Partners, Volume 14, Number 1, 2004
Partners, Volume 14, Number 1, 2004
|Spotlight on the District|
A $2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) will help to construct roads, sewer lines and additional plant sites in a local industrial park in the Lowndes County, Alabama, town of Fort Deposit.
Lowndes County, which has suffered from extreme poverty conditions and a high unemployment rate for many years, has recently attracted the interest of several parts manufacturers that are considering locating their facilities there. Prompted by the recent construction of a new Hyundai factory in adjacent Montgomery County, these plants will bring jobs and an economic boost to the local economy. Without the assistance of the EDA grant, however, the county’s low tax base would not have supported the infrastructural improvements essential to accommodate the new manufacturing plants. Assistance to acquire the grant was received from the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.
Created by Congress to generate new jobs, help to retain jobs and to stimulate industrial and commercial growth in economically distressed areas of the United States, the EDA provides grants for infrastructural development. By building local capacity and developing businesses, it helps communities eliminate conditions of persistent unemployment in economically distressed regions such as Lowndes County.
By Michael Milner, regional community development director in the Atlanta Fed’s Birmingham Branch.
The new campaign aims to:
• Provide free assistance with filing federal income taxes
• Help eligible citizens claim their earned income tax credit (EITC)
• Offer financial education
• Break the cycle of poverty
An additional benefit to the northeast Florida region from this initiative is the potential increase in dollars for the local economy. It is estimated that $10 million in new funds will flow into the region’s economy this year as a result of the campaign, with as much as $50 million estimated over the next three years.
Coalition partners make a difference
A coalition of companies and organizations from all sectors came together to improve the prosperity of the community. Coalition partners include financial institutions, social service organizations, the United Way, governmental agencies, universities and schools, private employers and corporations, churches and faith-based organizations. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Community Affairs program is also an active partner in the campaign.
The campaign recognizes that it is not enough to assist low-income families and individuals in preparing their tax returns, obtaining their refunds, and claiming earned income tax credits; central to the long-term goals of the campaign is a comprehensive approach to financial education and asset-building opportunities.
As part of the initiative, the campaign coalition provided financial education training to over 50 volunteers in January, using the FDIC’s Money Smart program as its standard curriculum. New classes began in February. Because faith-based organizations and churches play a critical part in reaching low-income families, several of the classes are conducted at churches in the evenings and on Saturday. Trained volunteer financial counselors are also available at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites to answer financial planning questions and encourage clients to sign up for Money Smart classes. An additional component of this initiative is an Individual Development Account (IDA) program available to Money Smart graduates who meet the eligibility criteria.
Throughout the Sixth District, similar programs are underway. Financial education and asset-building are the key to the success and sustainability of these efforts, and ultimately vital to the economic health of our communities.
By Janet Hamer, regional community development manager in the Atlanta Fed’s