A rural swath of the Lowcountry has been designated as a “Promise Zone” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The plan allows trained federal workers to help affected counties apply for grants, particularly for applications submitted towards education, jobs, and low-income housing. HUD Secretary Julian Castro announced the new Promise Zones in a press conference Tuesday.
The US Department of Agriculture’s State Director for Rural South Carolina Vernita Dore told South Carolina Radio Network that the program also works on increasing public/private partnerships. “It’s an opportunity for communities to work together with local leaders to increase economic opportunities and educational opportunities, to leverage private investment, enhance public health and other priorities indicated by the communities.”
The designation gives impoverished areas of the communities a leg up in obtaining grants and other federal assistance, she said. “It’s a big collaborative effort between, or among, private businesses, federal, state, local officials, faith based, non-profits and communities with all of them working together,” Dore said.
The Lowcountry Promise Zone community is one of eight selected from 123 applications from 36 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. Each urban, rural, and tribal Promise Zone applicant was asked to put together a clear description of how the Promise Zone designation would accelerate and strengthen the community’s own efforts at comprehensive community revitalization. Each Promise Zone will be coordinated by a lead community based organization in partnership with the Obama Administration.
The other Promise Zones announced Tuesday include Camden, New Jersey; Hartford, Connecticut; Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Sacramento, California; and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance, an economic development entity that covers the region, will oversee the program. More than 90,000 people live in the affected areas of Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.
Partners with the Lowcountry include: Promise Zone included: South Carolina Housing Authority; South Carolina Department of Commerce; Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina; South Carolina Department of Agriculture; South Carolina Victim’s Assistance Network; GrowFoods Carolina; Palmetto Project; and the Lowcountry Council of Governments.
A release sent by HUD on Tuesday said Southern Carolina would work on strategies to expand local and regional food systems and the agricultural sector to create new job opportunities, as well as create a revolving loan fund to help enable private investment in community development.