Our Changing Economy and Its Impact on Working Families

For the past 40 or 50 years, Americans have lived by a series of unofficial tenets: A good education guarantees a good job, hard work will bring prosperity, and 40 years of 40 hour-a-week work earns a comfortable retirement. Then maybe; now not so much.

Working harder for less money is the new normal for those lucky enough to have a job. Millions of families have reduced expenses they long took for granted. The pinch that many families feel comes from incomes that have fallen while other unavoidable costs have continued to increase. Many people have absorbed pay cuts or taken new jobs that pay a lot less than their previous employment.

When income falls faster than expenses, the first impulse is often to make up the difference by borrowing. But banks and credit card issuers have clamped down on lending, leaving many Americans no choice but to raid their savings, if they have savings, to pay the bills. This has happened at the same time home values have plunged.

The cost of financing and maintaining a home soared by 56 percent between 1990 and 2008. Although the housing bubble has burst, many families that purchased a home near the peak of the market, between 2005 and 2007, still are stuck with property that’s declining in value and in some cases worth less than the mortgage. Foreclosures continue for many families.

Two parent families have maintained their standard of living because both parents work. Between 1990 and 2008, hours worked by both parents in a typical middle-income family increased 5 percent; in a middle-income single-parent family, hours worked increased by 13.4 percent. There is less time for taking care of kids, aging parents, and anything else that needs attention. Additional expenses for paying somebody else to provide needed services are incurred. For example, child care for a toddler and an infant can cost $1,500 a month.

Healthcare costs have been rising unabated. Seniors who are living longer require more late-in-life care, with the costs often borne by their middle-aged children. Healthcare costs rose by 155 percent between 1990 and 2008, according to the White House’s middle-class task force, while median household income rose by only 20 percent. That means medical costs take an increasing share of take-home pay for virtually every family.

To save for college, a typical family with two kids should save about $4,200 per year. College costs have risen about 43 percent since 1990, nearly twice the rise in median income. With state and federal education budgets being axed, public universities are hiking tuition and fees. Many families take out bigger college loans, and students work more to pay for their own education. Students are graduating with substantial college debt at a time of diminished job opportunities. In its most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a “moderate” college budget for an in-state public college averaged $22,261. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289. This is per year, for the 2012–2013 academic year.

The percentage of Americans who say they are in the lower-middle or lower class has risen from a quarter of the adult population to about a third in the past four years, according to a national survey of 2,508 adults by the Pew Research Center. Not only has the lower class grown, but its demographic profile also has shifted. People younger than 30 are disproportionately swelling the ranks of the self-defined lower classes. The shares of Hispanics and whites who place themselves in the lower class are also growing. The share of blacks in the lower class has not changed in years, one of the few demographic groups in which the proportion in the lower class did not grow. As a consequence, a virtually identical share of blacks (33%) and whites (31%) now say they are in the lower class.

The Pew survey finds that hard times have been particularly hard on the lower class. Eight-in-ten adults (84%) in the lower classes say they had to cut back on spending in the past year because money was tight, compared with 62% who say they are middle class and 41% who say they are in the upper classes.

Those in the lower classes also say they are less happy and less healthy, and the stress they report experiencing is more than other adults. As they look to their own future and that of their children, many in the lower class see their prospects dimming. About three-quarters (77%) say it’s harder now to get ahead than it was ten years ago. Only half (51%) say that hard work brings success, a view expressed by overwhelming majorities of those in the middle (67%) and upper classes (71%).

More children are slipping into poverty. Nationally, the number of children in poverty has been creeping upwards, to 1 in 4.5 by 2010. Wisconsin children are faring better than the national average, but in 2010 almost 1 in 5 Wisconsin children lived in poverty—up from 1 in 6.7 just four years before.

Lower, moderate and middle income families are experiencing an unrelenting diminishment of their economic prosperity and their hopes for their children and the future. But there are ways that you can help…

We Can Defeat Poverty – Together
Couleecap fights poverty and promotes self-sufficiency, economic development, and social justice. We are People Helping People, and everyday our action makes a difference in the lives of people and families throughout the Coulee Region.

Please GIVE:

  • Your TIME to volunteer against poverty in your community.
  • Your MONEY to programs and organizations that speak to your heart.
  • Your VOTE for elected officials with strong track records voting for anti-poverty legislation.
  • Your VOICE as an advocate for affordable housing, a higher minimum wage, educational supports and improved child care assistance so working families can rise out of poverty.

People Helping People
In addition to the many programs Couleecap offers to help low and moderate income families struggling with economic needs, there is a special initiative created by Couleecap called the People Helping People Fund. This fund provides limited financial assistance for additional needs that other program funds cannot pay for. Through Couleecap’s People Helping People Fund, a weatherization client received a gas cook range to replace the current range that had a very bad gas leak. Couleecap staff turned off the gas range due to the leak and advised the family that the stove presented a danger to their health. The range was not repairable and the client did not have the finances to pay for a replacement. With assistance from the People Helping People Fund, the household was able to purchase a new range and is preparing home cooked meals once again.

Ways to Give
You can help! With your support we can continue to make a difference in people’s lives. Your tax deductible gift stays in our community and addresses local poverty needs. Please consider supporting Couleecap with your:

  • One time gift
  • Annual gifts
  • Memorial gifts
  • Planned giving
  • Endowment gift

For more information regarding the People Helping People Fund or agency programs, please visit Couleecap’s website at www.couleecap.org or call toll free 1-866-904-4507.

Grace Jones
Executive Director
Couleecap, Inc.

Couleecap, Inc. logo

Couleecap, Inc.
201 Melby Street
Westby, WI 54667
Ph. (608) 634-3104
Fax (608) 634-3134

Case Management + Financial Assistance: A Formula for Success in Ending Homelessness

Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc. (CAC) provides a variety of housing and homelessness prevention programs. While these programs target different populations, they all have one thing in common—every program participant receives case management along with financial assistance. CAC has found this to be a very effective program model with populations including chronically homeless people with disabilities, struggling single parents, veterans facing homelessness, and Section 8 participants who are at risk of losing their housing

A myriad of issues can contribute to an individual or family becoming homeless or at risk of losing their housing. Often a complex combination of a lack of financial resources, a turn of bad luck, and disabling and/or chronic medical or mental health conditions leads to a household becoming homeless. In order to tackle these issues, CAC has found that while financial assistance helps to fill gaps temporarily, it does little by itself to help a household become more stable and resilient in the face of future challenges. 

A case management appointment at Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc.

A case management appointment at Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc.

 The following are some 2012 success stories from CAC’s services in Dane and Jefferson counties that illustrate the power of this program model:

     John is a single male with a disability who was living in transitional housing and was without income, health insurance, or any way to obtain his prescribed medication when he was referred to CAC. CAC accepted John into the Home for Good program, long-term, community-based housing for homeless persons with disabilities in Dane County. Along with his own apartment and basic furnishings, John received intensive case management. His caseworker helped him obtain needed supportive services including health care, BadgerCare, education assistance and other support to help increase his self-sufficiency.

Now John is attending weekly therapy sessions, has access to his prescribed medication and is one class away from completing his Bachelor’s degree at Madison College. John also has a part-time job and is able to pay a portion of his rent. He is currently on the waiting list for subsidized housing and looking forward to becoming fully self-sufficient.

     Jenny was a stay-at-home, middle class mom who was left homeless, with no income after fleeing an abusive relationship. She was in a homeless shelter while her three children stayed with their aunt until their mom was able to find suitable housing.

Jenny was referred to CAC’s Jefferson County office and accepted by the Transitional Housing Program (THP). She quickly regained custody of her children once she was in the apartment that THP provided. Within a month, Jenny found full-time employment that she continues today, at a factory doing assembly. Her oldest daughter enrolled in an alternative school and obtained her high school diploma and driver’s license. She was also able to secure full-time employment, while the two younger children adjusted well to a new school.

Jenny obtained a lawyer and filed for divorce, which was finalized midway through her year in THP. With help from the THP caseworker, Jenny’s family was able to qualify for BadgerCare, FoodShare, and child support (post-divorce). The caseworker also referred Jenny to a support group for domestic abuse survivors and counseling for the entire family. Jenny was able to graduate from THP and take over the lease for her apartment. She and her children have stayed in this apartment and continue to do well.

     JM was working full time and paying bills regularly until an accident caused him to not be able to work. He lost his job, fell behind on his rent and was facing eviction. JM came to CAC for help. He received financial assistance for back rent owed, and an ongoing rent subsidy until he could get on his feet. One of CAC’s Financial Services Specialists provided JM with budget counseling and helped him to complete his application for Social Security Disability Income and also apply for FoodShare benefits. While JM still has a tough road ahead to adjust to the new circumstances of his life, he was able to avoid homelessness and establish a foundation for the future.

     Sally, a mother of two daughters, ages 15 and 11, was referred to CAC’s Building Bridges program, which helps struggling Section 8 participants to maintain stable housing. Over the previous year, Sally had fallen behind with her water bill, her “family package” phone bill and cable TV. She was at risk of eviction as well as of having a large court judgment leveled against her. In addition to her Section 8 housing subsidy, Sally receives monthly Social Security Disability income and her family receives approximately $200 a month in FoodShare.

Upon her first two visits, Sally and her caseworker agreed that setting up a representative payee through the county for Sally would be a good idea. During the period before this service could be put in place, Sally’s caseworker worked with her landlord and phone and cable service provider to make a payment plan. CAC provided an initial payment for each bill and Sally made all future payments. During that same period, Sally and her caseworker made trips to local pantries to supplement the family’s FoodShare and to St. Vincent de Paul to complete their back-to-school shopping. They also spent time talking about parenting, priorities and budgeting. Over time Sally became more comfortable prioritizing the family’s long term financial well-being over short term desires.

Sally’s payee works with her now to assure all bills are paid monthly prior to other purchases. She has an affordable and practical phone package and her cable package has been trimmed as well. Sally is now feeling more in control of her life and hopes to find part-time work to widen her own interests and supplement her disability income during the coming year.

For further information about Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin and its programs, please visit www.cacscw.org or call (608) 246-4730.

Community Action Coalition for South Central WI, Inc. logo

Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc.
1717 N. Stoughton Road
Madison, WI 53704-2605
Ph. (608) 246-4730
Fax (608) 246-4760

A Message from WISCAP on President Obama’s Budget Proposal

President Obama released his 2014 federal budget proposal on Tuesday. The President is proposing to reduce funding for the core resource of our Community Action Agencies—the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)—from its current $679 million/year to $350 million/year.

For our network in Wisconsin, this would mean a loss of roughly $3.7 million in CSBG funds—money that not only provides for many of the local anti-poverty initiatives Community Action Agencies are valued for but money that, for every $1.00 of CSBG, leverages over $27.00 in other federal, state, local or private resources. Wisconsin wouldn’t just be losing $3.7 million a year in resources to fight poverty and create jobs and economic opportunity; also put at risk would be the ability to access another $90+ million! Continue reading

April 5, 2013 – Madison, WI – WISCAP member agency Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin is accepting applications for Coordinator of Community Relations.  Click here to read the announcement.  Be sure to visit our Job Openings page often for new opportunities!

Northwest RSVP Receives Grant

April 5, 2013 – Superior, WI – Northwest RSVP, a program sponsored by WISCAP member agency Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency, Inc. (NWCSA), has been awarded a three-year grant from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) which will enable 336 volunteers to serve 48 different partnering agencies in the counties of Ashland, Bayfield and Iron. Continue reading

Are Congressional Leaders and the White House “Bungee-Jumping” Right Off the Fiscal Cliff?

A.J. ‘Nino’ Amato, President and Executive Director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG), provides his agency’s perspective on the on-going budget debates in Washington D.C.

QUESTION:  What financial impact will these federal “sequestration budget cuts” have on all of us… and what can we all do about advocating for sound fiscal management and tax reform policies coming out of Washington D.C.?

Not only will these cuts slow down the economic recovery from the Great Recession (caused by the de-regulation of Wall Street and eight years of deficit spending under the George W. Bush administration); the federal sequestration budget cuts will negatively impact consumers’ discretionary spending, decrease local, state and federal governmental services we all rely on; and substantially increase the cost of health care to those who are in need of patient centered care the most – our children and our elderly.

QUESTION:  So… now what happens?

Congress reached agreement on a Continuing Resolution funding government through the end of the Federal Fiscal Year (September 30, 2013). This CR, however, incorporates the budget cuts called for under sequestration at least through the end of the fiscal year. Given the lack of bi-partisan leadership in Congress, which is desperately needed to fix the sequestration budget cuts, it is very unlikely sequestration cuts will generate enough heat to create a deal which includes raising additional tax revenues.

This means the current ‘gridlock status quo’ in Washington D.C. will continue, at least until the next fiscal faceoff, when the debt limit has to be raised again this summer.

QUESTION:  What can we, as community advocates, do to unlock the ‘status quo gridlock’ in Washington, so we can prevent the negative consequences of the sequestration budget cuts and/or another downgrade of U.S. Treasury bonds from Moody’s & Poor’s?

The Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG) supports a three-part agenda for protecting federal and state programs that help the people we serve in our communities every day.

With the adoption of CWAG’s 2012-14 State Legislative and U.S. Congressional Action Agenda from last summer, over 100,000 CWAG members believe the best way to protect our community programs and services for all of our Wisconsin citizens is to keep the political pressure on every member of Congress and on the White House by supporting the following three-part agenda:

First, new revenue must be part of any additional debt reduction budget strategy.

Second, budget savings must not be tilted in favor of military spending and against domestic needs or tax breaks to anyone making more than $175,000 annually.

Third, any savings that are obtained from the federal health care program (Affordable Care Act) should come from reducing overpayments to drug companies, insurers and providers, while improving public health outcomes and not by cutting vital programs and services that benefit our children, families and the elderly.

If you agree with this three-part agenda, we would like to encourage you, your friends, neighbors and family members to immediately contact your member of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation, along with U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, and ask them to support this agenda. With enough voices speaking out all over America and with the vast majority of public opinion on our side, we will be able to protect those vital community programs and services which benefit our nation’s children, families and our elderly.

All you have to do now is contact your U.S. Congressional Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and both of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators listed below.

Wisconsin Congressional Delegation & Contact Phone Number:
District 1: Paul Ryan – 888-909-RYAN (7926)
District 2: Mark Pocan – 608-258-9800
District 3: Ron Kind – 888-442-8040
District 4: Gwen Moore – 414-297-1140
District 5: Jim Sensenbrenner – 262-784-1111 (or) 800-242-1119
District 6: Tom Petri – 920-231-6333 (or) 920-922-1180
District 7: Sean Duffy – 715-298-9344 (or) 715-392-3984
District 8: Reid Ribble – 920-380-0061 (or) 920-471-1950
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson – 920-230-7250 (or) 414-276-7282
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin – 800-247-5645

“The question shall arise, and arise in your day, which shall rule – wealth or man; which shall lead – money or intellect; who shall fill the public stations – educated and patriotic free men and women or corporate capitol?”
Justice Edward Ryan, 1873

Feel free to contact me with your thoughts and/or questions.

Nino Amato
President & Executive Director
Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups
2850 Dairy Drive, Suite #100
Madison, Wisconsin 53718
608-514-3317 cell

Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups logo

Garcia & Wilson Property Management, LLC – A Job & Business Development Success Story

Gustavo Garcia and Joseph Wilson own Garcia & Wilson Property Management, LLC. A local bank referred the business owners to ADVOCAP’s Business Development staff after they were turned down for financing (due to being a new business and having no outside employment). Neither one of the business owners were able to take home a paycheck at the start. In addition, the bank wanted to see a business and financial plan, which the owners had not completed prior to meeting with the bank.

Garcia & Wilson Property Management, LLC refurbishes real estate that has experienced foreclosure or is in need of major repair. In many cases, owners simply walk away from their property during foreclosure, leaving behind their belongings (as they oftentimes have nowhere to go with their items). Often, the foreclosed homes or apartments are left in substandard condition.

Garcia & Wilson salvage items and materials from these projects to be repaired or refurbished for use in new projects. They have also opened an outlet for repaired and refurbished items, making these items available at an affordable price for low-income individuals. In addition, the outlet is helping to keep items that can be re-used out of our landfills.

While Garcia & Wilson were able to secure good contracts, clients were paying them very slowly. The business was at the point of needing additional financing or closing. With the help of ADVOCAP, they were able to develop a solid business and financial plan, which helped them get the funding they needed to bridge this ‘cash gap’.

Through ADVOCAP’s assistance, not only were the owners’ original two jobs saved, but they have now created four additional jobs. Garcia & Wilson currently have three full-time employees and one part-time employee. The owners also completed financial literacy training in November 2010 and received grant monies to help them purchase their building. At this time, Garcia & Wilson have over 70 houses in inventory in Fond du Lac, Winnebago, Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties.

GW Property Management

Garcia & Wilson Property Management, LLC
385 W. Arndt Street
Fond du Lac, WI 54935
Owners: Joseph Wilson & Gustavo Garcia