Stabilizing household economic situations
In 2018 when the last ALICE study was completed, it found that one out of every three households in our region struggles to make ends meet. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This was pre-pandemic. When the pandemic hit and schools and businesses had to shut down, these households were disproportionately impacted due to losing childcare, having to home school, the lack of savings, and either losing wages from job loss or being at increased risk of infection from being an essential worker.
At Great Rivers United Way, we have long been involved in working for financial stability in the communities we serve. One of our three strategic objectives is to stabilize household economic situations so people experience thriving lives.
To help accomplish this objective, we provide Community Investment Grant funding to programs that help people get back on their feet after an economic crisis; learn about their finances; improve their financial position; and gain education, skills, and tools for increasing income.
Homelessness is a devastating experience for individuals and families. Last month we talked about supporting emergency shelter programs for people experiencing homelessness. In addition to emergency shelter we also support a broad spectrum of programming from preventing homelessness to providing case management and support once housed.
Housing programs through Independent Living Resources, Couleecap, Families First of Monroe County, Bluff Country Family Resources, and YWCA La Crosse work with people where they are at to develop goals and connect to community resources to help households gain stability and self-sufficiency. Through a mixture of interventions like rental assistance, rent subsidies, budget counseling, and case management, households are able to work on plans that they direct and develop.
One unique approach helping people who are homeless and have a disabling condition is Couleecap’s Social Security Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) program. SOAR uses a proven model that increases the initial approval of Social Security and Disability applications, helping individuals gain access to financial and health benefits quicker than if they did not have assistance. The program also connects people with primary healthcare, treatment, job training, and housing. It is a life-changing program for households in severe need.
Great Rivers United Way also supports Consumer Credit Counseling Service of La Crosse in their work to improve financial stability of individuals and families. With grant funding, Consumer Credit Counseling Service provides one-on-one credit counseling, budget counseling, and credit repair services to help folks in the area increase their savings and reduce debt.
Access to decent-paying jobs is another focus within our strategic objective to stabilize household economic situations so people experience thriving lives. GRUW provides Community Investment funds to the Supported Employment Program at Family & Children’s Center to help people struggling with mental health issues gain competitive employment. Program staff support folks in finding and maintaining jobs that are fulfilling and competitive, counsel on how a job may impact Social Security benefits, provide support in maintaining mental health treatment, and connect to other community resources. Program staff also build relationships with employers in order to build a community of employers supportive of hiring folks in the program.
Another way that GRUW is increasing financial stability is by supporting programs that help people gain education, skills, and tools that lead to obtaining and keeping good-paying jobs or opening a small business. Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council provides Skills Enhancement, Work-n-Wheels, and Jobs and Business Development programs in Buffalo and Trempealeau counties with help from Community Investment funds. These programs help people obtain skills needed for high-demand jobs; open or expand small businesses providing not only individual income, but also new jobs in the community; and have reliable transportation to be able to get to work.
Beyond grant funds, GRUW supports other efforts to increase financial stability through advocacy and collaborations. One important collaboration is the Coulee Region Tax Assistance project that helps low-income folks access free tax submission so they can maximize their tax returns. This project has put hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of our community members.
When a problem is as complex as poverty, the best solution is a multifaceted approach that addresses individual needs. GRUW’s funding, advocacy, and collaborations put financial stability within reach for local people experiencing financial hardship. Our work (and your support of it) moves all households toward a more equitable economy, and ensure that no one is left behind during difficult times.
To learn more about the United Way-funded programs that stabilize household economic situations so people experience thriving lives, visit www.gruw.org/june. Learn more about the ALICE Report at: www.unitedforalice.org/wisconsin.