By BRENNA GRITEMAN
The United Way of Hancock County has identified “financial stability” as the community’s greatest need.
The agency has pledged $5 million over the next five years to help empower local nonprofits to better serve clients in the areas of transportation, housing, mental health and substance abuse.
With improvements in those areas, the United Way believes the county’s most vulnerable citizens will be on their way to greater financial stability.
The United Way unveiled its new financial stability initiative at a Tuesday evening community forum.
The initiative drastically changes the way grant cycles for the United Way’s partner agencies work. Rather than the typical one-year grants, United Way CEO John Urbanski described a multi-year grant cycle for participating agencies, with priority funding for collaborative efforts.
“We know perfectly well that you cannot solve root problems in one year,” Urbanski said, noting that current partner agencies that don’t fall under the scope of financial stability may apply for one-year grants as usual.
Those agencies wishing to apply for a multi-year grant (three to five years) are being encouraged to work with United Way personnel to identify how their services fit into the new initiative.
A recent Ohio Asset Limited Income Constrained Employment (ALICE) study, which identifies the working poor, found that 14 percent of the roughly 31,000 Hancock County households are operating just above the federal poverty level, while 11 percent are living below this level.
The United Way’s initiative aims to reach 20 percent of these so-called ALICE households, along with 20 percent of the county’s average yearly 1,400 unemployed, and 20 percent of its average yearly 1,000 unemployable. The goal is to impact 2,050 lives by the year 2022.
“At Job and Family Services, we see the impact of financial instability, medical issues, and trauma on a daily basis. Addressing the root causes of these issues will aid our citizens in obtaining stable housing, transportation, financial security, and most of all increase personal safety for the entire community,” said Diana Hoover, director of Hancock Job and Family Services, which provided the local employment statistics.
“These social problems cannot be addressed by one agency alone, so the United Way’s step to working collaboratively in resolving issues at the root cause will aid our entire community,” Hoover said. “As an agency, we are looking forward to being a part of the resolution.”
Key strategies to implement the financial stability initiative include workforce readiness; identifying and removing barriers to employment; ensuring the target population has the necessary tools to move forward; working one-on-one to improve youth and adults’ financial acumen; stressing the importance of working with banks over payday lenders; and youth investment, a “cradle to career” attempt to equip students with soft skills and college readiness.
The timeline for partner agency funding will remain largely unchanged from standard grant cycles. The grant submittal deadline is Feb. 1, 2018, with awards announced in late March and funding beginning April 1.