Indiana Community Action Network E-newsletter
December/January 2016 issue

 

NEWS

About the 2016 IIWF Legislative Policy Agenda

IIWF Releases SNAP Asset Limits Policy Brief

EVENTS

Brightpoint Receives Nearly $1 Million from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to Offer an Alternative to Payday Lending

Leaders of Stonecutters Apartments Celebrate the Opening of its Low-Income Senior Housing Complex

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Area IV Shares the Table with Thanksgiving Meal Deliveries

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at CAPWI to Continue for Third Year

REAL Services Family Development Program Helps Young Woman & Her Family Achieve Self-Sufficiency

WorkOne Helps Single Mom Achieve New Career Goals

Area IV Staff Members Helps Increase Awareness of Energy Assistance Program

NWICA Restaurant Voucher Program Manager Witnesses Benefit of Program First-Hand

Submission information

 

About the 2016 IIWF Legislative Public Policy Agenda

Despite an improving economy, low- to moderate-income Hoosiers still face substantial challenges to their ability to achieve and maintain economic self-sufficiency.

Policymakers have the ability to address these challenges and restore opportunity to hard-working Hoosier families by providing them with a “toolbox” of reforms that restore the promise of economic mobility.

The Indiana Institute for Working Families (IIWF), a program of the Indiana Community Action Association, has prepared an infographic (pictured on right - click for details) that identifies and explains six tools that can restore economic opportunity for hard-working Hoosiers in 2016.

Read the full Indiana Institute for Working Families' 2016 Legislative Public Policy Agenda.

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IIWF Releases SNAP Asset Limits Policy Brief

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the new name for The Food Stamp Program, is a core component of America’s nutrition assistance safety net for 46.5 million Americans and about 900,000 Hoosiers. SNAP benefits are funded entirely by the federal government, and states are responsible for paying half of the administrative costs.

Currently, A household’s income must not exceed 130 percent of the poverty line or $2,177 per month for a three-person family in fiscal year 2015. In addition, a household may not exceed $2,250 in countable resources, such as a bank account, or $3,250 in countable resources if at least one person is age 60 or older or is disabled.

IIWF is lobbying to eliminate the asset limit, which will encourage families to develop good savings behavior. Asset limits force families to spend down longer-term savings in order to continue to receive SNAP benefits, which creates a cycle of reliance on those benefits.

Learn more about policy changes IIWF is proposing in the November 2015 SNAP Asset Limit Policy Brief by the Indiana Institute for Working Families.

 

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Brightpoint Receives Nearly $1 Million from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to Offer an Alternative to Payday Lending

Brightpoint (formerly Community Action of Northeast Indiana or CANI) announced at a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 3, that it has received nearly $1 million in funding from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to expand its consumer loan program. Brightpoint received this award as part of a $5.1 million grant to the Community Loan Center™Coalition of Texas and Indiana.
 
“The purpose of this grant is to invest in an employer-based, small-dollar loan program that will provide an alternative to payday lending,” reported Brightpoint President/CEO Steve Hoffman. “Thanks to the generous funding from JPMorgan Chase, Brightpoint will be able to help keep more dollars in the pockets of families in our community.”
 
In Indiana, payday lenders cost consumers more than $70 million in fees annually. On an average 14-day loan, payday lenders charge 365 percent APR. About 7 percent of low-income families in northeast Indiana utilize payday lenders regularly. (It is not just low-income households who are using these services. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the median income of payday borrowers is $22,476, but a quarter of all borrowers make $33,876 or more.)
 
“The challenges facing our communities require solutions tailored to their specific needs,” said Jim Cook, division manager for Chase’s Commercial Bank. “Brightpoint is developing innovative strategies for the needs of Fort Wayne-area families that will connect them to greater economic opportunities and prosperity.”
 
The Community Loan Center was developed in Texas and is now expanding into Indiana. The Indiana Association for Community Economic Development (IACED) will act as the statewide coordinator for the Community Loan Center franchising in Indiana. Brightpoint will serve northeast Indiana while HomesteadCS will serve the Lafayette market.
 
Community Loan Center offers affordable loans to consumers while allowing employers an opportunity to offer a valuable employee benefit. Employers pay no direct cost to provide this benefit to their employees, and it can increase productivity by reducing employee financial stress and increasing workplace morale.
 
The Community Loan Center of Northeast Indiana operated by Brightpoint will offer a low-cost loan product with an affordable payback plan that is payroll-deducted, allowing employees to overcome their financial emergencies. Another benefit of the program is that activity on the loan will be reported to credit bureaus (something payday lenders don’t do), helping to build the credit score of the borrower.
 
Many times, payday loans are used for such things as medical emergencies, car repairs or to catch up on bills. While providing low-cost consumer loans for these needs, Brightpoint will also connect borrowers to the other services the agency provides, such as help enrolling in health insurance, assistance with utility and child care costs, and connecting them with other resources in the community.
 
“We are excited to begin offering this new service that will help alleviate financial stress for more families and create a brighter future for our community,” concluded Mr. Hoffman.

The Community Loan Center of Northeast Indiana is scheduled to begin offering loans in February 2016.

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Leaders of Stonecutters Apartments Celebrate the Opening of Low-Income Senior Housing Complex

Leaders of Stonecutters Apartments held an open house event and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Nov. 20. Approximately 300 people attended the open house held at the 30-unit senior housing complex in downtown Bedford.

The complex was designed to offer safe, affordable and modern housing for seniors 62 and over. There are a variety of features to make the units safer for the senior population, including fully handicapped accessible units that have been designed to help tenants be more self-sufficient. Stonecutters is fully equipped with a community room, court yard, exercise room and elevator.

This project was led by the Hoosier Uplands Economic Development Corporation, done in conjunction with Bedford’s Stellar Community project. Funding was provided in large part through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, The Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis and the Old National Bank Foundation, with help from the City of Bedford.

This beautiful complex offers amazing views of downtown Bedford and allows easy access to all Bedford has to offer with its perfect location.

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Area IV Shares the Table with Thanksgiving Meal Deliveries

During the holiday season, we gather to give thanks for our blessings. Unfortunately, while we do so, there are many among us struggling with providing food for themselves and their families. Like the Pilgrims and Indians who sat down to share their harvest, there is still a need for fellowship in our communities. Community Action Programs were intended to see those needs, bring attention to them and exert efforts to address them. That is exactly what the Area IV Organizational Payee Program attempts to do.

The Organizational Payee Program establishes a structure around individuals' Social Security incomes to meet their basic needs of food, shelter and medical care. However, it is a struggle to make that math work when individuals often receive less than $733 a month to live on and are faced with an ever-increasing cost of living with no reprieve. With further regulations restricting access to SNAP benefits and food pantries struggling themselves with high demand, additional supports are getting harder and harder to find.

The rhetoric may have changed to catalogue these individuals as “food insecure” by the USDA, but the need hasn’t changed. There are an estimated 48.1 million Americans living in need, and that number continues to grow.

Recognizing that need was the catalyst this fall for a Thanksgiving meal-delivery program. Headed by the Organizational Payee Program at Area IV and through the support of Agency workers and volunteers, meals were delivered to more than 120 needy individuals and families in the Tippecanoe, Carroll, Clinton and White county areas. Individuals who may have been facing empty stomachs over the Thanksgiving holiday were treated to those time-honored traditions of chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, corn and stuffing. Deliveries were made by friendly faces with a message of compassion and caring extended from Area IV.

The table is ours together. While we gather there, we must recognize that it is empty for too many. We urge you to take action, Community Action.

Right: Kevin Sietsma, Area IV Organization Payee Program coordinator, delivers a Thanksgiving meal to Robert Burkhardt.

 

   

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Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at CAPWI to Continue for Third Year

Community Action Program, Inc. of Western Indiana (CAPWI) is preparing for its third year offering the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA is a FREE income tax preparation and filing assistance program for eligible families and individuals, including people with disabilities, the elderly and people with limited-English-speaking skills. All returns are prepared and processed by an in-person, IRS-certified volunteer. Trained volunteers work with clients to determine their eligibility for the Earned Income Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit and/or education credits. Clients can get their entire state and/or federal tax refunds in as little as 10 to 14 days (with no hidden fees) when the returns are e-filed and deposited directly into the clients' checking or savings account.

This program eliminates the “middleman,” accountants, whose fees can be as much as $500 or more, and it puts money back into the pockets of our clients for other essentials or a chance to start a savings account.

Last year, CAPWI provided this service to 74 clients from Fountain and Vermillion counties, resulting in $108,839 in state and federal tax refunds. Of those filings, 26 included Earned Income Credits of $57,384.50. Also included in this number were 12 elderly families who had previously paid anywhere from $30-$150 in tax preparation fees, with many filing state returns only. By utilizing the services offered through the VITA program, these elderly families saved $1,181 in fees. One elderly individual had paid a $50 fee to receive a refund of $52 from the State the year before. Three volunteers devoted 105 hours to preparing and e-filing these tax returns.

CAPWI is proud to be offering this program again in 2016. This year, clients can take advantage of scheduled appointments, the ability to drop off their tax information without having to stay for the preparation process and a computer lab for clients who want to do their own returns.

The VITA program is provided by the Vermilion (Illinois) VITA Coalition, United Way of Danville Area, Danville Area Community College, IRS/VITA, University of Illinois Extension, Laura Lee Fellowship House, Georgetown High School, Danville Housing Authority and Community Action Program, Inc. of Western Indiana.

   

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REAL Services Family Development Program Helps Young Woman & Her Family Achieve Self-Sufficiency

REAL Services works to assist individuals in maintaining their independence and finding meaning and satisfaction in their lives. The Family Development Program is just one of its programs that offer assistance to low-income families who are willing to move toward self-sufficiency.

Laquisha Jackson (pictured at right) is a Family Development client who has met the self-sufficiency goal, meaning she and her family are now able to support themselves. When Laquisha first looked into the program, she said “I was not at a place in my life where I was ready to accept help.” But as time passed, she changed her mind.

She and her family were living in Section 8 housing, when they learned that, if they met self-sufficiency goals at the Housing Authority, they would be in a position to graduate from that program. After joining the program, they received financial education that helped them focus on getting their finances in order, including cleaning up their credit report. They were able to gradually pay off all of their old debt and no longer needed financial assistance to pay for their housing costs.

Talk about an amazing accomplishment! They graduated from the program in 2013.

Laquisha had always wanted to get her GED, so when someone contacted her again from the Family Development Program, she was ready to say “yes.” She started taking classes at the First Methodist Church in South Bend. The Church paid for her to take the GED test, and she graduated in 2014. She persevered even while pregnant with twins and supporting six other children in her household. She wanted to improve her life and the life of her family. After the birth of her twins, Laquisha went back to work full time. Along the way, the Family Development Program provided an education for her on budgeting and finance, home ownership, lifestyle, work-life balance and healthy eating. Her children were also able to attend classes through the Family Development Program.

Most recently, Laquisha and her husband had their first home built – what an accomplishment! They moved their family into this new home in June 2015. Today, she is enrolled in the Hospitality Program at Ivy Tech Community College. As a part of the Education Assistance piece in the Family Development Program, Laquisha's books are paid for, and she is given a mileage allowance for her driving commute to and from school. She works in the food industry and would like to one day own a business with her husband. To work toward that goal, she deposits money into an IDA account on a regular basis, which can be used to pay for college, buy a home or buy a business.

This motivated, goal-oriented young woman, who has met and surpassed many of the goals she has set for herself, will no doubt one day own a restaurant with her own name on the marquee! She and her husband are SELF-SUFFICIENT, and Laquisha is an inspiration to everyone! She is an avid supporter of the Family Development Program and is grateful for the education and support she has received. She thanks REAL Services for helping her reach the quality of life she now enjoys.

   

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WorkOne Helps Single Mom Achieve New Career Goals

WorkOne West Central Indiana is a program of the Community Action Program, Inc., of Western Indiana. The program provides employment assistance by serving as the single point of contact for both job seekers and employers. Here’s one of their success stories:

Nallely Garcia-Nava
“I was a stay-at-home mom for many years, when I was suddenly facing a separation and divorce. That’s when I realized I had to do something for myself and my three kids. All these new responsibilities were very overwhelming and put me in a dark place. I felt like I was in a black hole, and it seemed I would never get out. But I made a choice to take charge and change my life by starting a healthcare career. 

I enrolled myself in school to become a medical assistant, and I got two jobs – one at a local store and one helping a family clean their house. Since money was still short, I knew something else had to be done. I quickly looked into becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA). After researching many ways to obtain my CNA, I found that WorkOne could help me accomplish this important and necessary milestone. I set an appointment, and I soon met a wonderful caseworker named Cindy. Cindy helped me get into the CNA program and gave me the support, love and encouragement I needed to juggle these life-changing events. 

Getting my CNA through WorkOne not only helped me reach one of my goals but gave me the tools necessary to be successful. Today, I am a CNA at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Delphi, where I’ve been for nearly a year since completing my clinical. Throughout this time, I have had perfect attendance on the job and was even featured in the company’s newsletter for providing excellent customer service. I am still in school, where I have perfect attendance and a GPA of 3.95. My new goal is to become a physician assistant and get my PhD. While doing this, I hope to inspire people around me to better themselves and push above and beyond. WorkOne helped me gain strength and independence, become more confident and, most important, it helped me meet my goals.

WorkOne is not just a tool for job placement. It’s also a source of support for individuals who WANT to succeed. I learned in life that anything can be accomplished, but you must give time and dedication to surpass all the obstacles and challenges life throws at you.  

Thank you, WorkOne, for changing my life. Thank you, Cindy, for believing in me and allowing me to be part of a dynamic field that changes someone’s life every day. Being a CNA is one of the most rewarding fields anyone can be in, where you touch people’s lives and build personal relationships that can last a lifetime.” 
 
Nallely is on track to be the valedictorian of her class!

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Area IV Staff Members Helps Increase Awareness of Energy Assistance Program

The Area IV Agency on Aging and Community Programs serves four counties with Community Action programs like the Energy Assistance Program (EAP). Thanks to the hard work of Area IV staff members like Holly Conner (pictured at right), Area IV’s EAP intake/outreach worker in Carroll County, the number of households served by the program has increased in the county for the 2015-2016 season due to increased awareness.

Three of the four counties served by the EAP are small, rural communities with limited resources to serve under-privileged households. Of these three rural counties, Carroll County has the least available resources for families seeking assistance. Families must reach out to the township trustee, the Salvation Army or local churches, which all have limited funds available. The Salvation Army and local churches depend on private donations to fund their relief assistance.

As a result, EAP intake staff members have been brainstorming new ways to spread the word to eligible families so they can avoid having their gas and electric services disconnected. Holly has canvassed the surrounding communities in an effort to market the program by attending social service meetings and explaining the EAP to fellow agencies that provide services to families in need. Area IV’s office, located in The Brooks Center in Delphi, shares space with the Carroll County Health Clinic, Women in Crisis, Division of Family Resources and WorkOne. Holly has developed strong working relationships with staff at each of these agencies. She also provided information and brochures to families using mobile food pantries.

During these activities, she found a number of individuals who had never heard of EAP and were amazed that this kind of service was available. Holly has improved communication with the township trustees, ensuring they know the details of the program and how to send their clients to Area IV.

By combining the EAP with utility programs like Duke Helping Hand, Holly has been able to keep a number of families from having their utilities disconnected. Holly has also achieved her Family Development Specialist certification, which allows her to assist families to move closer to their goal's of self-sufficiency. Living and working in Carroll County has enabled Holly to change people’s lives and improve her rural community.

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NWICA Restaurant Voucher Program Manager Witnesses Benefit of Program First-Hand

By: Gina Gomez, Community Services Manager

Northwest Indiana Community Action Corporation (NWICA) offers the Restaurant Voucher Program as a way to help the senior population get a heart healthy, nutritious meal. Rather than having the meals in a traditional congregate site, the meals are hosted at a local community restaurant where participants will feel most comfortable and encouraged to socialize. Community Action is, after all, meant to be local, known and trusted.

Last month, I had the pleasure of dining with our Restaurant Voucher Program participants at Niko’s Restaurant in Highland, one of the program’s approved restaurants. As a manager, I don’t often have the pleasure of visually seeing program participants, so this visit made my day and reminded me why I work in Community Action.

That morning, our waitress, Gayle, was very busy. The entire restaurant was full of activity, with approximately 50 full tables. Gayle was an outstanding server. She shared that she has been working at Niko’s for more than 15 years and loves her job and the customers. During our conversation, I inquired about the Restaurant Voucher Program, and she took an extra few minutes to share stories about her customers that brought tears to her eyes as well a mine.

After sharing that I was the Manager with the Restaurant Voucher Program, she thanked me for the opportunity we are giving her customers to come in and eat and socialize. She spoke about her “regulars,” including a husband and wife who come in three times a week for breakfast and dinner. Gayle knew that the meals provided to the couple were most likely the only nutritional meal they shared together on those days.

She said that most customers stay after they have eaten to drink coffee and socialize.

“I remember a rambunctious group of seven older men drinking coffee and talking about the upcoming elections,” Gayle said. “It made me smile. That was a hot topic for them.”

Gayle estimated that she had served at least 10 Restaurant Voucher Program customers that morning, and it was just after 9:00 a.m.

This warmed my heart, and I just had to share this story.

   


   

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