UWECI Makes Progress toward 15% Financial Stability Goal
United Way of East Central Iowa’s (UWECI) community financial stability goal is to increase the number of financially stable households by 15% (1,325 households) by 2020. This means that 15% more families will make more than 250% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL). For a family of three, this means earnings of $50,400 or more; for a family of four, this is $60,750 or more (source).
UWECI set the goal at 250% of the FPL because achieving this level of income allows families to meet basic needs like food, housing, and transportation, as well as move past benefit gaps that make long-term progress difficult. The FPL accounts for varying family sizes, but does not account for variance in the cost of living across the country or other costs families incur on a regular basis.
The FPL uses spending patterns from more than 50 years ago when food was the biggest expense of a family’s budget at about one third. Today, housing and transportation are the largest expenses in a family budget. For families with children, childcare is also a significant expense not factored into the FPL calculation. Given these differences, the Iowa Policy Project determined families require an annual income comparable to 250% FPL in order to meet basic needs on a frugal budget.
After setting this goal in 2009, the number of financially stable families in UWECI’s service area of Benton, Cedar, Jones, Iowa, and Linn Counties increased to 70.8% in 2016—a 10.3% increase since 2009. This is equivalent to an estimated 1,268 households in the five-county area. Additionally:
- 23.1% fewer family households lived below the federal poverty.
- 16.2% fewer family households lived at 100–250% of the federal poverty.
- The number of single female-headed households with children younger than age 18 decreased by 17%.
- This household type makes up one in five households in the five-county area and is the household type most likely to be below 250% FPL.
Since 2009, UWECI has worked with many different agencies and organization through a “stair step” model, developed based on learning from families, partner agencies, and educational institutions like Kirkwood Community College. Through Kirkwood and the KPACE program, we learned that before individuals could enter into education, training to increase skills, and subsequently obtain stable employment, families must first meet their basic needs and stabilize. Key partner agencies in housing, food, transportation, and skill building have made this model functional.
To continue to make progress toward our goal, UWECI is working with other organizations in the Corridor, including United Way of Johnson & Washington Counties, on the current Regional Planning process. This will take a larger look at opportunities to fill workforce gaps in the community by increasing the number of those in the workforce who earn family-sustaining wages.