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White House announces plans for new War on Poverty

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8 2014 3:45 p.m. MST

On the 50th anniversary of the launching of the War on Poverty, the Obama administration announced five locations set to receive federal funds as part of a new anti-poverty initiative.

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The Department of Housing and Urban development chose the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's War of Poverty to flesh out a program announced in President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address, announcing five locations that will serve as "promise zones," aimed at combatting poverty in the U.S.

The five beneficiaries of the program will be San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

"The zones will combine several other revitalization efforts such as the Obama administration's Promise Neighborhoods and Choice Neighborhoods that fund local programs aimed at education, housing and other areas," The Guardian reported.

Details are sketchy, but according to CBS Local in Los Angeles, that city expects to win $500 million in grant money.

"KNX 1070′s Pete Demetriou reports five specific neighborhoods will be eligible to receive federal funds: Pico-Union, Westlake, Hollywood, East Hollywood, and Koreatown, which all share ethnically diverse and economically challenged demographics," CBS Local LA reported.

The Detroit News expressed surprise that the nation's largest bankrupt city was not getting any of the new federal largesse, especially given that the president had specifically referenced Detroit last month in a speech that seemed to reference the plan.

"We’ve put forward new plans to help these communities and their residents, because we’ve watched cities like Pittsburgh or my hometown of Chicago revamp themselves," Obama said last month. "And if we give more cities the tools to do it — not handouts, but a hand up — cities like Detroit can do it, too. So in a few weeks, we’ll announce the first of these Promise Zones, urban and rural communities where we’re going to support local efforts focused on a national goal — and that is a child’s course in life should not be determined by the ZIP code he’s born in, but by the strength of his work ethic and the scope of his dreams."

The White House also used the anniversary to offer a tribute to the War on Poverty, characterizing the effort as a success.

"We created new avenues of opportunity through jobs and education, expanded access to health care for seniors, the poor, and Americans with disabilities, and helped working families make ends meet," the statement read. "Without Social Security, nearly half of seniors would be living in poverty. Today, fewer than 1 in 7 do. Before Medicare, only half of seniors had some form of health insurance. Today, virtually all do. And because we expanded pro-work and pro-family programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, a recent study found that the poverty rate has fallen by nearly 40 percent since the 1960s, and kept millions from falling into poverty during the Great Recession."

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com