Newark selected for CityStart initiative that aims to address racial wealth equity gaps

City to engage community stakeholders in creating public strategies that prioritize financial mobility of Black residents

The city of Newark has been selected to participate in the CityStart initiative with a focus on racial wealth equity — an effort by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund that aims to engage community stakeholders in creating public strategies that prioritize financial mobility of Black residents.

CityStart is part of a suite of investments from Bloomberg Philanthropies to promote financial stability among residents in U.S. cities. As part of the selection, Newark will receive technical assistance partnership and $75,000 planning grant.

The CityStart initiative assists local leaders in the development and implementation of proven strategies to help local families become more financially stable. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, whose mission is to accelerate the pace of Black wealth accumulation in the U.S., is advising the CFE Fund and grantees on the design and execution of the CityStart program, utilizing a racial wealth equity lens.

In this equity-focused iteration of the 8-year-old CityStart program, the CFE Fund will partner with eight local leaders and their teams to address the financial empowerment needs of residents and identify opportunities to meet those needs, prioritizing financial stability for Black residents.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was thrilled by the news, as it fits the focus of his administration, he said.

“My administration has worked hard to overcome the housing inequities of our society, to enable people of color to achieve homeownership and to empower our residents with the tools they need for financial independence,” he said. “This has included precedent-setting measures like our strengthened Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, the naming of an Equitable Growth Advisory Commission, the creation of the state of New Jersey’s only Land Bank, and, most recently, the ‘Equitable Investments in Newark Communities’ that seeks to support local Minority and/or Women-owned Business Enterprises and nonprofit developers to create or renovate affordable multifamily buildings and homes that Newark residents can afford and own.”

In addition to these more structural investments, Baraka said the city has prioritized strengthening resident financial security immediately in a variety of ways, including:

  • The Newark Movement for Economic Equity: The guaranteed income pilot is one of the largest mayor-led pilots in the country;
  • Summer Youth Employment Program: The effort, which is also supported by the CFE Fund, builds financial responsibility at an early age, with classes that teach residents aged 14-24 the basics of financial literacy, job market navigation skills and workplace experience.

Newark is part of the fifth cohort of CityStart partners for the CFE Fund, and the second cohort of CityStart partners to focus their blueprints on racial wealth equity strategies; these eight new local government partners join 32 localities to date that have already completed the CityStart financial empowerment public blueprint process.

Past partners have since created blueprints that outline their administration’s public vision for integrating financial empowerment efforts within local government infrastructure — some working to open an Office of Financial Empowerment to serve as a platform for overall efforts, some identifying strategies centered around a specific municipal priority such as affordable housing and some replicating existing programs such as the Financial Empowerment Center initiative.

In addition to Newark, other selected partners chosen through a competitive process include Baltimore; Cleveland; Monroe, Louisiana; Norfolk, Virginia; Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Sacramento, California; and Tallahassee/Leon County, Florida.

In 2022, the CFE Fund worked with an initial cohort of Cincinnati; Mobile, Alabama; and South Bend, Indiana. These cities are in the process of drafting their CityStart financial empowerment blueprints.

Jonathan Mintz, CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, said its mission is clear.

“Financial empowerment strategies are a critical tool for local leaders across the country working to improve their residents’ financial stability,” he said. “Through this next cohort of our CityStart initiative, local governments and stakeholders from across the community will create blueprints that aim to transform residents’ financial lives and advance racial wealth equity.

“We congratulate Mayor Baraka and look forward to working with him to harness the opportunities of financial empowerment work to benefit racial equity and wealth priorities in Newark, and we thank Bloomberg Philanthropies for their longstanding partnership and investment in municipal financial empowerment.”

Garnesha Ezediaro, who leads Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, said the group is eager to have impact.

“The lasting impact of systemic inequities in our economies and financial system is glaring, with the typical Black family holding one-eighth of the wealth of the typical white family,” she said. “Without immediate and innovative interventions, Black people will continue to have less economic power and fewer opportunities to thrive.

“We are proud to continue our partnership with the CFE Fund’s CityStart program and are excited to equip eight new local governments with the resources they need to strengthen financially related services for their residents. Intentional local investments like this one are needed to move towards racial wealth equity.”

The CityStart initiative draws on the CFE Fund’s extensive programmatic work over almost a decade with local government leaders in over 100 cities and counties, connecting critical on-the-ground insights about the impact of financial instability on families, communities and municipal budgets with tangible, measurable and sustainable municipal strategies to improve families’ finances. Newark, working with the CFE Fund, will craft its municipal financial empowerment blueprint to identify implementation steps based on the financial needs of residents, especially Black residents; key administration priorities; and partnership opportunities. It will be informed by a series of meetings with key stakeholder groups focused on the needs of Black residents and ways to address the racial wealth and assets gap, facilitate intergenerational wealth transfer and build resident, family and community financial stability.