Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President and CEO Eric Rosengren and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo have announced that Cranston, Newport, and Providence won the Fed’s Working Cities Challenge, a competition for Rhode Island communities to improve the lives of low- and moderate-income residents. The program officially launched in Rhode Island in 2015 with state, private sector, and not-for-profit support.

The three cities will each receive multiyear grants of $400,000 to support programs designed to spur workforce development and job creation among low- and moderate-income residents.

Newport will use the $400,000 three-year grant to provide the opportunity to develop and implement a plan to improve the lives of low-income Newport residents by decreasing poverty rates by 20% over the next decade. This would be achieved through the development of a well-established, integrated and efficient workforce development system that prepares unemployed and underemployed Newport residents for higher skilled, higher paying jobs and which ensures a pipeline of candidates are available to fill vacancies in high demand industries within this city.

As the lead agency for this cross-sector initiative, the Boys & Girls Club of Newport County (BGC) will manage this collaborative effort which includes numerous public and private partners including, but not limited to, Newport Partnership for Families, the Newport School Department, Community College of Rhode Island, Newport Community School, the City of Newport’s Department of Civic Investment, Newport Housing Authority, East Bay Community Action Program, Newport Health Equity Zone, FabNewport, College Unbound, the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and industry trade associations, members of the Newport School Committee and Newport City Council and several community members.

The Newport Working Cities’ team will be governed through a collaborative leadership structure that includes residents of Newport who have experienced poverty and understand the challenges of securing a livable wage, along with local employers who can speak to industry-specific needs. In the coming year the team intends to design and implement a “Dream Room”, a one-stop resource center where community members can access various resources and services to help set them on a better career path and where employers can go to fill vacancies. The resource center will be piloted in the North End neighborhood of the City to ensure that services are available to those most disenfranchised. The North End neighborhood boasts a poverty rate that is more than 300% higher than that of the City as a whole (48.7% vs. 15.1% respectively).

In addition to the resource center, Newport Working Cities seeks to change systems that will support economic success for families and individuals over the long-term. The team will concentrate efforts on improving policies related to the “cliff effect”, the decrease in benefits that can occur with even a nominal pay increase and oftentimes keeps families trapped in poverty; explore entrepreneurial and asset-based approaches to addressing factors such as transportation and child care barriers; and work to develop stackable credential programs and job training/apprenticeship programs that can lead residents down promising career pathways.  Career Pathways, mentorships and guidance to navigate the many resources available will be leveraged and coordinated by the Working Cities Team for clients.  The Governance structure includes representatives from the partners as well as residents and employers.

For more information on what Newport will do with the grant, visit https://www.bostonfed.org/workingcities/rhode-island/cities/newport.