U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, Jan. 9, 2014. Obama on Thursday announces five "promise zones", located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, as part of his effort to focus on income inequality and poverty. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday announced five "promise zones" as part of his efforts to focus on income inequality and poverty.
"I will work with anybody who's willing to lay out some concrete ideas to create jobs, help more middle-class families find security in today's economy, and offer new ladders of opportunity for folks to climb into the middle class," said Obama at an event in the White House as he unveiled the first five " promise zones."
The five designated zones are located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. They would be eligible for tax breaks and other forms of federal support.
Obama first announced the "promise zone" initiative in his State of the Union speech last year. Obama said then his administration planned "to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We' ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing."
The initiative is part of Obama's plan to create a better bargain for the middle class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety, according to the White House. Another 15 zones will be launched in the next three years.
The "promise zone" plan is being put into action 50 years after former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson first declared a "War on Poverty" in 1964.
Obama said Johnson's groundbreaking effort created "new avenues of opportunity for generations of Americans" and made the country better and stronger.
"Today's economic challenges are different, but they still resulted in communities where in recent decades wrenching economic change has made opportunity harder and harder to come by," he said.