Updated July 31 at 11:31am

Five years in, fund still trying to dent poverty

By Rhonda J. Miller
PBN Staff Writer

As Rhode Islanders continue to wrestle with the highest unemployment rate in the nation – 9.1 percent in December – and a sluggish economy, Capital Good Fund is marking its fifth anniversary this year by pushing forward with its idealistic mission to “create pathways out of poverty” with on-the-ground assistance through microloans, free tax preparation and financial coaching.

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SOCIAL WELFARE

Five years in, fund still trying to dent poverty

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As Rhode Islanders continue to wrestle with the highest unemployment rate in the nation – 9.1 percent in December – and a sluggish economy, Capital Good Fund is marking its fifth anniversary this year by pushing forward with its idealistic mission to “create pathways out of poverty” with on-the-ground assistance through microloans, free tax preparation and financial coaching.

While some economists and others in the financial world are reporting a slow-but-steady, upward turn in the economy, Capital Good Fund founder Andy Posner is finding it as challenging as ever to make a dent in poverty in Rhode Island.

“I’m not seeing things picking up for the population we serve,” said Posner. “Things are picking up for the upper-middle class and upper class.”

Some economic signposts in Rhode Island reflect continuing financial distress in the state, particularly among Capital Good Fund’s clients, said Posner.

“Payday loans are as strong as ever and so are check-cashing services and pawn shops. That’s predatory financing,” said Posner. “They’re providing services at a cost that people can get for free elsewhere.”

The free tax preparation provided by Capital Good Fund for those who qualify for the service is intended to help keep tax refunds complete, but some who want, or need, the money more quickly to cover living expenses sometimes go to a service that charges a fee to make the refund money available more quickly, said Posner.

One of the programs initiated by Capital Good Fund to break that cycle of unnecessarily giving away some of that tax-return money is a collaboration with three banks – Navigant Credit Union, People’s Credit Union and RBS Citizens – to open an account for the tax refund.

“We’re partnering with Capital Good Fund to encourage people who don’t have a bank account to open an account with one of the three collaborating banks,” said Navigant Credit Union Vice President for Business and Community Development Randy Sacilotto. “Ours is a pilot program called ‘Smart Start’ to give people a chance to get on the road to financial stability.”

As one of the original volunteers on Capital Good Fund’s financial coaching team, Sacilotto is careful not to recommend his bank, but to encourage people he coaches to choose the bank that’s most convenient for them, so they can develop positive financial habits.

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