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Poverty & Equity Thought Leader Uncategorized

Three Barriers to Financial Security

Che Watkins

By Che Watkins,President and CEO The Center for Working Families

Sometimes as a non-profit leader, I feel like I am playing a constant game of whack-a-mole.  My mind has to change courses all day long – from staff to funders to board to partners to community to participants to stakeholders.  All of those matter a great deal and it is my job to make sure that they are all moving in the right direction.  This is how it also feels when trying to eliminate or reduce barriers for the unemployed, underemployed and working poor.  The Center for Working families focus on ensuring financial security and success for underserved communities.  One would think that we could simply focus on getting people trained, getting them into good paying jobs, and continuing to coach them around budgeting and saving.  Oh if it were that easy.

We have to look at families in totality in order to address all of their needs because all of their needs are interdependent on the other.  For example, here are just a few of the additional questions that we ask during intake:

Are you and your family member currently medically insured.  Not having insurance can obviously lead to a financial hardship so we work to get people access to healthcare while also educating others on the importance of expansion of Medicaid and not totally eliminating the Affordable Healthcare Act in partnership with organizations like the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

What child arrangements do you have in place?  We all know how much childcare costs and we want to encourage our participants to put their kids into QUALITY early learning programs to start to eliminate generational poverty.  In the meantime, we work with other partners such a Sheltering Arms, GEERS and Quality Care for Children to try to get more subsidy dollars and more slots for early learning in the state and the region.

Do you consider your current living arrangement stable or unstable?  The good thing about this question is that everyone is looking for an answer, finally!  Affordable and SAFE housing options for people is a type priority and we are working with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, Partners for Home and many others to move the needle on this issue.  We can’t continue to talk about it, we have to do something.

These represent just three areas of a person’s life that we have to assess, identify solutions and work to change policy to make it easier for families for get to a level of self-sufficiency.  It is a constant struggle and sometimes you feel like you haven’t spent nearly enough time on any one issue, but at the end of the day, it is all worth it to this work one family at a time.


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