TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou that would establish the “New Jersey Investing in You Promise Neighborhood Commission” was approved today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
Under the bill, S-999, the 20-member commission would examine the effect of poverty on the development of the children in the state’s most fiscally-distressed urban and rural areas, and develop recommendations about how local nonprofits, civic organizations, religious institutions, and institutions of higher education in New Jersey can help to support and improve the lives of children living in these areas.
The Commission would also analyze the current status and impact of the state’s two federally-designated Promise Neighborhoods in Newark and Camden, and create a report describing their successes, identifying areas in need of improvement, considering possible expansion to other municipalities in the State, and if so, identifying funding that would be available to do so.
“Promise neighborhoods are a way to rebuild communities and provide access for children in distressed neighborhoods to a great education and support services for their families,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic, Bergen). “Engaging children and families at every stage of a child’s development will better equip them for a future that includes real prospects of going to college or having a successful career.”
The Commission, under the bill, would be tasked with creating a master action plan to expand the number of Promise Neighborhoods in the state by 2017, with a focus on Trenton, Paterson, and Vineland. It would also be required to design a plan for the creation of a Promise Neighborhood that will replicate, guide, and provide technical assistance for all programs throughout New Jersey, and a plan for the efficient use of federal or State funds that may be allocated for the expansion of the Promise Neighborhood initiative. The Commission would be required to issue its findings in a report to the Governor, the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker within one year of its establishment.
An initiative developed by the Obama administration, Promise Neighborhoods support community-driven, place-based efforts to improve educational and developmental outcomes for children in the most distressed communities. By providing access to quality education and strong systems of family and community support, children are at the epicenter of services weaved around them to ensure their long-term success.
“With the end goal of successfully transitioning children from cradle to college or a career and breaking the cycle of poverty, Promise Neighborhoods provide the opportunity for children to grow up in safe communities and stable homes, dream big, and feel positive about what their future may hold,” added Senator Pou.
New Jersey currently has two federally-designated promise neighborhoods in Newark and Camden and a similar state one in Paterson, where nonprofit, community-based, civic, and religious organizations collaborate with schools and communities to provide meaningful support for children from birth to graduation and beyond. This bill would appropriate two-million dollars to expand the promise neighborhood initiative.
The legislation is part of the greater “New Jersey: Investing In You” economic investment plan announced by Senate Democrats in December that targets six key areas with legislation: early childhood education, college affordability, world class transportation, promise neighborhoods to revitalize communities, public-private partnerships to aid job creation and retirement security. Senator Pou is leading the effort on Promise Neighborhoods.
The bill was released from the committee by a vote of 4-1. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.