By Amie Parnes
President Obama will announce on Thursday that five areas across the country will benefit from the so-called "Promise Zone Initiative," a government program that will assist impoverished areas through tax incentives, housing assistance and education grants, a White House official said.
The president is expected to be joined by representatives and community leaders from each of the five areas, according to the White House.
Obama first announced the initiative last year during the State of the Union address and the announcement is a "critical step forward" in making good on that commitment, the White House official said.
The “Promise Zone” programs are designed to use a mixture of private and public investment to address communities suffering from persistent poverty and blight. Under the program, the Department of Education would spend millions to improve schools and career services in a bid to drive down unemployment. The initiative also includes federal dollars for the redevelopment of distressed assisted housing in high poverty neighborhoods, as well as criminal justice grants to address crime and violence.
Under the plan, private companies that invest in the communities could also be provided tax breaks for hiring workers and building stores, factories, or offices. Federal officials will also help local leaders navigate access to government funds.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the program was “something that we think is a significant help economically, and it’s something this president supports.”
The remarks come amid a broader populist push by the White House ahead of the Jan. 28 State of the Union address.
In the coming weeks, Obama is expected to spend a significant amount of time laying out his ideas for addressing economic equality --including raising the minimum wage to $10.10, according to senior administration officials.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Obama said that in 2014 lawmakers needed “to make sure that this recovery leaves nobody behind.”
“We've got to help our businesses create more jobs. We've got to make sure those jobs offer the wages and benefits that let families rebuild a little security,” Obama said.