Median household income in Petersburg is $43,209, 56.6 percent of the state average, and the poverty rate there is 22.9 percent, more than double the average statewide.
Local leaders in the supermajority African-American city of 33,429 – 76.8 percent of Petersburg’s population is Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – have been making efforts to get things moving forward.
An initiative launched Monday, the Partnership for Petersburg, is bringing help from the Commonwealth.
“Today, we formally launch the Partnership for Petersburg, a holistic partnership bringing more than 40 initiatives under six separate pillars to make a significant difference in the lives and livelihoods of Petersburg’s great people as well as the economic health of the city itself. It is my sincerest hope to be able to point to the Partnership as a model for our work with other cities across the Commonwealth,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said.
The Partnership includes programs to improve K-12 education, access to health care, public safety and economic development.
As has been the case statewide, students in Petersburg have fallen behind in the wake of school closings in the COVID pandemic, registering an average of 23 weeks of learning loss in math and 21 weeks of learning loss in reading.
The Partnership will offer expanded tutoring and mentoring corps and establish K-12 schools as community hubs to increase support for students.
In the healthcare arena, wow, there is much to be done. Life expectancy for Petersburg residents is 12.9 years below the state average, and child mortality, cancer rates and the rate of sexually transmitted disease is significantly above the state average.
The Partnership will lead to the Virginia Department of Health increasing clinic hours at the city health department, providing mobile clinics and establishing community-based health literacy hubs.
Another initiative in the healthcare area will see work to upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure at the Poor Creek Pump Station.
In public safety, the first area that needs focus is the city PD, which has less than half of the officers it is rated to have based on its population size on the force, and the city Commonwealth’s attorney office, which is overloaded with cases.
The Partnership has already been working to address these needs with a surge of police assistance from the Virginia State Police and Virginia State University, and prosecutorial assistance from the office of Attorney General Jason Miyares.
The early success in this area has seen shootings down 12 percent and murders down 56 percent since the plan was put into action.
“The Partnership for Petersburg is the right initiative at the right time for our city,” Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham said. “Petersburg is at a turning point in history with the many economic development and community enhancement projects underway and in planning with the support of Gov. Youngkin, the General Assembly, and the Commonwealth. Our Ccty is positioned to capitalize on opportunities that will bring positive change for generations to come. On behalf of the citizens of Petersburg, City Council, and the city team, I thank Gov. Youngkin for creating this innovative and unparalleled partnership.”