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Five cities tackle racial wealth gap with innovative strategies

todayApril 19, 2024

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Five Cities Tackle Racial Wealth Gap with Innovative Strategies
Baltimore, Photo by Irina Sitnikova on Unsplash

In a significant step towards promoting financial stability and addressing the racial wealth divide, five U.S. cities have been chosen to participate in the CityStart initiative, a program focused on developing strategies to help families and communities become more financially secure. The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, has selected Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL; Indianapolis, IN; Little Rock, AR; and Philadelphia, PA to be part of this cohort.

The CityStart initiative aims to work closely with local leaders in these cities to create and implement effective solutions that prioritize the financial well-being of residents, particularly those in Black communities. Each city will receive a $75,000 grant to tackle pressing issues such as gentrification, disinvestment in historically Black neighborhoods, and the persistent racial wealth gap.

With support from the CFE Fund and the Greenwood Initiative, the selected cities will develop innovative and actionable blueprints tailored to their specific communities. These plans will align with the priorities of local administrations and seek to foster financial stability across generations, with a special focus on empowering Black residents.

The cohort will also benefit from shared learning opportunities, including idea exchanges, data collection, and access to information on local policies, programs, and strategies to address common challenges. This collaborative approach allows the cities to learn from one another and develop comprehensive solutions that can be adapted to their unique contexts.

Previous CityStart cohorts have already demonstrated the potential impact of these initiatives. For example, Cincinnati, OH used the CityStart engagement to create its Financial Freedom Plan, allocating $2 million in public funds to forgive resident medical debt and advance other priorities. Similarly, South Bend, IN developed a comprehensive financial empowerment framework that includes offering free professional financial counseling and a wealth-building focus in two historically Black neighborhoods.

The CityStart initiative draws on the CFE Fund’s extensive experience working with over 100 cities and counties, leveraging insights into the impact of financial instability and crafting measurable strategies to enhance residents’ financial well-being. To date, 40 localities have participated in the CityStart financial empowerment blueprint process, with this cohort marking the sixth overall and the third specifically focused on racial wealth equity.

As the selected cities embark on this journey, they have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the financial lives of their residents, particularly those in Black communities who have long been affected by systemic underinvestment and inequality. By developing targeted strategies and leveraging public-private partnerships, these cities can help build a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

However, it is important to acknowledge that addressing the racial wealth divide is a complex and multi-faceted issue that requires sustained effort and commitment from all stakeholders. While initiatives like CityStart provide valuable support and resources, true progress will depend on a collective willingness to confront and dismantle the systemic barriers that have perpetuated racial wealth inequity for generations.

As these five cities begin their work, they have the potential to serve as models for other communities seeking to promote financial empowerment and racial wealth equity. By sharing their experiences, successes, and challenges, they can contribute to a growing body of knowledge and best practices that can inform future efforts across the country.


Written by: Tarik Moody

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