While the two major party presidential candidates had many differences, both agreed on the primacy of free enterprise. Mitt Romney in his speech six weeks ago to the Clinton Global Initiative said, “Free enterprise has done more to bless humanity than any other economic system.” For his part, President Obama, remarked in his closing statement at the second presidential debate, “I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known.”
One minor problem: free enterprise does not exist.
An alliance between the City of Providence and the Annie E. Casey Foundation led to the creation of the Pathways to Opportunity Office, which is tasked with facilitating the creation of opportunities for low-income residents to increase job skills, work in jobs with career paths, and offer financial education programs.To date, 111 parents participated in family literacy programs, over $150,000 has been allocated to nine job readiness-training programs, and over two million dollars have been used to fund a contextualized literacy and workforce development program. With federal stimulus funding, the group has created over 200 jobs and launched Jobs Now Providence, a subsidized job creation program that assists residents with job placement in varying state agencies.
Governor Carcieri signed the Governor’s Workforce Board of Rhode Island into effect in September of 2005. The 17-member board institutes statewide policies and guidelines that coordinate employment and training programs, employment-associated educational programs, and support strategies that increase and improve the current and future workforce. The board oversees all state and local workforce and education programs including those under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the Wagner-Peyset Act, and the Family Support Act. In the past 18 months, the board has endowed more than $15 million worth of investments that has led to a collaboration of the state’s employment, education, and economic development sectors.
Launched by Mayor Cicilline, the Bank of Providence is a comprehensive program seeking to connect the “unbanked,” those living without access to mainstream financial institutions, with affordable financial services.By the end of this year, the bank aims to offer over 2,000 individuals new accounts, access to home ownership counseling, financial counseling, financial planning classes, and programs that assist youth and families avoid high cost mortgages and predatory lending practices.Over 30 bank and credit unions are participating to provide more financial assistance to low-wage working Providence residents.
The Urban Strategies Council June 2012 report seeks to answer the question, “what happened to the homes that have gone through foreclosure in Oakland?” Field surveys of the properties owned by Oakland’s two largest foreclosure investors found that 93 percent of properties acquired by investors were located in low-income neighborhoods, that only ten of the top 30 foreclosure investors in Oakland are actually based in Oakland, and that 81 percent of the 10,508 completed foreclosures (since 2007) ended up being owned by banks or other financial institutions. Consequently, this spike in non-local ownership and non-owner occupied housing present concerns for asset building in low-income neighborhoods. The report recommends that banks and Government Sponsored Enterprises improve their first-look programs to give owner-occupant buyers and nonprofits priority to obtain foreclosure holdings.