By JAN DEMERS
Andrew was on his way to earn a PhD. He had just graduated from college, concentrating on physical biochemistry. He was also in a dangerous financial situation as his student stipend didn’t begin to enable him to make ends meet. Andrew began working with a Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity financial coach. The first order of business? Set up an emergency fund. He qualified for a Matched Savings Account to cover the gap between living expenses and the cost of his education. It took dedication and effort as Andrew attended college classes during the day and financial training at CVOEO in the evenings. He made the decisions on what and how to save and diligently put away $10 a week.
“The success of this program can be summarized in the reality that I don’t need CVOEO anymore. I won’t need state or federal help in the foreseeable future,” he said.
During the federal shutdown, the headlines screamed, “A $1,000 emergency would push many Americans into debt” (Jan. 23, CNBC) and “Millions of Americans are one pay check away from poverty” (Jan. 29, Fortune.com).
Locally, those headlines are confirmed as one CVOEO financial coach said, “We know that 40 percent of people are one pay check away from poverty. It doesn’t matter how small or large the pay check as shown by those affected by the federal shutdown.”
On Jan. 17, Anne Wallace Allen in a VT Digger article quoted the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office: “There are 686 federal workers in Vermont who are going without pay during the shutdown, and more than 1,500 who work for agencies that don’t have federal money appropriated to pay for them.”
Some of those families went to the CVOEO’s Emergency Food Shelves for the first time to make sure their families had food. Some of those families visited our Community Action Offices to see about housing assistance and crisis fuel.
CVOEO has programs to serve those in the throes of a federal shutdown or a daily crisis when income does not meet expenses on a regular basis. To meet the long-term challenge, we are here to prepare and plan for the next emergency and to strategize on how to learn, earn, save, and own.
In Fiscal Year 2018, the Financial Futures Program served 960 individuals. Those participating in the program, who reported to the annual survey, saved an average of $2,514. Forty-five percent of those who participated relayed that they had reduced their debt. One participant stated, “Since taking these classes, I have cleared up about $3,000 worth of debt!”
“We know that a family of three making $42,000 a year can save $42 a month resulting in $1,000 saved over two years. Each family finds its own way of making money to save what they can,” reports one CVOEO financial coach.
Whether earning a small or large pay check, a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson comes to mind, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it.”
By CVOEO Executive Director Jan F. Demers. CVOEO addresses fundamental issues of economic, social, and racial justice and works with people to achieve economic independence. For more information, visit cvoeo.org.