve these goals.
GOAL #1: CREATE JOBS
Align City and community resources to promote job opportunities, connectivity, economic growth and overall improvement to resident well-being.
- Job Training Opportunities
Job skill training in emerging industry sectors
- Improve Access to Job Opportunities
Connect businesses with job seekers; Improve financial well-being of underserved populations
- Address Transportation Needs
Establish transit corridors between residents and job opportunities in the Promise Zone
GOAL #2: INCREASE ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
Promote economic prosperity in the Promise Zone through business training housing improvements, financial literacy education and the support of small and startup businesses.
- Business Training
Full-service employment resource center
- Holistic Neighborhood Revitalization
Housing rehabilitation, energy cost savings, health home modifications
- Promotion of Small and Emerging Businesses
Support small and emerging businesses; development of an economic inclusion plan
GOAL #3: IMPROVE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
Promote collaboration of valuable educational partners capable of developing educational and career readiness opportunities within the Promise Zone area
- Develop Collaborative Educational Relationships
Collaboration between schools, community organizations and after school programs
- Prepare Students for College and Career Readiness
Expand college and career readiness curriculum in Promise Zone schools
- Help Students and Families Overcome Barriers to Student Engagement
Expand services to assist students with basic college readiness requirements; break down financial, cultural, and social barriers to education opportunities
GOAL #4: REDUCE SERIOUS OR VIOLENT CRIME
Omaha will be a community committed to promoting and maintaining a high quality of life for all citizens. Law enforcement will continue to work to make the city a safe place to work, live and visit.
- Police and community collaboration
- Address Violent Crime
- Enhance Police-Community Relations
GOAL #5: HEALTH AND AWARENESS
Improve the health and overall quality of life of Promise Zone residents through collaboration and a holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization
- Douglas County’s Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP)
Utilize CHIP for improving resident’s quality of life
- Holistic Neighborhood Revitalization
Healthy home upgrades, lead hazard control, community gardens
- Meet the Primary Heath Care Needs of our Community
Partner with community based health centers to provide health care to underserved populations in the Promise Zone area