INCOME STRATEGIES

The costs of housing, health care, child care, gas and other basics far surpass income for many families in Northwest Arkansas. Many are barely getting by, even with parents working multiple jobs. In Northwest Arkansas, 25% of families make less than $25,000 a year. After basics, there is often no money left to save for buying a home, sending kids to college or retirement. Just one unanticipated expense – a car breakdown, an uninsured illness, a week without a paycheck – can lead to crisis.
The situation is most critical for lower-income working families. Note the emphasis on working families – those in which one or two adults together work the equivalent of a full time job or more – but don’t earn enough to make ends meet. Achieving greater financial stability allows lower-income families to move towards financial independence. The recession has created or exacerbated high levels of un- and under-employment and has highlighted the mismatch between labor force skills and available jobs. Our community needs strategic, collaborative action on this challenge. We have identified three major building blocks of financial stability:

GOAL: Increase income through access to education and employment.

Family Sustaining Employment

Family sustaining employment is the bedrock of financial stability. However 25% of the families in Northwest Arkansas earn less than $25,000 annually in jobs that do not provide basic health care coverage or paid sick leave. These workers often struggle to afford food, rent, child care, and transportation, with little left over for saving and investing. Families must have a steady source of income that covers the cost of basic necessities before they can make long-term financial decisions regarding savings and asset building.

The challenge is to connect current adult earners with alternative education, training and work experience opportunities. Through education, training and sector-based strategies that connect skilled workers with jobs in growing sectors, low-wage individuals can obtain family-sustaining employment that offers the potential for career advancement.

Potential Community Level Performance Indicators:

  • Number/percent of people completing their GED
  • Number/percent of people entering post-secondary education/training

Potential Community Level Performance Indicators:

  • Number/percent of people completing their GED
  • Number/percent of people entering post-secondary education/training

GOAL: Help individuals and families build financial stability.

Savings & Assets

Savings and Assets help working families avoid financial crises caused by emergencies or unexpected changes in income, while also helping them to realize long-term goals including home ownership, a college education and retirement. We seek to improve products and systems that enable working families to save and increase their financial management knowledge and skills.

Potential Community Level Performance Indicators:

  • Number/percent of families who claim EITC
  • Number/percent of families with a bank account
  • Number/percent of people accessing no-fee income tax services

Potential Community Level Performance Indicators:

  • Number/percent of families who claim EITC
  • Number/percent of families with a bank account
  • Number/percent of people accessing no-fee income tax services

GOAL: Enable individuals and families to obtain affordable and stable housing.

Affordable Housing

Safe, stable, affordable housing is a critical component of family financial stability. We seek to connect working families with housing that is affordable to them and help them obtain and maintain their housing through transitional and supportive housing programs.

Potential Community Level Performance Indicators:

  • Number/percent of homeless people who receive permanent housing within a year
  • Number/percent of trained staff who provide case management to help families obtain affordable housing
  • Number/percent of clients who do not re-enter the homeless system within one year of obtaining permanent housing

Potential Community Level Performance Indicators:

  • Number/percent of homeless people who receive permanent housing within a year
  • Number/percent of trained staff who provide case management to help families obtain affordable housing
  • Number/percent of clients who do not re-enter the homeless system within one year of obtaining permanent housing