New Opportunities providing financial education

New Opportunities has received a two-year grant award to expand financial literacy education in its seven county service area, which includes Greene, Audubon, Calhoun, Carroll, Dallas, Guthrie and Sac.

The grant has three main focus areas:
• Provide additional financial education and coaching for clients across seven county service area;
• Develop a clear plan, in partnership with local schools, for strengthening financial literacy education for students in west central Iowa; and
• Increase awareness of community members, service providers, and public officials in rural, west central Iowa regarding the barriers faced by people with low incomes.

New Opportunities started in January with five clients ranging from single mothers to families. Financial educators met with the once a month. Four individuals completed the course in May and were very happy with the knowledge they gained. Five more families started the program in July and will finish in November.

Successes among the first group included balancing the household budget to finish paying off a student loan debt for one family, and a home for another. Educators helped connect families with available services including HUD, SNAP, Region XII, Habitat for Humanity, and the USDA. Several families got help setting up plans to lower bills.

Even with added financial education, families face barriers including a shortage of low-income housing, lack of reliable transportation, childcare (including for sick children), healthcare, low wage jobs, and income instability.

How the community can help – New Opportunities staff suggests that low-income housing is a big need that has been talked about for years. “Realizing how great the need is and taking steps to move in the direction to achieve the goals would help many families,” a spokesperson said.

“We have worked as a community to surround families with support to become self-sufficient, understanding many families are one check away from a disaster and help can be ongoing sometimes,” the spokesperson continued.

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