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Boston Fed Picks 6 Mass. Cities For $1.8M Grant Competition

BOSTON — The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has chosen six Massachusetts cities as recipients of a $1.8 million grant competition aimed at promoting community development.

The new initiative, called the Working Cities Challenge, seeks to “advance collaborative leadership in Massachusetts smaller cities and to support ambitious work to improve the lives of low-income people in those cities,” according to the program’s website.

Twenty cities were eligible for the grants. All 20 have a population over 35,000, with median family income below the statewide level and a poverty rate above the statewide median.

The six winners are: Lawrence, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Chelsea, Somerville and Salem.

Lawrence, for instance, has a median household income of $31,478, which is less than half the statewide median of $65,981. The city’s poverty rate is 28.6 percent, compared with 10.7 percent statewide.

Per a Boston Fed news release out Wednesday, here’s what the six cities were awarded:

Lawrence: $700,000 three-year implementation award for its plan to change the way [its] school system interfaces with the larger community by focusing on the direct correlation between economic and employment challenges amongst families and student success rates.

Fitchburg: $400,000 three-year implementation award for its eCarenomics Initiative, an effort to develop shared metrics for neighborhood health and well-being with the goal of making the North of Main neighborhood a place where residents choose to live, work, and invest.

Holyoke: $250,000 three-year implementation award to help build a link between the city’s Latino population and its innovation economy through adult education and supportive services. The proposal includes a focus on social ventures and small business development.

Chelsea: $225,000 three-year implementation award for its Shurtleff-Bellingham Initiative, designed to engage public, private, and nonprofit sectors in an effort to reduce poverty and mobility rates by 30% in this struggling neighborhood.

Somerville: $100,000 seed award toward its proposal to reduce unemployment among low-income youth by creating new, youth-targeted workforce development systems infused with mobile technology and social media.

Salem: $100,000 seed award for its plan to bring one low-income neighborhood’s economic indicators in line with rest of the city by focusing on four issue areas: economic development, small business development, workforce development, and leadership development.

According to The Boston Globe, which reported Wednesday morning that the grants would be announced, “[t]he Boston Fed’s initiative is part of a renewed focus under [President Eric] Rosengren to apply the bank’s economic research to the real world and improve New England communities.”

The Globe added that if the program is successful, the Boston Fed hopes to extend the program throughout New England and have it serve as a nationwide model.

Gov. Deval Patrick thanked the Boston Fed “for convening this forward-thinking program,” according to the Boston Fed release.

The state of Massachusetts is a partner in the initiative, along with a collaboration of philanthropies and a coalition of large employers in the state. The three funded the grants.

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