Extending Our Reach to Dane County Families: Our 2016 Annual Report
As the number of Dane County children growing up in poverty continues to grow, it is highly likely that their care-givers are not financially capable to consistently provide food on a daily basis. Low income family care-givers struggle to make ends meet as a result of job insecurity, rising food and housing costs, and decreasing public assistance programs. The impact on their children’s long-term health and ability to succeed in school is severely jeopardized. The Financial Education Center (FEC), a program of Dane County UW-Extension, equips these families with the necessary skills to increase credit worthiness, reduce barriers to housing, and improve their overall financial capability. In 2016, the FEC utilized 1.5 staff members, 216 volunteers and 13 community partnerships to make over 4,000 direct contacts with Dane County low-income families through workshops, one-on-one coaching and other services such as volunteer tax assistance.
The FEC was opened in 2005 in a low income neighborhood in the South Madison area with the purpose of offering consistent, reliable and integrated financial education, counseling, asset building services and referrals in a central and familiar location. Historically, funding has come from foundation grants, financial institutions, utility providers and the local United Way. A 501©3 Friends of the FEC was created to allow receipt of foundation grant dollars.
Programs and Services
Workshops presented numerous times throughout the year at the FEC, local libraries, community centers and partnering agencies covered personal money management topics such as a budgeting, banking, savings, good consumer skills, and dealing with past and future credit situations. For example, Deb Neubauer partnered with Habitat for Humanity on their sweat equity program for incoming homeowners, providing workshops and financial coaching for 18 families throughout the year. In another ongoing partnership, Neubauer provided monthly budgeting workshops for the St. Vincent DePaul’s Emergency Energy Assistance Initiative. Deb also conducted train the trainer presentations on budgeting and credit at the local Head Start conference. Tracy Smith worked with young single mothers at the Elizabeth House and conducted budgeting and credit workshops at area African American churches and community based organizations.
Based on a financial coaching model developed by Michael Collins, Asst. Professor at the UW Madison School of Human Ecology, the Financial CHANGE Coaching program incorporated hands-on coaching, accountability, goal setting and education between coach and partner to enhance the partner’s ability to reach a financial goal within a 6 month period of time. Community volunteers, agency case workers and staff served in the coaching role, many times incorporating a team approach with the clients.
The FEC participated in providing free tax preparation to low-income workers, seniors and those with disabilities by hosting the South Madison volunteer income tax assistance program during the 2016 tax season. The Richard Dilley Tax Center, named in memory of one of the original founders of the site, is a collaborative effort of several partners providing expertise, volunteers and funding for the project. Partners included UW Extension, AARP, the WI Department of Revenue, City of Madison, IRS, Second Harvest Food Bank, UW Madison, Associated Bank. During the 2016 tax season, over 3,500 people had their taxes prepared free of charge yielding $4.2 million in refunds to taxpayers. The program utilized 143 volunteers in the roles of greeters and tax preparers. Additional asset building services included pre-screening families for Food Share and other state benefits, account opening for the unbanked, budget and credit counseling, and assistance with questions regarding the Affordable Care Act and resources for health insurance enrollment.
What’s New On The Horizon For 2017
- First Time Home Buyer Education
- Latino Financial Capability and IDA Saving Programs Pilot
- Money Smart In Head Start (Reach Dane)
- HIRE Employment Initiative with the United Way of Dane County