She’s talking about the goal set by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to lift 250,000 people out of poverty by 2020. Under the umbrella of that goal, Dallas’ Consumer Credit Counseling Services has received a grant of $100,000 to target people living in Lake Highlands who need help.
Greenberg, who is director of communications and public relations at CCCS, says, “Lake Highlands has the second-most-dense population of poverty and low-to-moderate-income people in Dallas. And we have a lot of residents in Lake Highlands who are refugees and new to the U.S. They are unfamiliar with our financial system, and having a coach is important to help walk them through learning. United Way looked to us to provide these services to Lake Highlands specifically.”
To reach as many people as possible, CCCS has formed partnerships with local organizations, including Lake Highlands United Methodist Church, The New Room, Healing Hands Ministries, Watermark, QuestCare Clinic, Highland Oaks, Kids U and Richardson ISD.
With the help of the grant, CCCS has launched two programs in Lake Highlands.
“The first is the Financial Stability Initiative. The clients that we enroll in LHFSI will receive coaching, counseling and education for a 12-month period.”
Counseling will take place at the venues of the partners listed above, but if those times and places don’t work out, there are also webinars and even an option for telephone counseling.
Despite the many opportunities to participate, does it still sound like too much trouble for working families?
“Clearly it would be helpful if there were a financial incentive that comes with it,” Greenberg says. “And that’s where A.I.M. comes in.”
This is the best part: the Accountable-Inspirational-Motivational (A.I.M.) Individual Development Account (IDA), which boils down to — in plain English — a savings program that matches up to $25 a month in a local credit union when participants make a deposit in their savings account. Where else are you going to find 100 percent return on $300?
To receive the funds, a client needs to participate in one class, counseling session, or webinar per month for a year, in addition to adding to the savings account. Clients who manage to save $25 a month will have an emergency fund of $600 at the end of the year.
Just how important is that emergency fund?
“People who live without any savings at all get off track when there’s a medical expense, a death, a sickness, a flat tire,” Greenberg says. “And that’s when they’re going to a payday lender, quite frankly, because there’s nowhere else to go. But wouldn’t it be better if they had a savings account to get them out of that situation?”
Having the account can be the difference between paying the rent and having to move.
Stable households are better for everyone, especially children. One huge benefit of financial stability is that if families don’t have to move, kids don’t suffer the disruption of changing schools. That’s why the Richardson school district is partnering with CCCS and providing an additional outreach to the target population as well as classroom space.
Who is eligible for the A.I.M. matching grant? Any adult (18) or household in the geographic service area that earns up to $56,080 per year, (which is 80 percent or less of the area median income).
That description fits a lot of people who live in Lake Highlands.
To raise awareness of the need for increased financial literacy, April has been dedicated to the national cause. But if you’re reading this in March, no need to wait. Classes and webinars are in session right now, and everyone in Lake Highlands, regardless of income, is eligible for one free credit counseling session.
For more information on class schedules and counseling, visit cccs.net
Lake Highlands residents can schedule counseling appointments by calling 214.540.6837. Contact A.I.M. Director Stephanie Van Kirk at email@example.com, 972.674.9479, or Ginger Greenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, 214.540.6816.