Last week, a handful of GRACE staff attended the KERA live filming of One Crisis Away – an in-depth look at four families living in asset-poor poverty. Do you have enough to live above the poverty level for three months if you experienced a loss of income?
One in three North Texans can’t weather a financial storm that last 90 days – they are “One Crisis Away”, meaning they do not have a safety net of assets and/or savings to support themselves after the loss of a job, accident, health emergency, or even legal trouble.
One of the studies focused on Natalie Berquist, a Lewisville mother of two who worked, but had to choose between her apartment and health insurance for her son. “Do I put a roof over my head or have insurance and go to a shelter?” she said in her on-screen interview at the event. She applied for assistance programs like Medicaid and CHIP, but both of those applications were denied. “It doesn’t work out,” she says. “I’m working, I’m productive, I’m paying taxes, I’m doing everything I’m supposed to — but, still, there’s zero help.”
Unfortunately, this is a common thing. While the economy is making a comeback and there is strong job creation in the state of Texas, jobs are not paying high enough wages for workers to afford the necessities in life and often, an unsavory tradeoff has to be made.
“Income has a lot to do with how families are shaped,” said panel speaker Larry James, President and CEO of CitySquare, a nonprofit that fights the causes and effects of poverty. Despite having an income, many of those employed live in asset-poverty and if there’s a lack of money coming in, sometimes, people are forced to make the dreaded decision to obtain a payday loan with insurmountably high interest. On the topic of payday loans, Mr. James said, “What’s the alternative – crazy interest or feeding your family?”
Alfreda Norman, another panelist and the Vice President of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, mentioned that the banking industry is looking for a way to administer small dollar loans with lower interest to create competition and offer an alternative to payday loans.
On the subject of finances, Ms. Norman referred to the credit score as the “password into the economy” and gave this advice on how to better your credit rating and prepare for the future: “Budget to save; save to invest; control; build credit; reduce debt and protect it.” A whopping 65% of Texans have a sub-prime credit score.
This is the reality in neighborhoods across North Texas and it further solidifies that the GRACE mission is one of the utmost importance:
“As a steward of God’s blessings and resources in the community, GRACE demonstrates compassion for those less fortunate by providing assistance to individuals and families in crisis and guidance toward self-sufficiency.”
If you reside in the GRACE service area and need help, or know someone who does, come to GRACE and we will get you on the path to self-sufficiency once again.
GRACE is thankful to KERA for hosting such an informative and free public forum to bring the different forms of poverty and the resources available to its victims into the light.