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Choctaw Nation selected as federal promise zone - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Choctaw Nation selected as federal promise zone

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McCurtain County, OK -

The Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma is in the spotlight for a new federal partnership to fight poverty, create jobs, and improve the quality of life.  
    
They've been selected as one of the first five regions to test a new federal anti-poverty program.
    
Choctaw is the third largest tribe in the nation and the only one targeted as a federal promise zone.

In the area that includes McCurtain County, 1 in five persons live in poverty, that's less than $25,000 a year.

The promise doesn't come with a check but it does guarantee preferential treatment for federal assistance, from tax incentives to grants, says Idabel Mayor Tina Foshee-Thomas.

"It's very exciting, just to be apart of the Choctaw Nation. They have always been very helpful in working and partnering with the City of Idabel in completing small project to major projects," explained Foshee-Thomas.
 
Promise Zones are part of a presidential assault on income inequality.

Barack Obama's talking points have ranged from an increased minimum wage to training workers with skills employers need now.  

Tribal Councilman Thomas Williston says the development grants will help them bring in new industry, access to better housing, bolster education through workforce training and improve public safety.  

Of all of the counties in the Choctaw Nation that are designated in the promise zone, McCurtain County has the largest population of tribal members, but it also has the most unemployed.

"There's dignity in work, we just strive to give everyone work that wants to work," said Williston.

The jobless rate in McCurtain County is more than 8 percent.

The Choctaw Promise Zone has a poverty rate of 22.6 percent, that's seven points above the national average.

Williston says the Choctaw Nation is already beginning it's planning stages.

"I know they are searching hard and initiating studies to see what will work here for our people," said Williston.

He doesn't believe the designation is a hand out, but rather a partnership that will help everyone in the Choctaw Nation improve their standard of living.

"We received it on our need, but we also feel someone was looking out for us," said Williston.

The other four locations in the promise zone are San Antonio, Texas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Southeastern Kentucky.
    
There are other areas in Louisiana and New Mexico that are working to qualify for promise zone funding.
    
Nationwide, the president plans to announce 20 Promise Zones within the next three years.

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