A BOLD STEP TOWARD FINANCIAL STABILITY

Blog by Ken Toll

My last two blogs touched on a new community vision, United Way’s focus on Financial Stability, and the impact of poverty and near-poverty on people and the community.

Today I want to touch on how Jackson County is going to really move the needle.

Remember our vision: We will be a community rich in opportunities to eliminate poverty and allow all people to achieve financial stability and success.

A vision is great. Every community should have one. But if we don’t take deliberate steps to make it real, it’s just words on paper.

This is where partnership is so crucial. United Way and the Financial Stability Coalition put their heads together to figure out what big, bold step we could take collectively to move Jackson County toward that vision. Out of that months-long discussion, we set a nine-year goal that will drive us toward that vision.

Here’s the goal: Help 5,000 Jackson County residents develop a pathway to financial success by 2025.

At first blush, it sounds doable. But remember the complexities of economic instability. Something as simple and seemingly unrelated as a school child with a sniffle can start a cascade of events that leaves a family in financial trouble.

What do I mean? A child feels sick and reports to the school nurse. The school calls the child’s single parent. Mom leaves work to get her child. She doesn’t have child care or any relatives available to help, so she stays home with her child and loses a day’s pay. Turns out the child has influenza. Mom misses several days of work and has to take her child to the doctor. Now she’s out a week’s pay. She’s already having trouble paying her bills, and now she’s 25 percent behind for the month. What if she can’t make her rent? She could be evicted. What if she can’t make her car payment? She might lose her car, which is her only way to get to work.

See how it spirals out of control?

We believe no family should face that risk. That’s why United Way and the Coalition have put a stake in the ground. By helping 5,000 residents find the way to financial stability, the people of Jackson County will have the tools, knowledge and supports they need to leave economic uncertainty behind.

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We will be looking at bolstering education programs that help kids succeed, graduate and go on to successful careers. We’ll look at programs that help people generate more income or manage what they have more effectively. We’ll look at programs that promote nutrition and healthier lifestyles. And as always, we’ll look at support systems that help people through financial bumps and crises so they can keep following that pathway to success.

We’ll be talking a lot more about Financial Stability in the months ahead. I hope you’ll be part of our work to achieve our bold goal and make the vision real for all of Jackson County.

Got some feedback on all this? I’d love to hear it! Send me an email (ktoll@uwjackson.org), give me a call (517-784-0511) or share your thoughts on Facebook.

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