Millions of families across America live on the financial edge, just one unexpected setback from a major financial crisis. For low-income families already struggling to meet basic needs, such common occurrences can trigger a devastating chain of events that leads to unemployment, homelessness, and family instability. City leaders can help families and neighborhoods become more economically secure by developing strategies to connect residents with state and federal work supports and public benefits, expand opportunities to save and build financial assets, and help hard-to-employ residents overcome barriers to work.
Many low-income families have little or no financial reserves to draw upon in the event of job loss, serious accident or illness, or other personal crises. City officials can help local residents build financial assets by promoting financial education; supporting homeownership counseling and incentives; promoting savings strategies; helping families avoid predatory lending and other "wealth-stripping" practices; and connecting low-income residents with mainstream financial services.
Millions of families in America include at least one worker but are still poor, struggling to pay for food, shelter, and health care. If working families don't get the help they need, their problems eventually land on the city's doorstep in the form of homelessness, uncompensated care in public clinics and hospitals, rising demands on local food pantries and soup kitchens, and barriers that prevent young people from reaching their full potential. By connecting families with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), health insurance, federal nutrition programs and other benefits, city leaders can help alleviate poverty and bring millions of federal dollars to residents and the local economy.
Even in a strong economy, some individuals have difficulty finding work: welfare recipients, high school dropouts, homeless individuals, or people with criminal records. Cities that help hard-to-employ residents overcome barriers to work can increase tax revenue, reduce the need for emergency services, and reduce crime. Time-limited, publicly-funded, wage-based transitional jobs, as well as varying levels of training and support, can help those with barriers to employment develop the skills and experience needed to attain and sustain unsubsidized jobs.