LEWISTON — The John T. Gorman Foundation has awarded $750,000 over three years to the Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community to help more than 1,000 low-income residents and families across Maine build savings, develop assets and attain financial stability.
The award was announced Wednesday morning at a news conference at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, at the start of a convening of the state’s 10 CA$H Coalitions.
The amount of individual coalition awards is not yet determined. The coalitions, including one in Lewiston-Auburn, have until Nov. 7 to submit grant requests for outreach, and the funds will be awarded based on the strength of each request.
In addition to Women, Work and Community and the John T. Gorman Foundation, partners in the new initiative, called CA$H ME, also includes statewide and regional CA$H Maine Coalitions.
The coalitions, which bring together partners to help guide low-income families toward ways to save money, take advantage of income tax refunds, use matched savings programs, such as family development accounts and college savings plans, and participate in financial literacy classes.
“Even though most people are working harder than ever, far too many parents with low-incomes still encounter serious obstacles that prevent them from saving for the future,” said Tony Cipollone, president and CEO of the John T. Gorman Foundation. “We believe that helping parents provide and care for their families is crucial to our state’s success.”
According to a news release from the Gorman Foundation, the financial position of Maine residents is more precarious than people in many neighboring states, as well as in the nation. Per capita income in Maine is the lowest in New England, and nearly 15 percent of Maine households worry about food security. More than half of Maine consumers have poor credit, and nearly half have little to no liquid assets — cash they can tap into in an emergency.
“Asset-building is very beneficial for families,” said Dottie Perham-Whittier, co-chairwoman for the Lewiston-Auburn CA$H Coalition and Lewiston’s community relations coordinator. “CA$H stands for ‘Creating Assets, Savings and Hope,’ and that’s exactly what learning how to effectively manage one’s money does. Understanding how to make the best use of one’s money is a positive step forward toward setting achievable goals, planning for the future and enhancing self-sufficiency.”
CA$H sites help families improve their financial status. One way the sites work is by helping families take advantage of such tax benefits as the Earned Income Tax Credit, an income tax refund that has been shown to be an effective tool in reducing childhood poverty.
As part of that work, trained tax preparers and counselors advise families how to save and invest their money, setting up a nest egg that can be used to weather a life crisis and save for short- and long-term financial goals, such as postsecondary education and business and home ownership.
To learn more about the CA$H Coalitions, go to: www.cashmaine.org