NewDEAL announced five finalists in the 2023 National Ideas Challenge that focus on promoting equality, particularly in underserved communities. The top scoring proposals focus on housing access and stabilizing rent in Maryland; finding job opportunities in Tennessee; expanding access to childcare in Virginia; and providing more resources to low-income students in Georgia.
A panel of nationally-recognized policy experts evaluated about 80 policy ideas across four categories based on their potential to improve Americans’ well-being and overall quality of life, and make government work more effectively to meet communities’ needs. The top five submissions in each of the four categories were recognized as finalists, including the following ideas, which were recognized for promoting equality. (Full submission descriptions and a list of judges can be found below.)
- Phillip Jones, Mayor of Newport News, Virginia, for a program to expand access to high-quality childcare.
- Adrian Boafo, Maryland state Delegate, for a bill to help formerly incarcerated individuals find housing.
- Lee Harris, Mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee, for a program to help formerly incarcerated people find job opportunities.
- Will Jawando, Montgomery County (Maryland) County Councilmember, for a bill to help stabilize rent increases.
- Phil Olaleye, Georgia state Representative, for a bill to expand resources to low-income students.
Elected officials have worked for centuries to expand American’s foundational ideas of freedom and liberty to all people who live here. NewDEAL Leaders are continuing this legacy to help transform their communities in ways that will benefit all residents for generations to come.
“The Ideas Challenge shows how a group of innovative elected officials are doing more than identifying problems; they are rising to the occasion to find solutions,” said Debbie Cox Bultan, CEO of NewDEAL. “And many of the ideas show how local officials are making the most of the major legislative victories under President Biden to spur long-lasting improvements to neighborhoods, cities, and states across the nation. I congratulate the finalists for proposals that, together, set an important governing agenda for the country to follow, with a relentless focus on improving the lives of all our neighbors.”
“I’m incredibly honored to be named a NewDEAL Ideas Challenge finalist,” said Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones. “Thank you to NewDEAL for recognizing our city’s effort to partner with the Peake Early Childhood Center and the Virginia Peninsula Community College Center of Excellence to develop and operate a fully accredited and licensed early childhood center. I also want to congratulate the other finalists for their ideas. The more we can learn from each other, the greater impact we can all have on communities across the nation.”
Promoting Equality with a Focus on Underserved Communities Finalists:
- Phillip Jones, Mayor of Newport News, Virginia, for a program to expand access to high-quality childcare. To ensure all children enter school with the tools necessary to be successful, Newport News is partnering with the Peake Childhood Center to develop and operate a fully accredited and licensed early childhood center. The joint facility in partnership with Peake and Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC), will provide a sliding scale tuition for up to 200 youth, from infant to 4 years old. Additionally, VPCC will train the next generation of childcare professionals through its onsite training program. Newport News allocated over 20 percent of its ARPA funding to establish this new Early Childhood Education Center. This center will ensure that pre-Kindergarten programs are universally available -- particularly for low-income families -- increasing options for working families who need safe places for their children to learn and grow and empowering working parents to become actively involved in their children’s learning.
- Adrian Boafo, Maryland state Delegate for a bill to help formerly incarcerated individuals find housing. The "ban the box" policy for rental applications addresses discriminatory housing advertising by prohibiting content that discourages those with a criminal history from applying. Criminal history inquiries will be limited to the past three years, enabling individuals with older criminal histories to have a fair chance at securing housing, with an exception for individuals on the sex offender registry. Additionally, the bill seeks to ensure transparency by requiring housing providers to provide a physical disclosure stating the reasons for denying an applicant, fostering a more open and accountable housing system. Lastly, the proposed legislation mandates that all housing providers restrict their application fees to cover only the actual cost of the screening process in order to prevent excessive fees and ensure that applicants are charged reasonably based on the expenses incurred during the screening procedure.
- Lee Harris, Mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee, for a program to help formerly incarcerated people find job opportunities. The “Work to Break the Cycle" initiative is a job website featuring updated Shelby County Government positions for individuals with arrest or conviction records. It complements the 2020 Ban the Box Ordinance, which removed questions about criminal history from job applications. This initiative has facilitated numerous opportunities for ex-offenders to join the county government workforce, with over 100 employment offers extended. By offering tailored jobs, we aim to reduce recidivism rates, as employment cuts reoffending chances by up to 20 percent. This dedicated job site enhances application confidence, promotes local economic engagement, and reduces incarceration expenses, aligning with the goal of reintegrating justice-impacted individuals into the community.
- Will Jawando, Montgomery County (Maryland) County Councilmember for a bill to help stabilize rent increases. The Housing Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity (HOME) Act protects tenants through rent stabilization and predictable housing costs, thus helping them stay in their homes over time, just like homeowners. Montgomery County is the first county in Maryland to establish permanent rent stabilization at a maximum cap of six percent. The County Council approved renter regulations that balance the need to protect tenants with providing landlords with economic tools to maintain and build housing. The compromise bill that passed, Rent Stabilization, prevents rent gouging, reduces displacement, and creates cost predictability for tenants and landlords through several measures, including: Setting an annual rental increase allowance of CPI-U plus three percent, capped at a maximum of six percent; establishing guidelines for fees and fee increases for regulated rental units; establishing provisions for the landlord to increase the rent above the cap and apply a surcharge for renovations; and defining a process for landlords to bank unused rental increase allowances.
- Phil Olaleye, Georgia state Representative for a bill to expand resources to low-income students. Georgia HB 668 introduces an "opportunity weight" to allocate additional resources for students in poverty. Georgia is only one of six states that does not allocate specific state funds to help educate students living in poverty. This initiative ensures schools can meet diverse educational needs, from rural transportation to mental health support and urban meal programs. The bill strives to eliminate disparities and enhance education statewide. For example, schools in rural Georgia might use the funds to transport students to dual enrollment programs or provide Wi-Fi hotspots. Suburban schools might use the funds to enhance mental health counseling and increase after-school tutoring. And urban districts might use the funds to pay for school meal programs and provide critical wraparound services.
NOTE: You can find a full list of finalists across all categories on the NewDEAL website.
About the Ideas Challenge
The NewDEAL's Ideas Challenge is a bi-annual policy competition open to NewDEAL Leaders, accepting policy submissions at any stage, from ideas to fully implemented policies. Ideas were rated by a panel of eight expert judges based on their potential and/or actual impact and inventiveness, with finalists were chose in four categories: Effective Use of Federal Funds; Creating Economic Opportunities and Lowering Costs; Promoting Equality and Targeting Underserved Communities; and Protecting Democracy. From nearly 80 entries, the top 20 submissions have been recognized as finalists.
The Ideas Challenge was open to the nearly 200 members of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), a national network of rising state and local elected leaders who are pro-growth progressives. NewDEAL’s mission is to bring together leaders focused on expanding opportunity and to help them develop and spread innovative ideas to spur economic growth that is broadly-earned and sustainable. The organization connects NewDEAL Leaders with each other to exchange ideas, and connects them with other pro-growth progressive political, policy, and private sector leaders.
The winners of the 2023 Ideas Challenge will be announced next month and featured in GOVERNING, as well as at the thirteenth annual NewDEAL Leaders Conference, November 15-17, in Washington, D.C.