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News & Updates from the Assets & Opportunity Network


Nebraska Families Can't Survive on $7.25

Posted by amancuso on 04/03/2014

In general, Nebraska is state that values hard work, but earlier this week the State Legislature failed to ensure that this value is reflected in our law. In 2012, there were 32,000 workers in Nebraska trying to survive on the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. A bill to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour failed by a vote of 20-20 in the state Legislature. The bill needed 25 votes to pass.

Earlier this year, Voices for Children in Nebraska released a new report called the Family Bottom Line that includes an online calculator showing what Nebraska families need to make ends meet without assistance based on family size, age of children, and county of residence. For the majority of Nebraska families, $7.25 is not enough to meet basic needs without assistance.

In fact, a single parent with two young children in one of the larger counties in our state would need $22.06 per hour to earn enough from full-time work to meet basic expenses. Even a two-parent, two child family in rural Nebraska would need a minimum of $8.70 per adult, per hour just to get by.

Although the bill was defeated, efforts to raise the minimum wage will continue. Raising the minimum wage is not only the right thing to do, it is also supported by the majority of Nebraskans. Polling done in February of this year showed that 55% of Nebraskans support increasing the minimum wage while only 33% are opposed. We need to ensure that hard work pays off and that families can earn enough from full-time work to support themselves without assistance and Nebraska families can't do that on $7.25 per hour.

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Efforts to Raise the Minimum Wage in Louisville and Kentucky Continue

Posted by tlentz on 04/02/2014

Kentucky’s current minimum wage aligns with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. In response to the growing concern that minimum wage workers need a boost to work towards self-sufficiency, several efforts are under way both locally and across the state. A recent report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy indicated that raising the minimum wage would benefit 1 in 4 Kentucky workers and 22% of the state’s children.

In November 2013, the University of Louisville became the first Kentucky public university to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour for all regular employees. Councilwoman Attica Scott announced in February 2014 that she plans to introduce a local minimum wage ordinance.

In addition to local efforts, state efforts to raise the minimum wage are also progressing. Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo introduced HB 1 to raise the minimum wage in Kentucky during the 2014 session and the bill passed the House on February 6, 2014. Furthermore, Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky is co-sponsoring the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour incrementally over three years.

If you are interested in getting involved at the state level, think about joining the Workers’ Rights Taskforce. More information can be found here:

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Liberato: United Way initiative helping families thrive financially

Posted by slopez on 04/01/2014

Tags: financial stability, Houston, THRIVE

By Lynne Liberato

The following article appeared in the Houston Chronicle on March 26, 2014

Despite Houston's healthy economy, too many hardworking families here live on the fragile financial edge, where a broken water heater or bad case of the flu can spell economic disaster. One in three families lives on an annual income of $40,000 or less; while $47,000 annually is considered the minimum needed to cover basic expenses for a family of four.

Adding to the problem is the alarming number of unbanked families. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Houston ranks as the nation's sixth-most unbanked major metropolitan city, with 11.9 percent of households lacking access to a bank account.

Imagine how hard it is to build savings and accrue assets without a bank account.

Currently, financial literacy is not part of the required curriculum in Texas high schools.

Without any formal education in managing finances, most low-income adults fall prey to living paycheck to paycheck and, lacking a banking relationship, rely on high-interest payday loans in times of crisis which plunges them further into debt.

Helping low-income families achieve greater financial stability is a complex challenge which, in addition to addressing financial education, must focus on helping wage earners acquire the job skills and knowledge they need to participate in Houston's growth of higher wage jobs.

A recent Houston Chronicle article "A long trek in quest to move up" (Page B1, Feb. 15), illustrated this reality with the story of Army veteran Jerome Edmond who, unable to afford a car, rides three buses and walks a mile daily to attend the technical training courses he needs to land a better job.

Recognizing the need in our community to help hard-working, low-income families create a better future for their children and themselves, United Way of Greater Houston created THRIVE.

A collaborative initiative, THRIVE provides a network of services that, bundled together, give families the tools they need to increase income, build savings and acquire assets.

THRIVE helps families increase income through education, workforce development, career counseling, and free tax preparation.

THRIVE families build savings by opening a savings account and enrolling in financial education classes to improve their credit and better manage expenses.

Finally, they acquire assets, such as a home, a small business or a car through low-interest and credit-building loans, small business development and homeownership assistance, peer group meetings and matched savings programs.

These strategies have proved successful.

Since launching in 2008, United Way THRIVE has established a path to financial stability for more than 52,000 Houston-area families.

And THRIVE families who engaged in building both workforce and financial skills increased their income 20 percent.

In my many years as a United Way volunteer, I have come to believe that THRIVE is an initiative that only United Way could have begun. Only United Way has the community's trust, the know-how, the will and the way.

The nonprofit organization, which helps to fund many charitable efforts in the Greater Houston area, brought together 21 nonprofit partners, along with community colleges, financial institutions, employers and local government agencies, to provide comprehensive financial services to families.

As THRIVE has grown, more partners have joined, and the initiative has built a solid record of creating real change for lower-income families.

But for THRIVE to reach its potential, it must continue to grow. THRIVE's increasing reach will not only help individual families succeed; it will help Houston meet its workforce challenges. This "hands up" approach creates hope and opportunity for all - and that's what Houston is all about.

Lynne Liberato, a partner at the law firm of Haynes and Boone, is chair of this year's United Way of Greater Houston's Community Campaign, which is set to end Monday, and has been the chair of the United Way THRIVE Initiative since it began in 2008.

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Catalyst Miami to Launch Lending Circles Program

Posted by dlevine on 04/01/2014

With founding support from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Catalyst Miami announces that it will soon launch an innovative social lending program which will help financially excluded communities of Miami-Dade County gain access to the financial mainstream. Catalyst Miami’s Lending Circles program will help consumers under-served by traditional banking institutions build credit, develop sound spending habits, and receive financial coaching.

The Lending Circles program will focus on formalizing social lending circles popular in many of the immigrant communities of Miami-Dade County. Participants in the program will have the opportunity to connect to the formal banking sector while building savings, establishing credit scores, or repairing damaged scores. By the end of the program participants will have both credit histories and savings which can be used for anything from the seed capital needed to form a new business to a simple desire to build savings.

Catalyst Miami will work closely with participants to help them reach their financial goals by offering financial coaching services such as credit counseling and family budgeting, in addition to benefits enrollment, tax services, and career services.

For more information please contact:
Terry Tasker, 786-527-2574,

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A Balance in Budget

Posted by mjohnson on 03/25/2014

Seems like all progress is one step forward and two steps back.

Even with the war on poverty and building assets.

Check out this report to see if there is balance in Obama’s budget for resources to help in saving and asset building.

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Kentucky Takes Positive Steps to Simplify Medicaid Enrollment Process

Posted by tlentz on 03/24/2014

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has taken many positive steps to simplify the enrollment process to make sure eligible kids are enrolled in Medicaid and the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP). In 2009, the Governor removed the requirement for families to have a face to face interview to enroll their children in Medicaid/KCHIP and allowed families to mail in applications. In 2010, the Governor eliminated premiums for KCHIP that some families were required to pay. This helped reduce the cost burden that many families faced to keep their kids enrolled in KCHIP. Most recently, the Governor recommended removing the requirement for children to wait 6-months to enroll in KCHIP when they are moving from private coverage to KCHIP and removing the 5-year waiting period for legally residing immigrant children to enroll in KCHIP. All of these policy actions help kids in Kentucky get and stay enrolled in health coverage.

Family Health Centers in Louisville worked with state partners such as Kentucky Voices for Health and Kentucky Youth Advocates to help these state policy actions move forward. In addition, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency serves as kynectors in Louisville to help enroll families who are eligible for Medicaid or private insurance if they are not eligible for Medicaid.

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Leaders in Louisville, KY Speak Up for a State Earned Income Tax Credit

Posted by tlentz on 03/18/2014

A state Earned Income Tax Credit that would piggyback on the federal Earned Income Tax Credit is currently making headway in the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly with SB 155, sponsored by Senator Morgan McGarvey from Louisville. The bill has bi-partisan support.

Over 21% of tax filers in Jefferson County are struggling to make ends meet and using the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to work their way out of poverty. These are families with one or both parents employed but not earning enough money to afford some of life’s most basic necessities in some of the most difficult economic times in Kentucky’s history. A state Earned Income Tax Credit would help 70,517 hard-working families in Jefferson County.

Several community partners in Louisville are actively working on a state Earned Income Tax Credit. The Louisville Asset Building Coalition educates families about the benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott serves as the coach for the team in Kentucky, led by Kentucky Youth Advocates, Metro United Way, Community Action Kentucky and the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, that is looking to pass Earned Income Tax Credit legislation in our state.

Here are a few recent articles by community partners promoting a state Earned Income Tax Credit:

An Extra 300 Bucks Can Make a Big Difference for Some This Tax Season - By John Nevitt, Senior Manager of Family Stability, Metro United Way

Kentucky should adopt an Earned Income Credit - By Attica Scott, Metro Councilwoman, District 1 -

For more information about the effort to pass a Kentucky Earned Income Tax Credit, visit

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Lending Circles in Chicago: A New Approach to Financial Empowerment

Posted by tararobinson on 03/17/2014

Tags: nonprofit, social lending, financial management, credit building, low-income, chicago

Please join JPMorgan Chase and Mission Asset Fund on Monday, March 31st to learn about how community foundations and local nonprofits in Chicago can empower low-income and immigrant communities to join the financial mainstream through Mission Asset Fund’s Lending Circles program.

Without good credit scores, thousands of Chicago residents struggle to get out of the economic margins. Lending Circles, the award-winning social loan program, provides an innovative solution. Through social loans and financial education, Lending Circles helps participants build credit history and gain access to low-cost loans.

Mission Asset Fund is a San Francisco-based nonprofit on a mission to create a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families so they can go on to achieve their dreams. Mission Asset Fund has partnered with over 20 nonprofit agencies to provide Lending Circles to nearly 2,000 people in six states, and now Lending Circles is heading to Chicago!

About the event

Mission Asset Fund will provide an overview of the Lending Circle program and share how Chicago organizations can participate in the program through training and technical support to bring Lending Circles to their clients. Reception to follow training.

Organizations focused on low-income and immigrant communities are encouraged to attend!


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The Struggle to Save Continues

Posted by mjohnson on 03/14/2014

The struggle to save is still prominent with a lot of Americans.

According to a recent survey, most Americans think they could be doing better to save for the future.

Click here to see the results of this survey. How do you think you compare?

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Women and Minimum Wage

Posted by mjohnson on 03/14/2014

Is it a surprise that women outnumber both teenagers and men when it comes to the highest demographic of minimum wage earners?

It’s true.

Click here to get more in-depth information on this alarming statistic.

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