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FINANCIAL STABILITY Goals for Douglas County

OUR GOAL:
All people in Douglas County will have equitable opportunities for financial stability and independence through access to quality housing, just wages, and the opportunity to build generational wealth.

OUR STRATEGIES:

1: ACHIEVE GREATER FINANCIAL STABILITY THROUGH HOUSING

Our Fight:
Achieving greater stability allows lower-income working families to move toward financial independence. A revealing indicator of this level of stability is the percentage of lower income working families who spend more than 40 percent of their income on housing. This tenuous balance between income and housing costs gives a sense of the hardship faced by many as they attempt to pay for the single biggest expense for a typical family. The situation has worsened significantly since 2000, according to data from the American Community Survey. More than one-third of lower-income working families in spend more than 40 percent of their income on housing, nationally. In Douglas County, more than 53% of all households spend more than 30% of their income in housing. Douglas County has also seen an increase in homelessness. 21% of homeless Douglas County residents are homeless due to domestic violence, 41% struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, and 44% have severe and persistent mental illness.
 
We All Win by lower-income working families moving toward financial independence through affordable housing.
 

2:  INCREASING INCOME

Our Fight:
Given the cost of living today, a family needs to earn at least 2.5 times the federal poverty level to be considered financially stable in most communities. But the percentage of working families that earn less than this has stagnated over the past decade. Currently, about 23 percent of working families fall below that level; with the percentage of financially unstable African American and Latino families significantly higher.  According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a family with one full- time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. In Douglas County a resident must earn $16.25/hour or $33,800 a year to afford a 2-bedroom apartment. Compared to whites, African Americans and Hispanics receive less income at the same education levels, have less wealth at equivalent income levels, and have less purchasing power due to the higher costs of goods and services in the residential environments where they are disproportionately located (Williams et al. 2010). In Douglas County, 12% of Caucasians are living below the poverty line, contrasted to 25.4% of African Americans, 21.2% of Native Americans, and 25.3% of Latinx. 
 
We All Win when all working families increase their income.
 

3: BUILDING SAVINGS, GAINING & SUSTAINING ASSETS

Our Fight:
Low- to moderate-income families struggle to build and increase their personal savings, often because immediate needs take priority over longer-term financial needs, yet savings give individuals the flexibility to make financial decisions that benefit themselves and their families and are critical to helping families manage crises. Building savings is vital to deal with unexpected, unbudgeted expenses. Only 37 percent of lower income working families have a checking or savings account with at least $300 saved, according to an analysis of the Survey of Income and Program Participation of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That amount—$300—is what is needed to weather a single typical emergency, as evidenced by the average loan obtained through payday loan services.  Just as important as the dollar amount, an account means building a relationship with a bank and not having to rely on a high-fee check-cashing or payday loan service. It also allows a family to set goals to build savings and ultimately assets.
 
Before the 1990s, few believed that acquiring assets—retirement accounts, homes, postsecondary education or life insurance— could help move families out of poverty. However, research conducted over the past decade demonstrates that assets increase household stability, decrease economic strain, and decrease the likelihood of poverty transmittal from one generation to the next.  
 
We All Win when lower-income working families build appreciating assets.
 

4: HEALTHY, ACCESSIBLE FOOD FOR ALL

Our Fight:
Food insecurity is defined as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods or uncertain ability to acquire these foods in socially acceptable ways. Lacking consistent access to food is related to hunger, weight gain, and premature death.  The effects on developing children are of particular concern, as children in food-insecure homes are more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to develop health conditions such as anemia, obesity, and asthma. 
 
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides monthly benefits to families with household income at or below 130% of federal poverty guidelines. However, only 74% of eligible Kansas families receive benefits, ranking the state 44th in the country for eligible individuals’ participation. Kansas is one of only 13 states that charges a sales tax on groceries, and, with a 6.5% state food sales tax rate, has the second-highest grocery tax rate in the county.16.6% of households in Douglas County are food insecure.
 
We All Win by eliminating food insecurity and malnutrition in Douglas County.