City Of Philadelphia Selected For City Accelerator Program

With support from the Citi Foundation and Living Cities, Philadelphia will use its innovation infrastructure to increase participation in tax relief programs.

Philadelphia, September 4, 2014– The City of Philadelphia was selected as one of three participants in the first City Accelerator program, a $3 million program managed by the Citi Foundation and Living Cities that will help nine winning cities pilot innovation projects in local government.  Over the next 18 months, Philadelphia will increase the enrollment of low-income residents in tax relief or City payment assistance programs using a package of resources and in-kind support to adopt cutting-edge approaches through the City Accelerator program.

“Our Administration is committed to building a culture of innovation across City government to benefit Philadelphians.  As a result, Philadelphia has built a strong infrastructure that supports our forward-thinking goals of finding creative solutions to long-standing challenges,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.  “One challenge has been devising ways to help vulnerable Philadelphians access benefits to which they are entitled.  Being selected for the City Accelerator program will help more citizens take advantage of tax relief measures through our existing innovation infrastructure, new tools and targeted resources.”

The City now offers multiple tax relief programs, with variations based on income and other factors, to provide tax and water bill discounts and payment plans to low-income Philadelphians. Collectively, these programs provide millions of dollars of relief to Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens. Hundreds of thousands of households are enrolled in at least one benefit program, but tens of thousands of households are not enrolled in all the programs for which they are eligible.

Through its City Accelerator project, the City of Philadelphia will test new methods to increase enrollment in City payment assistance programs, including making the application process more user friendly.

“As cities continue to grow in both size and share of global GDP, they are faced with similar challenges that make collaboration imperative,” said Ed Skyler, Citi’s Executive Vice President for Global Public Affairs and Chairman of the Citi Foundation.  ““The City Accelerator is a great opportunity to work with Mayor Nutter and other urban leaders by fueling the exchange of ideas and contributing to the success of cities around the country.”

Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities added, “The level of interest, and the quality of the proposals we received during the first round of the City Accelerator, are a testament to the appetite and creativity of cities across the country in disrupting the status quo in local government.  Louisville, Nashville and Philadelphia ultimately showed the strongest proposals to embed innovation in their administrations and to put their ideas into practice to address the issues affecting low-income people.”

The City Accelerator allows selected U.S. cities to develop models for innovation that generate economic opportunities for low-income populations and help municipalities run more effectively. Participating cities will benefit from ongoing interaction with leading innovation practitioners from around the country and share lessons learned to advance progress.

In total, ten cities applied for the first City Accelerator cohort.  From the ten applicants, six cities were selected as finalists.  The finalists recorded video pitches that were posted online at Governing.com for public review, comment and rating. The strength of their proposals, the alignment of their thinking with the framework for this first cohort, and public input on the finalists’ video pitches were all considered in selecting the winning three cities – Philadelphia, Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky.

Nigel Jacob, co-founder of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics for the City of Boston and Urban Technologist-in-Residence at Living Cities, will lead the first cohort, “Louisville, Nashville and Philadelphia presented unique and compelling visions for how local government innovation can improve the operations of their cities and make an impact for their low-income residents. I am looking forward to working with these three cities on developing breakthrough ways of solving problems.”

The Governing Institute will provide ongoing coverage of the findings coming out of the cohort cities and related innovation efforts in other places in a dedicated section on Governing.com.

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