Archive for Stakeholders’ Comments

Team Leader Rep. Rosemary Brown’s Prized Linked Savings Highlighted on National Front

Prize-linked savings at CUs part of Pa. poverty policy

The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) is supporting a new state policy initiative to combat poverty by using tools such as prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts.

Earlier this month, State Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe) introduced HB 2543, which would allow certain financial institutions, including credit unions, to offer saving rewards programs.

“Credit unions have played an integral role in developing PLS programs as part of their ongoing effort to help members enhance financial literacy, save money, and improve spending and debt management habits,” Conway wrote.

In the Oct. 28 issue of Life is a Highway, Conway also commended the work of Brown and Pennsylvania House Majority Policy Committee Chair Dave Reed (R-Indiana) to promote solutions to build wealth.

“Studies indicate that consumers are not saving for their futures and programs to promote saving is a win for all consumers,” Conway added. “Credit unions work daily to better the lives of members, and this initiative is another avenue to assist them.”

To read the entire article…Click Here

Prize-Linked Savings: A New Financial Savings Tool, By Patrick Conway President & CEO, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association

In March 2014 the aggregate personal savings rate, defined as the ratio of total savings to after tax income, was only 3.8%. A 2013 survey found that 27% of all Americans had no emergency savings, while another 23% had some but could not cover three months of living expenses. Low-income families struggle the most to accrue savings. (Source)

Pat Conway - Original

Prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts, an idea invented and incubated by credit unions, continue to gather steam nationally. The concept is to transition non-regular savers into regular savers. With as little as $25, a credit union member can open an account and enter a drawing for monthly and annual cash prizes. Some will win prize money, but those who do not will still benefit from having started an interest-generating savings account. Credit unions fund the program, thereby achieving the public policy goal of increasing savings with no cost to the state.

Across the country, states are passing legislation allowing credit unions to offer PLS accounts. In Pennsylvania, Representative Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe) introduced House Bill 2543, which will allow certain financial institutions to operate PLS programs. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) supports this pro-consumer, pro-savings legislation.

Credit unions have played an integral role in developing PLS programs as part of their ongoing effort to help members enhance financial literacy, save money, and improve spending and debt management habits. We commend Representative Rosemary Brown for her efforts to be innovative in improving the financial well-being of Pennsylvania consumers.

To read more about the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, Click Here!

Commonwealth Foundation Podcast with Opportunity House

Podcast: Profiles in Perseverance, Overcoming Poverty


“Bobbi was struggling. A single mom of two kids, she had a job but no place to live. Thanks to Opportunity House in Reading, Pennsylvania, Bobbi found a home and eventually advanced her career by becoming an operations manager for the non-profit organization.

Tracy was homeless when she first came to Opportunity House’s shelter. Today, Tracy works three jobs to support her children, and she’s a school crossing guard. Her kids are finishing high school and are on track to attend college.

What do these success stories have in common? Both show that moving out of poverty takes a lot of support.

We spoke to Opportunity House’s president, Modesto Fiume, to find out how they are overcoming poverty in Reading, one of the nation’s poorest cities. Modesto explains, “It takes a lot of commitment. It takes a lot of hard work. It’s not something that happens overnight—there’s no quick fix here.”

Lifting families out of poverty isn’t only on Modesto’s mind. Key players at all levels of government are trying to get a handle on poverty.

In Washington, D.C., Congressman Paul Ryan released a book and policy paper focused on reforming welfare. His Opportunity Grant combines eleven different programs into one funding stream for states. Most critically, benefits are tied to work requirements, because Ryan and others recognize that work is about more than just a paycheck. Work provides purpose and builds self-worth.

In Harrisburg, the House Majority Policy Committee, led by Rep. Dave Reed, is spearheading the Gateways out of Poverty initiative. The committee spoke with the poor and community organizations to indentify common barriers and areas where public policy can make a positive impact.  

Among those focus areas is Benefits That Work, where lawmakers are working to address the disjointed system of benefits that punishes families for working more hours or receiving a promotion.”


To read the rest of the article and listen to the podcast… Click Here.

Kevin Jenkins on the ‘What Works” Approach to Poverty, TribReview

A ‘What Works’ approach to poverty

By Kevin Jenkins
Friday, June 6, 2014

State Rep. Dave Reed is on the right path, headed in the right direction, to reduce poverty in Pennsylvania.

For far too long we have had a polarized debate over poverty. Many on the right view poverty as a personal moral failure. If the poor pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they would not be poor. On the left, many advocate for more money, believing that if we keep doing and funding the same things we have over the past 40 years, somehow we will finally get it right.

Both sides are wrong, and the Indiana County Republican legislator is taking steps to bring members of both camps together to seek solutions to poverty rather than bitter partisanship.

This year, Reed and his party’s Policy Committee embarked on a wide-ranging examination of poverty called “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty.” By taking time to listen, ask questions, take testimony and learn from hundreds of experts, providers, consumers of services and everyday taxpayers, the committee identified poverty’s 13 barriers without getting into polarized political talking points.

This is exactly why The Pittsburgh Foundation, along with the United Way of Allegheny County and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, started the Campaign for What Works — a statewide initiative committed to changing the tone of the debate around human services by supporting programs that work for the consumer, taxpayer and state.

To read the rest of the editorial… Click Here.

Seeking the Gateways Out of Poverty, PA Catholic Conference on Initiative

There is an oft-repeated parable that goes something like this:

One day a group of villagers was working in the fields by a river.  Suddenly someone noticed a baby floating downstream. A woman rushed out and rescued the baby, brought it to shore and cared for it. During the next several days, more babies were found floating downstream, and dave and crossthe villagers rescued them as well. But before long there was a steady stream of babies floating towards them.

Soon the whole village was involved in the many tasks of rescue work: pulling these poor children out of the stream, ensuring they were properly fed, clothed, and housed, and integrating them into the life of the village.

Before long, however, the village became exhausted with all this rescue work. Some villagers suggested they go upstream to discover how all these babies were getting into the river in the first place. Had a mysterious illness stricken these poor children? Had the shoreline been made unsafe by an earthquake? Was some hateful person throwing them in deliberately? Was an even more exhausted village upstream abandoning them out of hopelessness?

“Don’t you see,” cried some, “if we find out how they’re getting in the river, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown? By going upstream we can eliminate the cause of the problem!” (Credit: Bread for the World)

One group of state legislators is similarly concerned about the “rescue work” being done in Pennsylvania to address the effects of poverty. The House Majority Policy Committee commissioned a study to identify barriers that low-income Pennsylvanians face when attempting to reach self-sufficiency. In April 2014, the committee released the preliminary findings of their Beyond Poverty report.

To read the rest of the article…Click Here

Young Adults Aging Out of the “System” -Diakon’s Flight Program

From Rob Kivlan, former Flight Program Manager, Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries 

In the early part of the 20th century, one of the orphanages in the history of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries created a banking system—to help the children the home served learned how to function in the world.


Decades later, adoption services now part of Diakon became a national model because they focused exclusively on the placement of children with special needs, abandoning “traditional” adoption.

Such innovation is a hallmark of the Diakon legacy.

Five years ago, Diakon turned its attention to a problem its staff saw firsthand as they worked to change the lives of adjudicated delinquent and dependent teenagers—there was very little help for these young people the minute they “aged out” of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

A birthday rolled around and, essentially, the youths were on their own. The support that was edging these young people closer to a productive path to success quite frequently disappeared—and the road back to old habits was an easy one.

In response, Diakon created the Flight Program.

For many of its participants, Flight was a lifeline. For others, it became an amazing vehicle through which they soared to newfound success.

Initially partly funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Flight Program is a mentoring and training program designed to help youths no longer eligible for traditional assistance to become contributing members of society. Typically, they have histories of poverty, addictions, and delinquent behaviors. Quite frequently, because they had not been adopted or their foster care services ended, they lacked the needed resources and support to achieve success at work, at home, and in school—in life.

Yet they recognized that they wanted better for themselves—and so they voluntarily committed to take part in Flight.

Based at the Diakon Wilderness School near Boiling Springs, Pa., the Flight Program has seen the majority of its participants successfully obtain meaningful employment, enroll in college or trade school, and achieve the ability to live independently without need for further assistance or government support.

How has Flight achieved this? 

Beyond its emphasis on voluntary commitment to self-motivation and peer support, Flight emphasizes relationship-based delivery of services.  Because those it serves have already been exposed to traditional programs and interventions, Flight focuses on becoming a long-term, consistent presence in participants’ lives, guiding them through their steps toward adulthood much the way a stable, supportive family would shepherd a son or daughter through the next phases of life.

Flight participants are assured they will receive a year of consistent, meaningful support.  Rather than depending on various service providers and programs, Flight’s skilled staff members take a lead role in personally teaching lacking life-skills, as well as guiding participants in achieving positive, independent living.

By aligning each young adult with a staff member committed to making the sometimes-difficult journey alongside the youth, gaps in service disappear.

Plus, the voluntary nature of Flight encourages success. When Diakon team members explain we’re here to help the youths succeed and applaud their reaching out for help, a connection is made. Moreover, former Flight participants remain committed to the program, regularly mentoring current participants from the perspective of someone “who has been there.” This consistent peer support, feedback and encouragement are invaluable.

Every other week, participants and graduates gather to share successes and struggles with one another, as well as participate in activities, community service, and field trips to new and positive environments. Combining the consistent presence of a trusted staff member with this fraternal element underscores the hope Flight offers.

In fact, for some, Flight has been the last hope. 

Chris, now 22, gainfully employed, married, and a father, attempted suicide at 18. Only his awareness of the hope possible in Flight prompted his last-ditch call for help—help that in this case literally saved his life.

Today, he remains a force in Flight.

“I want to show [other youths] that they can make it,” he says. “I know personally how hard it can be, but I can also tell them anything is achievable if they work at it and seek guidance and help along the way … I don’t know what my life would have looked like without [Flight].”

Perhaps, for Chris, there might not even have been life without Flight.


To Read More About Diakon’s Flight Program…Click Here

Jennifer Faustman, CEO of Belmont & Belmont Academy Charter Schools

Belmont Charter School– Meeting the Needs of Its Community

12 years ago Belmont Elementary School was the 7th worst performing public elementary school in the city of Philadelphia with only 2.5% of students scoring Proficient on the PSSA in math and 6.3% scoring proficient in Reading. One walk through the neighborhood of Belmont and you could visibly see the effect poverty was having on its landscape – dilapidated homes, broken glass littering the streets, and people struggling to make ends meet.Belmont Charter

Facing a seemingly hopeless situation, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission decided to shut down Belmont Elementary School and reopen it as a charter school in partnership with the Community Education Alliance of West Philadelphia (CEAWP), a nonprofit social services organization created in direct response to the needs of the Belmont community. Belmont Charter School (BCS) became the first school district converted charter to serve a definitive catchment area. Instead of an application process which would bring in students from many different communities, all students who resided in the neighborhood of Belmont were automatically enrolled in the school. This was monumental because it truly made the school a representation of the community.

BCS has strived to become a focal point of the community – a place where children and their families can come together to receive the resources they need to improve the quality of their lives. BCS and CEAWP began developing and implementing a variety of new programs and social services at the school such as Head Start, Afterschool and Summer programming, and even opened a Wellness Clinic within the school. Additionally, through a partnership with the Department of Human Services, CEAWP staffed 4 full time social workers in the school to provide case management services to Belmont families.  These initiatives enabled BCS to address the academic, social, and emotional needs of every student and family.

Over the course of the last 12 years, BCS has seen a 50.8% increase in students performing proficient in Math and a 42.1% increase in students performing proficient in Reading on the PSSA. More importantly, this once failing school has decreased student violent incidents by 95% and increased parent participation in the school by 90%.  This, in turn, has begun to alter the landscape of Belmont as more families have moved in to the area and student enrollment has increased.

What we have learned at the Belmont Charter School is that every child, no matter what their socioeconomic background, has the potential to succeed. In order to do so, however, the student needs their social and emotional needs addressed.  It is important for schools to form strong relationships with their communities, to acknowledge that each student has a specific set of needs, and to provide ways to meet those needs.


-Jennifer Faustman

PEC’s Newsletter on Policy Committee’s Visit

“PEC recently hosted State Representative Dave Reed (R-Indiana) and a committee of State Representatives on a fact finding mission to learn about poverty. Rep. Reed and the Republican House Majority Policy Committee have launched the Empowering Opportunities initiative – “a public policy agenda that centers on supporting effective gateways out of poverty.”


To Read the Rest of the Newsletter and the Article…Click Here

PathWaysPA on Delaware County Community College Meeting with Policy Committee

Last week, PathWays PA participated in the Gateways Out of Poverty Roundtable held at the Delaware County Community College. The conversation was extremely rewarding, especially when we had the opportunity to hear from women who participated directly in the New Choices, New Options and KEYS programs.IMGL8678

As Senior Director of Public Policy and Media Relations at PathWays PA, I was able to share data regarding the needs of families in Delaware County in addition to stories from PathWays PA clients. Among the issues we discussed were topics that would help expand the economy for everyone, including access to education and training, earned sick days, and affordable child care.

Creating family sustaining jobs is critical to promoting economic well-being for all families, and the need for economic security is something we could all agree on at the Roundtable. I am looking forward to continuing conversations with Representative Reed, the House Majority Policy Committee, and all legislators who are concerned with the needs of low-income families in Pennsylvania.

New Choices Career Development Program at Delaware County Community College

IMGL8653Delaware County Community College was pleased to host a productive roundtable discussion with Chairman Reed and members of the House Majority Policy Committee, the college’s Keys Program and New Choices Career Development Program, and Pathways PA, focused on the needs of low income families and individuals in transition.  Chairman Reed spoke eloquently about his personal experience growing up in a family that at times struggled economically and how that has impacted his understanding of what it means to be “poor”. 

As Director of the New Choices Career Development Program I was able to share information about the needs of the individuals we serve who are grappling with job loss, protracted unemployment,  loss of self-esteem and self-worth, feelings of isolation, and a host of other concerns facing participants as they seek employment opportunities and improved economic self-sufficiency.   Although the economy is slowly recovering, job opportunities continue to be limited.  Women in particular often face unique challenges in finding employment that provides family-sustaining wages.  As a result of time spent out of the workforce caring for children or other family members many women have limited education/training or sporadic work experience. 

Committee members were receptive to hearing about the barriers facing the individuals we serve, as well as strategies to support participants in identifying career goals, developing realistic career plans and successfully entering the workforce.  Education is often the key to individuals rising out of entry-level jobs into positions that pay family-sustaining wages, and community colleges are gateways to programs and services that provide specific training and support.

I appreciate the Committee’s willingness to examine the issue of poverty across the state and to seek effective solutions to the challenges facing many Pennsylvanians. 


Sandy Gera
Director, New Choices Career Development Program
Delaware County Community College