We gathered insights from Community Jobs sites that integrate both urban and rural perspectives in preparation to design a savings intervention that is appropriate for Washington TANF recipients across the state. We sought to answer the question, How might we improve financial resilience, through savings behaviors, of parents in Community Jobs programs, with a two-generation approach? Some Community Job sites already have established services that are aimed at increasing their parents’ financial well-being through asset-building and financial empowerment activities. Our goal was to learn what is working well, what constraints exist, and where there are opportunities to build on what is already happening.
Through our development process, we created Money Powerup Packs, which are event kits that provide everything needed to launch, easy, engaging events within a pre-existing community development program. They are designed to be facilitated by staff from varying levels of experience with financial capability services. The packs provide an easy way to host impactful events that build financial resilience for families within a given community. The packs create an environment to encourage organizations to share more than just information through community building, celebrating progress, and creating memorable experiences. Money Powerup Packs are currently being tested in seven TANF sits across Washington State and four Early Learning sites.
Families on public assistance usually leave the system without no or very little savings to sustain them in future financial emergencies or give them the ability to invest in assets, such as post-secondary education or a home. This makes it nearly impossible for a household to become financially stable.
The Community Jobs Bank Account Pilot (CJBAP) Project, conducted in 2014 by the WA State Department of Commerce, Lower Columbia Community Action Agency, YWCA (Seattle), and The Prosperity Agenda sought out to integrate financial empowerment services into Community Jobs, a transitional jobs training program for TANF recipients. Along with the job opportunity, parents were also offered a bundle of financial services including access to low-cost bank accounts, electronic funds transfer, Money Smart financial education, and financial coaching that addressed the clients’ struggles with personal financial management. The participants demonstrated positive financial outcomes, such as utilizing direct deposit for their paychecks, overcoming fears of interacting with the banking system, and reducing banking fees due to improved understanding of money management.
Households without savings are vulnerable to economic shocks, such as an income drop from a job loss or an expense spike from an unexpected car repair or medical bill.
People won’t feel told what to do – so much of their lives, they’re being told what to do. But with this, it’s an experience and they get to develop their own feelings and decisions about it.