In May 2019, WISCAP announced the $100,000 Associated Bank investment in Wisconsin’s community action network.
Associated Bank and WISCAP share a common goal of creating stronger communities through economic development. Therefore, the Associated Bank investment was meant to expand access for low-and moderate-income communities in the areas of homeownership, home repair, small business, financial literacy and workforce development programs. In addition, it increased staff capacity and gave local community action agencies the ability to bolster case management, client identification and enrollment in trainings, business development, and access to affordable housing and repair.
The $100,000 grant was divided among WISCAP and member agencies. Read below for details on the impact the grant made (and is still making) in Wisconsin. You can click on hyperlinked titles to see the agencies’ own announcements:
Lakeshore Community Action Program, Inc. (LCAP) has developed a Home Buyer Education program that has been recognized and acclaimed by the local housing/lending community. Since July 1992, LCAP has assisted more than 1,250 households realize the dream of home ownership. LCAP used their portion of the Associated Bank grant to provide financial and home buyer education and counseling that enabled buyers in Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Sheboygan Counties to purchase decent, safe and affordable homes.
CAP Services’ Skills Enhancement Program helps individuals with low incomes achieve permanent self-sufficiency. Participants must work at least 20 hours per week and have a household income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Through individualized support services and financial assistance for tuition, books, childcare and mileage, individuals are able to access the training and education they need to obtain higher-paid employment and employer-paid benefits. With the award from Associated Bank, CAP is able to increase hours available for additional support by six hours per week, thus enabling staff to connect with more participants on a weekly basis rather than monthly.
Western Dairyland EOC:
The Western Dairyland Business Center provides business development services to individuals in rural, north western Wisconsin, including Eau Claire, Buffalo, Trempealeau and Jackson counties, and has a twenty-year history of helping under served and disenfranchised populations launch, grow and improve small businesses. With the Associated Bank grant, the Western Dairyland Business Center supports an entrepreneurial peer mentorship program based on the Kauffman Fasttrac® course within rural north western Wisconsin. This course is for individuals who seek to become entrepreneurs. They meet as a cohort, led by an experienced business development specialist, to plan, launch and grow more businesses in rural and small communities.
The lndianhead Community Action Agency Business Development program began in 1999, to promote, encourage, and assist in the development of entrepreneurial opportunities for economically disadvantaged individuals, so that they may achieve self-sufficiency through self-employment. Services are offered to both start-up and existing businesses in 11 counties: Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Clark, Douglas Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor and Washburn. Clients of the program receive technical assistance in all areas of business, including but not limited to, business plan development, bookkeeping, marketing, business management, and loan packaging case management, website and social media, and group training sessions . This award allows ICAA to add additional staff hours as well as pay for additional travel to client’s homes or places of business, allowing staff to serve more Business Development clients.
Central Wisconsin Community Action Council:
Currently CWCAC funds a resource specialist to connect youth with resources and support them with independent living skills. Financial literacy helps youth to obtain and keep stable housing; budget for health insurance; plan their education; get and maintain employment; and plan for unexpected expenses. This grant allows CWCAC to work closely with Associated Bank to help young people understand and develop tangible skills in money management and credit building. It allows for educational opportunities that enhance youth skills and knowledge. Youth receive gift cards and funding to open an account if eligible, as well as a meal and expenses for their mileage and time.
Community Action, Inc.:
CAI’s Fatherhood Initiative targets parenting fathers who are unemployed or underemployed, have limited involvement with their children, and are experiencing personal barriers to self-sufficiency such as criminal justice involvement, housing concerns, child support obligations, transportation issues, and limited education. With an “employment first” model, the Fatherhood Initiative assists fathers by providing support and guidance in obtaining and maintaining employment while also assisting with areas such as character development, personal responsibilities, and employability skills. CAI has successfully operated this program in Rock County since 2007. The Associated Bank investment supports expansion of the Fatherhood Initiative into Walworth County. CAI plans to serve 20 fathers in Walworth County in 2020.
Foundation for Rural Housing:
Governors Evers has announced a focus on public school educational outcomes and access to broadband services in all rural areas over the next several years. FRH is piloting a program that focuses on both access to Internet and increasing education outcomes with this added home access. They will provide financial assistance with connection of broadband services in rural areas that will promote the overall success of low-income, school aged children and families to assist in completing homework assignments, job searches and general research that promote a more stable life.
Social Development Commission
In 2019, Social Development Commission (SDC) used the Associated Bank grant to support the 2019 Summit on Poverty. This large event discusses not just the symptoms of poverty, but also identifies and addresses the key barriers that prevent families and individuals from breaking out of poverty. Those barriers include trauma, cognitive dissonance, the isms (racism, sexism, classism, and policy systems. Attendees also self-reflect on their role and how their organizations contribute to these barriers.
ADVOCAP’s agency mission is to create opportunities for people and communities to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency. They are the only organization in their service area (Fond du Lac, Green Lake and Winnebago counties) that focuses on job placement specifically for the homeless demographic. In the Homeless Job Placement program, they connect with unemployed and under-employed homeless individuals to prepare them for interviews and work on job skills. This funding enables them to maintain high quality services despite the recent shortfall of funding by reserving a portion of a Job Placement Specialist’s workload specifically for homeless participants.
Couleecap services La Crosse, Vernon, Monroe and Crawford counties. The Associated Bank investment support their existing Homeownership Counseling Program. They provide pre and post purchase counseling to up to 300 individuals annually. The counseling is a free, in-person, personalized program that empowers families with the tools they need to make decisions about one of the most important parts of their lives, their home. Those wishing to purchase a home attend a homebuyer education session led by trained Couleecap housing counselors. For those ready to purchase a home they assist the homebuyer in working with bankers, real estate agents, and home inspectors. They help to explore loan options and are available to the homebuyer for questions and guidance. When someone already owns their home, counselors assist on an individual level to help them understand their budget, credit, payments, home maintenance and options for the home rehabilitation services if the home needs work.
Newcap has offered business startup and expansion technical assistance and business consulting for seven years. They offer budding entrepreneurs and existing small businesses in their ten county (Brown, Florence, Langlade, Marinette, Menominee, Octono, Oneida, Shawano, and Vilas) service area support in: business strategy, business set up, financial education and responsibility, marketing leadership, human resources and sales. Newcap will use the majority of their grant to create a revolving loan fund for micro loans under $1,000. The remaining portion will be used for staff development for the facilitation of the revolving loan fund.
Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency:
NWCSA used their portion of the Associated Bank Grant towards their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance grant program is an Internal Revenue Service initiative designed to support free tax preparation service for the underserved through various partner organizations. This contributes to NWCSA’s efforts to increase financial literacy in the Northland of Wisconsin.
West CAP services Polk, Barron, St. Croix, Pierce, Dunn, Pepin and Chippewa counties. They used their portion of the Associated Bank investment to support the general operations of their Skills Enhancement Program. The program assists adults in low wage jobs to gain educational certificates and/or diplomas that increase their ability to earn a living wage and have access to health care benefits. To highlight the advantages of the Skills Enhancement Program, West CAP provided the following story:
Student AB from Rice Lake successfully graduated from the Associate Degree of Nursing Program at WITC in May. She was able to pass her nursing board exam and get hired at Spooner Health and The Mayo Clinic as an RN. She is receiving employer health benefits and has increased her wages by an extra $14.78 an hour (from when she entered the Skills Enhancement Program) and increased her hours worked by 29 hours a week. Because of this, she has increased her annual income by $61,199.
Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin
CACSCW used their part of the grant to assist a program participant. CAC’s entire portion was paid to a local vendor for materials and labor needed to make household repairs in November 2019. Without the Associated Bank award, the household would have been at risk of missing a rent payment. This assistance preserved the household’s good standing with the landlord.