United Way NSV Helps Families Achieve Financial Stability
When people are able to find decent jobs, provide for their families and save for the future, they and their children are more likely to enjoy healthy lives and succeed in school. Everyone benefits, because financially stable individuals and families lead to a more competitive workforce and a stronger community.
The 2017-2020 needs assessment identified the following as United Way NSV priorities through 2020:
Promote financial stability and independence:
I. Families in our community are self-sufficient and move from financial instability to financial stability.
• Partner with local business and agencies to assist families in financial education.
• Partner with the local Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program to promote the opportunity for free tax preparation and tax credits.
• Create opportunities for families to move from financial instability to financial stability by investing in programs that:
o Provide case management support to assist families in finding permanent, safe and affordable housing.
o Support a coordinated program to educate residents on how to manage their finances.
o Reduce barriers to sustainable employment and financial stability such as transportation, childcare, literacy, lack of skills, etc.
II. Vulnerable seniors are able to access services that improve their quality of life and maintain independence.
• Promote volunteer assistance to help seniors and engagement of seniors as volunteers.
• Invest in Programs that:
o Provide services for seniors that improve in-home services, care transitions/coordination, home modifications/assistive technology, housing and transportation.
o Reduce food insecurity among seniors.
o Support caregivers of vulnerable seniors.
III. Low or no income individuals acquire the skills necessary to secure and retain self and/or family-sustaining employment
• Invest in Programs that:
o Connect residents seeking employment to current job opportunities.
o Support opportunities for people with disabilities to gain employment and increase their independence.
Support our most vulnerable neighbors:
I. Help people in crisis meet their basic needs and become self-sufficient.
• Encourage coordination among organizations helping families meet basic needs and work towards self-sufficiency.
• Invest in programs that:
o Help individuals and families in crises to access information and services to meet their needs.
o Assist individuals and families in acute crises to access services that help meet their basic needs and stabilize their situation (housing, transportation, utility assistance and food insecurity).
United Way NSV invested in Financial Stability/Income programs over a 3 year Period (2014-2016). Understandably, some programs saw an overlap between all the priority needs.
How is United Way NSV investing in programs and services provided by area agencies that are addressing these needs?
Urgent and Immediate Needs (Emergency Shelter and Food Assistance)
Salvation Army - Provide basic needs including, meals, food vouchers, clothing vouchers and utility assistance to those in need.
WATTS (Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter) – Supports operations by subsidizing the cost to bus homeless adults to participating churches.
Highland Food Pantry, Inc. - Funds the Special Delivery Project, which reduces food insecurity among senior citizens by providing bags of nutritious food to identified persons-at-risk each month.
Housing Related Programs including Placement, Affordable Housing and Critical Home Repairs
Habitat for Humanity Winchester Frederick Clarke County - Provides resources for north end revitalization project – Rock the Block.
Help with Housing - Critical and emergency home repairs and accessibility modifications for low-income homeowners.
Faithworks - Pay It Forward Fund to be used to assist individuals needing minimal financial assistance for application fees, gas or transportation expenses, or small household items that they cannot secure through other sources.
Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter - Centralized Housing Intake coordinator to serve Clarke County, Frederick County, Shenandoah County and the City of Winchester. CHI offers a coordinated intake assessment for the homeless and near homeless population.
Employment Assistance, Life Skills Training and Basic Needs for Victims of Domestic Violence, Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities
The Laurel Center- Provides a comprehensive emergency shelter program, 24 hour confidential hotline, education and supportive counseling, and environment of wellness, advocates and support for women and families.
NW Works - Training initiatives of individuals at Firefly Café & Bakery. Three months of paid training and placement services this includes: resume assistance, interview coaching, counseling and follow-up support.
Response - Employment related skills, life skills training and basic needs support services for victims of domestic violence.
Veterans Community Resources provided case management resources to veterans looking for support and resources in a variety of areas. VCR provided referrals for shelter/counseling, budgeting, legal aid, assisted with food distribution and crisis management.
Literacy Volunteers Winchester Area - Adult Basic Literacy program provides tutoring in reading, writing, math, English language, computer skills, and personal finance for adults with low literacy skills in the community.
Disaster Relief Services:
American Red Cross - Helps fund the Disaster Cycle Services program to alleviate human suffering in times of disaster. The program provides immediate direct assistance, recovery planning services and preparation resources.
Free Legal Assistance:
Blue Ridge Legal Services - Provide free legal assistance to low-income residents of NSV.
To see a full list of the impact grants awarded in the Income category click here
Priority Needs Review 2014-2017
The 2014-2017 United Way NSV Community Needs Assessment was published in July of 2014. The report provided a progress report on the social conditions targeted in 2010 and recommended the following funding priorities:
Life Skills Training (financial literacy, job preparation, literacy)
Support for families to meet basic needs (food, shelter, utilities)
The primary benchmark that was set for progress measurement was the percentage of households earning less than $25,000. For three of the six jurisdictions, the percentage decreased; Frederick, Page and Warren County. Clarke, Shenandoah and Winchester all had an increase in the percentage of households earning less than $25,000.
The Need (2017-2020)
Key findings from the 2017-2020 needs assessment for the income/financial stability section are found below. To download the complete needs assessment see the link at the top of the webpage.
- The City of Winchester and Page County are experiencing the highest poverty percentages of all the jurisdictions; with both exceeding the Virginia average. Shenandoah County slightly exceeds the Virginia average. (Figure 3.1)
In Page County, Shenandoah County and City of Winchester, more than a quarter of families are earning less than $25,000. (Figure 3.3) These families may be able to access benefits through the Department of Social Services. A more concerning trend are the families who are earning slightly more than $25,000 and no longer qualify for benefits through social services, but aren’t making enough to make ends meet.
SNAP benefit participation has increased from 2013 to 2015 in all the jurisdictions with the exception of Shenandoah County where is decreased slightly. 13.2% of Page County households and 12.2% of Winchester households participate in the SNAP program. (Figure 3.15) In Clarke County, 49.1% of participating SNAP households have one or more people in the household 60 years and over. In each jurisdiction half of the households enrolled in SNAP have children under the age of 18. (Figure 3.16)
Data provided by Feeding America shows that Page County and the City of Winchester had the highest percentage of food insecure individuals with 13% and 12.5% respectively. More alarming, is the number of food insecure individuals who do not qualify for benefits. 49% of food insecure individuals in Clarke County will not be eligible for benefits, 35% in Warren County and 33% in Frederick County. (Figure 3.17)
Frederick County, Shenandoah County, Warren County and Winchester are considered food deserts (a low-income area more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store in urban areas, and more than 10 miles from a supermarket or grocery store in rural areas). (Figure 3.18)
In order to afford a two bedroom apartment at fair market value you would need to be earning $33.57 per hour in Clarke County, an average of $19.00 per hour in Frederick County, Warren County, and Winchester, $15.23 in Shenandoah County and $12.77 in Page County. At minimum wage, a two bedroom apartment at fair market value would not be affordable in any of the jurisdictions. (Figure 3.19)
The Fair Market Rent for a two bedroom apartment was adjusted to represent 2017 statistics, the FMR jumped 11.7% from 2016 to 2017 in Frederick County and Winchester. (Figure 3.19)
Nationally, only 35 affordable homes are available for every 100 extremely low income (ELI) renter households. A shortage exists in every state and major metropolitan area.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines a household as “housing cost burdened” if they pay 30% or more of their income on housing costs. According to Figure 3.22, three of the six localities (Clarke County, Shenandoah County and Winchester) have 50% or more of renters who are considered cost burdened, meaning that half of renters are spending 30% or more of their income on housing, leaving less for other areas of their budget. On average, 30% of home owners in each jurisdiction are considered cost burdened, meaning one third of home owners in our region are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. (Figure 3.21)
In the Valley, the percent increase in total housing cost burdened households from 2010 to 2014 rose 81%.
Critical home repairs emerged as one of the top needs and gaps in service based on the housing cost burden. Homeowners who are cost burdened may already have a hard time paying their mortgage. If home repairs come up, many do not have the available funds to make those repairs. Local non-profits who had provided assistance to these families are no longer operating and have created a gap in needs. Lack of providers, strict regulations, and lack of funding for home repairs have made it difficult to provide those services, leaving many families without assistance.
Housing Virginia published a study in November of 2016 that studied affordable housing in the rural regions. In a survey of rural housing and service providers, the top needs were identified as; rehabilitation of substandard housing, shortage of affordable rentals and home accessibility modifications for aging in place. The top gaps were identified as; lack of affordable financing, poor infrastructure (public transit, water/sewer, etc.) and limited capacity of service providers. The top trends showed an increasing demand for rental housing, flat/declining income and a growing senior population. These trends are consistent with the data found in this report.
The number of unsheltered homeless in the Northern Shenandoah Valley (Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, Warren and Winchester) rose 260% from 2016 to 2017. Overall the number of people that were considered homeless (sheltered and unsheltered) rose 28% from 2016 to 2017. (Figure 3.23)
Survey results showed that the top reasons noted for being homeless were that they were unable to pay their rent followed by unemployment. Issues that affect stable housing were that they could not find affordable housing, transportation, and medical problems; 45% of homeless adults surveyed were employed. Barriers to employment were identified as: transportation, job opportunities, job training/skills and childcare. (Figure 3.26, 3.27 and 3.28)
2-1-1 Virginia Call report shows that the top needs based on call volume are: utility assistance, housing, and health care. (Figure 3.31)
The Valley Health Community Health Needs Assessment also identified Financial Hardship as one of the top needs in the region.
“Income levels, employment and economic self-sufficiency correlate with the prevalence of a range of health problems and factors contributing to poor health. People with lower income or who are unemployed/underemployed are less likely to have health insurance or the ability to afford out of pocket health care expenses. Lower income is associated with increased difficulties securing reliable transportation, which impacts access to medical care, and the ability to purchase an adequate quantity of healthy food on a regular basis. For these and other reasons, the assessment identified financial hardship and basic needs insecurity as a priority health need in the community.”
Key Findings (VH CHNA):
Interviewees identified low income, housing, and poverty as the top issues believed to be contributing to poor health status and access to care difficulties. Other income-related factors noted to be contributing to poor health include difficulty with transportation to medical appointments, and homelessness.
Low income and financial challenges were reported in the survey. For survey respondents who reported not being able to always get the care they needed, affordability and lack of insurance coverage were the most frequently mentioned reasons, especially for the senior population.
Comparison to August 2013 CHNA: Financial hardship and basic needs insecurity was not one of the top health priority areas identified in WMC’s August 2013 CHNA, but that assessment did note several financial hardship measures relevant to health.
All jurisdictions are experiencing the lowest unemployment rates since 2009. (Figure 3.10)
A summary of the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development State of the Workforce reports indicates that the SVWDA has enjoyed steadily rising employment over the last five years. Total employment increased by 11,972 jobs between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2016, or 5.8 percent.
Manufacturing is the region’s largest employment sector. It accounted for 31,718 private sector jobs in the second quarter of 2016 and was the region’s 5th highest paying employment sector.
SVWDA faces potential gaps in its pipeline of trained workers. There are potential shortfalls of trained workers in the following occupations: Nursing Assistants; Teacher Assistants; Industrial Machinery Mechanics; Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses; Medical Assistants; Electricians; Child Care Workers; First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction; Dental Assistants; and Real Estate Sales Agents.
Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA) reports a growing waitlist for services. One hundred thirty-four clients have requested services, but there are not enough funds to meet these requests. Services would include meals on wheels, personal care, and homemaker. (Figure 3.32, 3.33)
Trends and gaps identified by Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging include:
An increase in requests for financial assistance with cost of hearing aids.
The need for quality guardians for persons who have money and do not qualify for public guardianship.
An increase in the waiting lists for services, including, meals, personal care, and homemaker services.
An increase in requests, most for housing assistance.
Lack of accessible or reliable transportation to health care and a lack of providers who accept new Medicaid and even Medicare patients were the most frequently mentioned specific access to care issues in interviews, especially for low-income individuals and senior citizens. (Valley Health)\
Clarke, Frederick, and Warren County all had the lowest number of people that lived and worked in the area as compared to in commuters and out-commuters. Additionally, they were the counties where out-commuters were the largest numbers in comparison to the others. Winchester was the only jurisdiction where there were more in-commuters than out-commuters and those that lived and worked in the area. (Figure 3.34)
Winchester has the highest percentage of households who have no vehicle with 11.2%. It is also the only jurisdiction that has more one vehicle households than two vehicles and three or more. (Figure 3.35)
Transportation came up as one of the top needs in the Valley Health Community Health Needs Assessment and the Point-in-Time survey, and a variety of other sources also noted lack of transportation as being a primary barrier to employment and education.
In an analysis of the Transit Dependence Index included in a recent feasibility study for transit service by the KFH Group, high and very high concentrations of transit needs are located in Winchester, Stephens City, Berryville, Front Royal and the Edinburg/Woodstock area.