Economic Empowerment

Allstate Financial Literacy Program

Program Overview

Leaving an abusive relationship is a process, not an event; survivors often return several times before the separation is permanent. Research reveals that economic dependency is the strongest predictor of a survivor’s decision to remain, leave, or return to an abusive relationship. Economic dependency is an even stronger indicator than safety issues. Survivors who have more financial independence from their abusers are more likely to leave. When a survivor does leave an abusive relationship, the likelihood of homelessness, unemployment, and debt is greater; this in turn increases the probability that she will return to the abuser or access predatory financial resources to escape or survive.

 

Asset building is a crucial part of domestic violence advocacy. Asset building can be linked to accessing various financial building blocks that help foster economic security. The Shelter has received a grant from the Allstate Foundation to address all aspects of economic independence: building credit, money management, financial education, even entrepreneurship training and career mapping. 

Program Components

The Shelter’s program has five primary components: financial literacy, job readiness, individual development accounts, small business development training and micro-loans

1. Financial Literacy

The program utilizes the Allstate’s Moving Ahead through Financial Management financial literacy curriculum in conjunction with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV’s) Economic Empowerment program materials.

2. Job Readiness

The Shelter utilizes the Allstate Career Empowerment curriculum and conducts a variety of job readiness activities and workshops to help survivors improve their ability to acquire and retain living wage jobs. With a unique focus on personal responsibility and self-confidence, a comprehensive approach to job readiness that  links survivors to skill building opportunities that offer alternatives to low wage jobs with no benefits. Advocates work individually with participants to help them overcome barriers to their economic stability.

3. Individual Development Accounts

The Individual Development Accounts program provides matched savings to participating survivors. The program provides opportunities for survivors to secure savings for their future.

Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) are emerging as one of the most promising tools that enable low-income and low-wealth American families to save, build assets, and enter the financial mainstream. Based on the idea that all Americans should have access, through the tax code or through direct expenditures, to the structures that subsidize homeownership and retirement savings of wealthier families, IDAs reward the monthly savings of working-poor families who are trying to buy their first home, pay for post-secondary education, or start a small business. These matched savings accounts are similar to 401(k) plans and other matched savings accounts but can serve a broad range of purposes. Benefits include:

  • Low-income families can save monthly. Deposits increase as the monthly target increases, indicating that low-income families’ saving behavior, like that of wealthier individuals, is influenced by the incentives they receive
  • Financial literacy creates savers and savvy consumers. Key to the success of IDAs is the economic education that participants receive. Information about repairing credit, reducing expenditures, applying for the Earned Income Tax Credit, avoiding predatory lenders, and accessing financial services helps IDA participants to reach saving goals and to integrate themselves into the mainstream economic system
  • Assets change lives. More than income enhancement, asset accumulation affects individuals’ confidence about the future, willingness to defer gratification, avoidance of risky behavior, and investment in community. In families where assets are owned, children do better in school, voting participation increases, and family stability improves. Reliance on public assistance decreases as families use their assets to access higher education and better jobs, reduce their housing costs through ownership, and create their own job opportunities through entrepreneurship
  • Communities benefit from homeownership, entrepreneurship, and educational attainment. Research summarized by the Center for Social Development (CSD) demonstrates many beneficial aspects of assets:
    • They promote economic household stability and educational attainment
    • Decrease the risk of intergenerational poverty transmission
    • Increase health and satisfaction among adults
    • Increase local civic involvement

4. Business Development Training

The Shelter offers a four-week business program tilled Women of Business in order to provide the necessary training to those survivors interested in having their own business to reach financial stability. This is accomplished with the assistance of a volunteer from the Goodwill SWFL MicroEnterprise Institute.

5. Microloans

The Microloan component provides small loans to Women of Business participants. The program will provide opportunities for survivors to access loans to assist them with business.

Five loans will be disseminated to Collier County survivors who participate in our financial literacy classes and entrepreneurial classes. Repayment will be up to one year.

The purpose of providing loans to residents of Collier is to allow survivors in this community to gain further independence by becoming self-sufficient. Many participants in Collier find it difficult to find work, especially when there is a language barrier and when they are waiting for legalities such as U-Visas. Feedback provided by previous Allstate class participants depicts that most survivors already work in some way “under the table”. Although they are doing this type of work their income is a bare minimum that makes survival challenging. Those that are documented hardly make enough to provide for their children.

One participant wanting to start her own small business said that she would be able to better provide for herself and her family and in turn become more independent. It would also allow her to relocate away from the abuse. Her emotional well-being would also be positively affected. The businesses these survivors want to start vary from small cleaning businesses to catering and web design. Other examples given were selling beauty products and sewing.

The problems they face of not having the startup money to begin a small business present a significant error.  Providing participants with micro-loans provides them a rare opportunity for an increased chance for self-sufficiency. 

Program Structure

  • The Shelter will offer financial literacy classes to 15 survivors at the Naples location. They will be mentored, coached and guided over an extended period. All of the participants will participate in the IDA program
  • Each participant in the program will have the opportunity to work with a seasoned human resources professional to create resumes and learn the nuances of conducting an effective job search
  • Participants will also have the opportunity to attend on-site computer and English classes. This will provide them basic necessary skills that will open doors to better employment opportunities.
  • The Shelter will offer a variety of on-site Economic Empowerment Workshops throughout the year. The workshops will provide a series of learning opportunities surrounding all aspects of money management, identity theft, housing, computer basics, educational opportunities, credit basics, organization skills, insurance, taxes, investing, banking, and job readiness. Partnering agencies will collaborate in order to make these workshops possible.
  • A business class will be offered to survivors and they will be challenged to develop creative business plan. Five of the survivors will be awarded a micro-loan to use towards their business. They will have up to a year for repayment. Individual business coaching sessions will be offered to program participants on a quarterly basis.
  • Safety planning around finances will also be implemented with all survivors that receive services at The Shelter.

For more information on Economic Empowerment – call Maylen Garcia at 239-775-3862, ext 238 or email: mgarcia@naplesshelter.org