Setting financial stability priorities

As originally published in the Our Towns section of The State Journal-Register on Sunday, December 13, 2015.

Beverly BunchEffectively managing our money is something most of us have struggled with at some point in our lives. Maybe it was the first time we bounced a check, missed a rent or car payment, or had to tell our child that she would need to pick a less expensive college or take out lots of loans. But for some people, obtaining financial stability is an ongoing struggle. They may have troubles getting a job that pays a living wage, be unable to save enough money to pay the security deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment, or have large amounts of debt at high interest rates.

Is it possible to help people become more financially stable? As a teacher, I believe the answer to that question is “yes.” That’s why I agreed to chair a United Way of Central Illinois vision council that is focusing on helping at-risk individuals and families become financially stable.
During the past year, the United Way leadership, staff, and volunteers have been engaging the community in discussions about what types of financial stability needs exist within our community; what types of goals we should strive to achieve; and how we, as a community, can work together to achieve those goals.

I would like to share with you where we are at in the process. We have developed two major priorities or goals. The first priority is to help adults be equipped to support themselves and/or their families in a financially stable environment. In pursuit of this goal, the United Way of Central Illinois will be soliciting proposals from community organizations to provide case management, coaching, mentoring, and/or other methods to help individuals (a) overcome barriers to employment; (b) obtain safe and affordable housing; and (c) increase their money management skills.
The second priority is for seniors to be able to lead independent lives, including having safe and affordable housing and effectively managing their money. Again the focus will be on working with community partners that can provide case management, coaching, mentoring, and/or other methods.

We also heard that the community believes that we need to help young people become financially literate. Therefore, the United Way of Central Illinois, to the extent possible, will help create linkages between organizations and financial institutions who can help high school students develop their financial literacy and money management skills.

Focusing on financial stability is a new area of emphasis for the United Way of Central Illinois. What is not new for United Way is the importance of partnering with community organizations. To make this endeavor a success, United Way will be partnering with community organizations that have the expertise and ability to reach out to at-risk individuals and families, provide effective assistance and services, and track and measure progress.

We hope the community will support this undertaking. By working together, we can make progress that will not only help at-risk individuals and families become more financially stable, but build a stronger more prosperous community for everyone.

Beverly Bunch is the chair of United Way’s Financial Stability Vision Council. Learn more, including application information for programs seeking 2016 funding, at www.springfieldunitedway.org. Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.