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Michael Banks, executive director of The Promise. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Michael Banks, executive director of The Promise. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

The Promise has invested $5.9 million in tackling poverty in Philly, helping over 53,000 families in the process

The initiative, comprised of a public-private coalition aims to lift 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty by 2025.

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In 2021, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) partnered with the City of Philadelphia and the community to launch The Promise. 

The multi-year initiative is a public-private coalition set out to promote financial stability for families and households with the goal of collectively lifting 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty by 2025. 

“There’s a longing from those who represent communities, who are in the community every day, waking up worrying about their neighbor, trying to be of service, trying to find ways to meaningfully coordinate and cooperate with others who are doing that work everyday, as well, across every ZIP code in Philadelphia,” said Bill Golderer, President & CEO of UWGPSNJ.

It’s those individuals and the organizations they represent that comprise the changemakers taking the steps towards progressing The Promise initiative. 

Bill Golderer, president & CEO of United Way. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Bill Golderer, president & CEO of United Way. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

During an event on Thursday, November 3, key partners of that coalition released a report highlighting the progress made during the first year of the initiative.

Some of the key accomplishments from the first year of the initiative includes:

  • $5.9 million invested in The Promise’s Family Stability Coalition, helping about 53,400 Philadelphia families access resources and assistance. 
  • Helped families access over $51.2 million in benefits and tax credits
  • More than 16,000 Philadelphia household accessed emergency assistance benefits and services
  • 13,000 people received free tax filing assistance, which included supporting 4,107 families in getting access to the expanded Child Tax Credit.

Michael Banks, executive director of The Promise, said that one of the key concepts of this initiative and its progress has been access.

“Millions of tax credits and benefits go unclaimed by eligible Philadelphia residents every year, and we want to make sure that this money is never left on the table,” he said.

This, he added, is especially true given the further challenges brought on by the pandemic. 

“The pandemic has been devastating to a lot of families’ health and wealth, and they needed to be connected to these benefits,” noted Banks. “And it was in these critical moments that our partners did exactly that — begin to connect these individuals to a lot of the benefits that they were oftentimes unaware of.”

With the progress made during the first year of the initiative, the next phase is continuing to build on that momentum, and get closer to the goal. 

One of the more than 30 partners of The Promise — Wells Fargo — announced a new $500,000 donation towards the The Promise initiative. 

“We are really excited to be part of it, and I encourage other companies — big, small, mid sized — to get involved. We need you,” said Ellen Patterson, senior executive vice president and general counsel for Wells Fargo.

Ellen Patterson, senior executive vice president and general counsel for Wells Fargo. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Ellen Patterson, senior executive vice president and general counsel for Wells Fargo. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

The entirety of The Promise is simply an investment into the city that so many individuals call home. 

“When small businesses are thriving, when more people can afford a home, when our neighbors are doing better financially, that creates a ripple effect that continues across neighborhoods and across city limits,” added Patterson.  

To close the event, Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes provided remarks, emphasizing the importance of making “the right choices” during this election season, with Election Day coming up November 8. 

When Sen. Hughes thinks about The Promise and its goal of significantly reducing poverty in Philadelphia, he ties it to the importance of education. 

“Education is fundamental to this work,” Hughes said. “If you don’t have a strong education, your opportunity to transform yourself out of poverty and into a life of opportunity is lost.” 

Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

In 2010, he noted that “the wrong choices” were made during the election, which eventually led to $1 billion being cut from Pennsylvania’s educational system.

As a result of that cut, 27,000 educational professionals across the Commonwealth lost their jobs, and 23 schools in Philadelphia had to close. 

In a state that already ranks towards the bottom of the nation when it comes to educational funding, the situation added yet another barrier to quality education for K-12 students and their educators.

History could repeat itself — to a drastically higher degree this time around — if “the wrong choices are made” this year.

“Voting matters,” said Hughes. 

“Choices, opportunities, decisions that we must make… that’s the moment that we’re in right now,” he continued. 

In contrast to looking at the fear of what could happen, Hughes also highlighted the opportunities and upside that could also happen. 

With existing resources, finances and funding available across the Commonwealth, there are possibilities to dream big, and go after more benefits for those who need it the most. 

“The opportunity is right in front of us,” said Hughes. 

Broke in Philly Logo
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations, focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.
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