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Tampa Vows To Address Racial And Educational Divide

Three people sit at computers
The report concluded access to the internet for educational and vocational purposes is critical to help reduce poverty across underserved areas.

The Mayor's Advisory Committee identified the following areas to focus on: promote inclusive economic growth; reduce poverty; commit to racial equity; and emphasize educational opportunity.

The region's economy is bouncing back from the pandemic, and some local officials are trying to make sure the growth reaches everyone.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor assembled the Economic Advisory Committee in August to address those economic and social disparities.

The group announced its findings last week, focusing on four key areas:

  • Promoting Inclusive Economic Growth
  • Reducing Poverty
  • Committing to Racial Equity
  • Emphasizing Educational Opportunity

Those include promoting inclusive economic growth, reducing poverty, helping minorities get access to better jobs, and promoting education.

Although the need has been there for years, the pandemic has sharply increased racial and economic differences.

"Now more than ever, we have a duty to make transformational change," Castor said. "To make our communities a place where all individuals can thrive, where they can find economic prosperity, and where everyone can have equal access to opportunity."

The advisory committee is made up of community leaders and experts. They began their work by looking at data developed by the Tampa Bay Partnership Foundation and the USF Muma College of Business.

To help jump start these recommendations, the city announced two new initiatives in conjunction with the Mayor’s Workforce Council.

Their first initiative is to close the local "digital divide." Many under-privileged communities don’t have access to the internet and with much of school and work primarily being online, that is a concern. They plan to offer high-speed internet residents in under-resourced areas.

The second focus is called the DREAM initiative (Tampa’s Defined Readiness Ensuring Added Momentum), that aims to provide employment opportunities to help close the racial gap in employment.

Members said even though the labor force is growing, there is declining percentage of black participants in the workforce, particularly young black men. The DREAM initiative wants to help narrow that gap.

The need for these programs was sharpened by the pandemic. So Moez Limayem, the Lynn Pippenger Dean of the USF Muma College of Business, said the need for help is stronger than ever.

“This is the first step, it’s being aware of our challenges," Limayem said. "If we are aware of our challenges, we can together make a difference.”

The Economic Advisory Committee's complete report is available online at https://www.tampa.gov/t3/economic

Leali Shalabi is a WUSF/ USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for the spring of 2021.
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