This is the 12th article in ongoing reporting on poverty alleviation as part of a listening tour of five Philadelphia neighborhoods conducted by Generocity in partnership with United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. It was not reviewed before publication.
“Receiving multiple benefits at once can increase a family’s income, offset expenses and help them reach stability which they work on longer-term goals like job training or education — which can help them move out of poverty permanently,” said Denise Gomez DelSignore. “Access to these need-based government benefits have been shown to have an impact on poverty rates.”
DelSignore oversees the Family Stability Community Challenge issued by the Poverty Action Fund — a joint effort between United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ), the City of Philadelphia and private philanthropy — which seeks to facilitate equitable recovery from the pandemic and help struggling Philadelphians draw on the full range of income supports (housing subsidies, food and nutrition assistance, and healthcare) for which they are eligible.
The private-public partnership fund was developed to streamline evidence-focused grantmaking processes and support high-performing community organizations and partnerships.
DelSignore has worked 15 years just around benefits and financial security. When she found out United Way was launching the initiative and focusing on family stability as it relates to benefits and tax, she joined the team of about eight people to manage and help inform the selection process. She also serves as an advisor for the team as the effort gets launched and will provide support to the organizations doing the work.
Through the Family Stability Community Challenge, United Way identified high-performing nonprofit organizations and partnerships whose proposals connect individuals and families to important economic security programs and public benefits that can help lift them out of poverty in Philadelphia. The four 2021 grantees were recently announced:
- Diversified Community Services
- Campaign for Working Families
- African Cultural Alliance of North America
- Local Initiatives Support Corporation
“We can say that the grantees are excited to be working together and eager to get started. This is an important step in Philadelphia’s collective efforts to fight poverty,” she said.
This Family Stability Community Challenge tackles local poverty in different ways.
DelSignore said it is the first of many challenges focused on different areas to establish financial stability for families through access to benefits and resources that are left on the table and that families are potentially eligible for in Philadelphia.
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“This will provide those services through established and trusted community organizations that are engaging with folks on a community level, (organizations) that families trust that are trying to increase community engagement and outreach done on benefits access in Philly,” she said.
Why should benefits access efforts be connected to other services like tax preparation? The elliptical approach has been done a lot around the country. DelSignore said when you’re adding up the total amount that people could be receiving from a holistic approach (food assistance and tax preparation, for example), when those are combined with other services that community organizations are providing (like housing support or rental assistance), they can become powerful tools to get people out of poverty, into the workforce, enable them to take care of their children, and so on.
There is generally a lot of stigma around benefits access. DelSignore said it takes a lot of community engagement to get past it when dealing with different benefits and services.
There’s not just stigma but information in the community around how difficult it is to access benefits and how confusing it is as different agencies are managing different programs. For some families, the process can be invasive.
“It’s important for these trusted organizations to deliver benefits and tax in a way that’s digestible for families and that encourages them in the fact that they’re there to support them through the process (and) making this easier or more feasible for them,” DelSignore said.
How can benefits create stability that will allow households to focus on the longer-term goals, like job training and education that can increase income over the long run? Especially during COVID-19, DelSignore thinks “it’s all about stability, financial stability, getting money in people’s pockets and being able to take care of things now so that you’re able to reach goals later on.”
For adults and parents who are either in community college or getting workforce training, a lot of the reasons they don’t follow through with their goals is because of financial instability in the home, or lack of finances to get there. United Way is hoping to alleviate some of that financial stress on parents and families more broadly.
Local organizations are doing creative things around COVID. “They’ve had to in the last year really get creative on how they do outreach and how they engage the community for clinical services. But also because the need is so much greater and broader because of COVID,” said DelSignore. “These organizations are looking at populations that are not as wifi connected or able to access services virtually.”
United Way has seen this in public schools around the country. “Organizations are struggling or have struggled over the last year with some of these challenges, but I think are looking forward to being able to work more closely with folks in 2021 as the vaccine rolls out,” she said.-30-
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