Innovation at JVS: Financial Opportunity Center
With growing income inequality and Boston ranked as the most unequal city in the nation, there is a growing need for services that increase economic opportunity. JVS’s Financial Opportunity Center (FOC), developed in partnership and with support from the United Way and LISC, offers integrated services ranging from financial education workshops to one-on-one financial coaching and free tax preparation, designed to help low-income individuals achieve economic security. Our financial opportunity center is fully integrated with the employment services that we offer to our clients, and many JVS Employment Coaches are also trained as financial coaches.
Once a JVS client enters the FOC program, their financial coach conducts a comprehensive review of the client’s budget, including current finances, financial vision, credit score, and money background. JVS clients are also screened for eligibility for income support services, including health insurance, food stamps, and other services such as heating fuel assistance. After a full financial picture is established, the JVS coach and client will develop action steps and make follow up appointments.
JVS serves nearly 17,000 clients a year in over 35 different programs, and to date we have woven FOC services into eight of our programs. By embedding FOC financial services into employment programs, JVS is able to expose a greater number of clients, increasing the possibility of financial impact across a diverse group of individuals that include people in subsidized or public housing, students transitioning to college, adults earning a high school diploma, people seeking employment services, and refugees, asylees, and immigrants.
The JVS Center for Economic Opportunity represents a new, data-informed way of delivering services to ensure that individuals receiving job training and employment are set on a path for long-term economic security. According to a 2010 report by the Annie E Casey Foundation Center for Working Families, the practice of intentionally bundling three core services — workforce development, income supports, and financial coaching — has been proven to increase employment placement and longevity of employment for individuals as well as increase net worth. Creating, embedding, and operationalizing this service delivery model into existing programs produces better returns for individual households and the larger economy.
JVS clients who use FOC services see improvements to their credit scores, impacting employability in sectors where credit reports are used as screening tools, as well as long-term ability to access non-predatory lines of credit. Clients also create a budget and financial plan, helping them make sound financial decisions and start on a path to long-term economic security. The FOC free tax preparation site helps people maximize tax credits and avoid predatory tax services. These supports provide individuals and families some security, so that they can focus on completing JVS employment and education programs that will ultimately allow them to secure financial independence.
In 2017, 152 new clients enrolled in our FOC program, and 137 clients improved their credit score, with 33 moving from unscored to scored. Additionally, 63 clients saw a median increase of $920 to their net worth, and 79 clients secured new employment. Through our Tax Center, FOC prepared 461 tax returns, helping participants access $259,312 in Earned Income and related tax credits.