Mayor Dobies forms city Poverty Council, enlists nonprofit leaders

Jackson Mayor Dobies holds press conference to announce resignation of councilman Andrew...
Jackson Mayor Dobies holds press conference to announce resignation of councilman Andrew Frounfelker. (WILX)
Published: Feb. 20, 2020 at 5:26 PM EST
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In advance of Jackson’s 2020 State of the City address, Mayor Derek Dobies announced Thursday, the formation of a Poverty Council tasked with working with city administration to develop and help implement policies, programs, and projects that will reduce poverty and support others that are asset limited, income constrained within Jackson.

“Jackson is leading the way in reducing poverty through the development of new low-to moderate housing developments, proactive policies that combat the criminalization of poverty, and dedicated resources back to traditionally neglected neighborhoods,” said Mayor DOBIES. “This Poverty Council will accelerate that progress by enlisting the brightest nonprofit leaders and thinkers in crafting solutions that will help reduce poverty in our community.”

Mayor Dobies said that 1 in 3 people in Jackson live under the federal poverty level — more than double the rate in the surrounding metro area and double the state of Michigan. Our median household income is a mere $28,000 a year, and more than half — some 52% — of Jackson children live in poverty.

The formation of the Poverty Council comes after Mayor Dobies used his2019 State of the City address to call on the city and nonprofit partners to work to cut poverty in half over the next decade. Mayor Dobies has tasked Ken Toll, President and CEO of the Jackson County United Way, and Toby Berry, CEO of the Community Action Agency, to spearhead the Poverty Council and collaborate with city leadership.

“We have worked with city leaders and area nonprofits on a Housing First approach to poverty, making sure residents have a safe, affordable and dignified roof over their heads as we work to make them financially stable,” said Toby BERRY, CEO of Community Action Agency. “We look forward to collaborating with the city on keeping people in their homes, improving the condition of living units, and making homeownership in reach for struggling families.”

“Poverty and economic instability affects the entire community, and we are excited to further engage the city in this space. We must work with our partners in the labor movement to give people new skills and tools to make better wages and benefits,” said Ken TOLL, President and CEO of the United Way. “But we also have to look at the way we structure our policies and fund our infrastructure to make sure that it’s done in an equitable way.”

The City of Jackson already sends all of its staff through Bridges Out of Poverty and Racial Equity trainings and, for over five years, Councilman Dancy and Mayor Dobies have represented the City on the Financial Stability Network — a table of 40+ organizations that combat the root causes of poverty and build financial stability through a systems change approach.

Dobies said he’s also tasked the Poverty Council with helping to develop a rate structure that is fair and equitable for residents, particularly those at or below poverty, for water bills in advance of the forthcoming lead service line replacement program.

“I share the concern heard in recent weeks from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and leaders in the business community, about the effects of these unfunded state mandates,” said Mayor Dobies. “The business community made clear they want to find an affordable, equitable solution that doesn’t overburden those in poverty and I think the nonprofit leaders in the Poverty Council can help with that.”

Dobies is set to deliver his third State of the City Address at the historic Michigan Theatre in downtown Jackson on February 26th, 2020 at 6:00PM and plans to further address solutions around poverty.

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