Community Action News
WISCAP Statement on Recent Events

WISCAP Statement on Recent Events

June 3, 2020

The malicious killing of George Floyd has once again laid bare the ugly, persistent reality of racism and inequality in America.

WISCAP and the agencies that comprise our network stand committed to creating a more just and equitable society that rejects discrimination based on divisions of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status. Community Action was born of the War on Poverty and as such is inextricably linked to the civil rights movement. As great social and economic unrest consumes our state and nation, we must renew and deepen our commitment to racial and ethnic equality, recognizing our common humanity and kinship with all people.

Overcoming racism within our communities and institutions will take more than vague sentiment – it requires the active, affirmative, personal recognition of the truth of the inherent dignity and intrinsic worth of all peoples. Racism and classism ignore that truth and seek to exclude and divide. Together these forces have long cast a dark shadow over our state. Consider the grim statistics that more than one in ten Wisconsinites live in poverty and that over 18,000 children and youth in our state are homeless. Yet within these figures lay hidden some of the nation’s greatest racial and ethnic disparities. The poverty rate for African Americans, Hmong, and Hispanics is dramatically higher than that for whites. The black child poverty rate is among the highest in the nation. And African Americans and Native Americans suffer the highest mortality rates of any in our state. To be certain, the ignorance of racism drives and sustains inequity and discrimination in housing, employment, education, criminal justice, and health outcomes. It increases the suffering of so many, while curtailing opportunity and hope. And, as so many of our fellow Wisconsinites struggle to secure equal justice and opportunity, we must recognize that racism and classism diminishes all of us.

The community action network stands together with all who work daily toward a more just culture of racial equity and economic opportunity.

 
Gov. Tony Evers Announces $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program

Gov. Tony Evers Announces $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program

Contact: Kassidy Farrey, Communications Manager
Telephone: 608-244-4422
Email: [email protected]cap.org
Website: Wiscap.org

The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) supports Gov. Tony Evers for his announcement of a $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program. Administered by the Department of Administration (DOA), the program will provide financial assistance for rent, security deposits, and wrap around services for eligible households who have experienced income loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

DOA will partner with local community action agencies across the state to accept applications from interested individuals and distribute rental assistance.

Housing costs have long steadily increased out of proportion to income, as witnessed by the 306,000 low-income Wisconsin renters who pay more than half their income on housing. Over 10% of Wisconsin residents live below the federal poverty line and last year the Department of Public Instruction identified more than 18,000 homeless children and youth throughout the state. This was before the current emergency. Now, many businesses have closed due to the public health emergency and unemployment in Wisconsin has reached historic levels.

“Our communities throughout the state — rural, suburban and urban — are struggling with the effects of the pandemic, and it is with respect to housing security where so many Wisconsinites are especially vulnerable,” said WISCAP Executive Director Brad Paul. “The Governor’s announced rental assistance program immediately assumes a critical role in preventing homelessness and ensuring greater housing stability.”

“The impact this funding has on renters, landlords, their families and the economy in general cannot be underestimated,” says George Hinton, CEO of the Social Development Commission. “People are hurting. They are stressed. This initiative will give them some immediate relief as they begin to recover from the damage this pandemic has caused.”

You can stay up-to-date regarding the W.R.A.P. program by visiting this page on DOA’s website. This page will be updated with application information and contact information for your local community action agency in the weeks ahead. 

About WISCAP: The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) is a member association serving the statewide network of sixteen locally controlled Community Action Agencies (CAA) and two single purpose agencies.
 
WISCAP ANNOUNCES EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE FOR 2020-2021 TERM

WISCAP ANNOUNCES EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE FOR 2020-2021 TERM

May 14, 2020

WISCAP is excited to announce its new Executive Committee for the 2020-2021 term, seated at the May 12th WISCAP Board of Directors meeting.

George Hinton, CEO of the Social Development Commission, was elected as Board Chair, having previously served five years as a Member-At-Large. He succeeds Walter Orzechowski, Executive Director of Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program.

“I’m very excited to be in this role and look forward to addressing the issue of poverty with my colleagues,” Hinton said. “I hope to focus on the systemic root causes of poverty that impact people across the state. While working with the board, I will also continue to focus and amplify grassroots initiatives taking place in local communities.”

“For the last five years, WISCAP has been ably served by Wally Orzechowski and I thank him for his support and efforts,” Brad Paul, WISCAP Executive Director stated. “I wish to congratulate the new Executive Committee on their election and am eager to work with them as we continue to strengthen Wisconsin’s Poverty Fighting Network.”

WISCAP is pleased to share the new Executive Committee below:

President: George Hinton, CEO, Social Development Commission
Vice President: Hetti Brown, Executive Director, Couleecap
Treasurer: Millie Rounsville, Executive Director, Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency
Secretary: Anna Cardarella, Executive Director, Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council
Member-At-Large: Essie Allen, CEO, Racine Kenosha Community Action Agency
Member-At-Large: Cheryl Detrick, President & CEO, Newcap
Past-President: Walter Orzechowski, Executive Director, Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program

 
Community Action Month in Wisconsin 2020

Community Action Month in Wisconsin

May 7, 2020

The Office of the Governor has proclaimed May “Community Action Month in Wisconsin.” The Governor’s proclamation highlights statewide community action programming in the areas of affordable housing, weatherization, food security, job training, entrepreneurship, Head Start, community economic development, transportation, health, and education. The proclamation comes at a time when community action agencies across the state are responding to the additional challenges presented by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

1 in 10 Wisconsinites live below the Federal Poverty Line and school districts in the state identified over 18,000 homeless kids last year. In response, Wisconsin’s Poverty Fighting Network is assisting low-income families and advocating for real solutions to homelessness. 

“We are very pleased Governor Evers has recognized the work of our statewide network and the critical role it plays in fighting poverty in Wisconsin,” said WISCAP Executive Director Brad Paul. “In order to make further progress, we require greater investments in anti-poverty programs, which is why we enthusiastically supported the Wisconsin Opportunity Act, comprehensive legislation introduced in the last session,” added Paul.

“Confronting poverty also requires broad and creative partnerships from civil society and the private sector, and we invite our friends in the business community and philanthropic world to join us in advancing real solutions by supporting WISCAP and local community action agencies.”

Community Action Month also provides an opportunity for WISCAP to highlight several of its ongoing valued partnerships, including with Associated Bank, Forward Community Investments (FCI), Mutual of America, Wipfli LLP, and District 7 Council of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).

Community Action Month is celebrated each May by the national network of community action, which includes over 1,000 community action agencies and reaches 99% of America’s counties. WISCAP is one of 44 state associations and a member of the National Community Action Partnership.

 
Associated Bank 2019 Investment Update

Associated Bank 2019 Investment Update

In May 2019, WISCAP announced the $100,000 Associated Bank investment in Wisconsin’s community action network.

Associated Bank and WISCAP share a common goal of creating stronger communities through economic development. Therefore, the Associated Bank investment was meant to expand access for low-and moderate-income communities in the areas of homeownership, home repair, small business, financial literacy and workforce development programs. In addition, it increased staff capacity and gave local community action agencies the ability to bolster case management, client identification and enrollment in trainings, business development, and access to affordable housing and repair.

The $100,000 grant was divided among WISCAP and member agencies. Read below for details on the impact the grant made (and is still making) in Wisconsin. You can click on hyperlinked titles to see the agencies’ own announcements:

Lakeshore :
Lakeshore Community Action Program, Inc. (LCAP) has developed a Home Buyer Education program that has been recognized and acclaimed by the local housing/lending community. Since July 1992, LCAP has assisted more than 1,250 households realize the dream of home ownership. LCAP used their portion of the Associated Bank grant to provide financial and home buyer education and counseling that enabled buyers in Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Sheboygan Counties to purchase decent, safe and affordable homes.

CAP Services:
CAP Services’ Skills Enhancement Program helps individuals with low incomes achieve permanent self-sufficiency. Participants must work at least 20 hours per week and have a household income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Through individualized support services and financial assistance for tuition, books, childcare and mileage, individuals are able to access the training and education they need to obtain higher-paid employment and employer-paid benefits. With the award from Associated Bank, CAP is able to increase hours available for additional support by six hours per week, thus enabling staff to connect with more participants on a weekly basis rather than monthly.

Western Dairyland EOC:
The Western Dairyland Business Center provides business development services to individuals in rural, north western Wisconsin, including Eau Claire, Buffalo, Trempealeau and Jackson counties, and has a twenty-year history of helping under served and disenfranchised populations launch, grow and improve small businesses. With the Associated Bank grant, the Western Dairyland Business Center supports an entrepreneurial peer mentorship program based on the Kauffman Fasttrac® course within rural north western Wisconsin. This course is for individuals who seek to become entrepreneurs. They meet as a cohort, led by an experienced business development specialist, to plan, launch and grow more businesses in rural and small communities.

Indianhead:
The lndianhead Community Action Agency Business Development program began in 1999, to promote, encourage, and assist in the development of entrepreneurial opportunities for economically disadvantaged individuals, so that they may achieve self-sufficiency through self-employment. Services are offered to both start-up and existing businesses in 11 counties: Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Clark, Douglas Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor and Washburn. Clients of the program receive technical assistance in all areas of business, including but not limited to, business plan development, bookkeeping, marketing, business management, and loan packaging case management, website and social media, and group training sessions . This award allows ICAA to add additional staff hours as well as pay for additional travel to client’s homes or places of business, allowing staff to serve more Business Development clients.

Central Wisconsin Community Action Council:
Currently CWCAC funds a resource specialist to connect youth with resources and support them with independent living skills. Financial literacy helps youth to obtain and keep stable housing; budget for health insurance; plan their education; get and maintain employment; and plan for unexpected expenses. This grant allows CWCAC to work closely with Associated Bank to help young people understand and develop tangible skills in money management and credit building. It allows for educational opportunities that enhance youth skills and knowledge. Youth receive gift cards and funding to open an account if eligible, as well as a meal and expenses for their mileage and time.

Community Action, Inc.:
CAI’s Fatherhood Initiative targets parenting fathers who are unemployed or underemployed, have limited involvement with their children, and are experiencing personal barriers to self-sufficiency such as criminal justice involvement, housing concerns, child support obligations, transportation issues, and limited education. With an “employment first” model, the Fatherhood Initiative assists fathers by providing support and guidance in obtaining and maintaining employment while also assisting with areas such as character development, personal responsibilities, and employability skills. CAI has successfully operated this program in Rock County since 2007. The Associated Bank investment supports expansion of the Fatherhood Initiative into Walworth County. CAI plans to serve 20 fathers in Walworth County in 2020.

Foundation for Rural Housing:
Governors Evers has announced a focus on public school educational outcomes and access to broadband services in all rural areas over the next several years. FRH is piloting a program that focuses on both access to Internet and increasing education outcomes with this added home access. They will provide financial assistance with connection of broadband services in rural areas that will promote the overall success of low-income, school aged children and families to assist in completing homework assignments, job searches and general research that promote a more stable life.

Social Development Commission
In 2019, Social Development Commission (SDC) used the Associated Bank grant to support the 2019 Summit on Poverty. This large event discusses not just the symptoms of poverty, but also identifies and addresses the key barriers that prevent families and individuals from breaking out of poverty. Those barriers include trauma, cognitive dissonance, the isms (racism, sexism, classism, and policy systems. Attendees also self-reflect on their role and how their organizations contribute to these barriers.

ADVOCAP:
ADVOCAP’s agency mission is to create opportunities for people and communities to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency. They are the only organization in their service area (Fond du Lac, Green Lake and Winnebago counties) that focuses on job placement specifically for the homeless demographic. In the Homeless Job Placement program, they connect with unemployed and under-employed homeless individuals to prepare them for interviews and work on job skills. This funding enables them to maintain high quality services despite the recent shortfall of funding by reserving a portion of a Job Placement Specialist’s workload specifically for homeless participants.

Couleecap:
Couleecap services La Crosse, Vernon, Monroe and Crawford counties. The Associated Bank investment support their existing Homeownership Counseling Program. They provide pre and post purchase counseling to up to 300 individuals annually. The counseling is a free, in-person, personalized program that empowers families with the tools they need to make decisions about one of the most important parts of their lives, their home. Those wishing to purchase a home attend a homebuyer education session led by trained Couleecap housing counselors. For those ready to purchase a home they assist the homebuyer in working with bankers, real estate agents, and home inspectors. They help to explore loan options and are available to the homebuyer for questions and guidance. When someone already owns their home, counselors assist on an individual level to help them understand their budget, credit, payments, home maintenance and options for the home rehabilitation services if the home needs work.

Newcap, Inc.:
Newcap has offered business startup and expansion technical assistance and business consulting for seven years. They offer budding entrepreneurs and existing small businesses in their ten county (Brown, Florence, Langlade, Marinette, Menominee, Octono, Oneida, Shawano, and Vilas) service area support in: business strategy, business set up, financial education and responsibility, marketing leadership, human resources and sales. Newcap will use the majority of their grant to create a revolving loan fund for micro loans under $1,000. The remaining portion will be used for staff development for the facilitation of the revolving loan fund.

Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency:
NWCSA used their portion of the Associated Bank Grant towards their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance grant program is an Internal Revenue Service initiative designed to support free tax preparation service for the underserved through various partner organizations. This contributes to NWCSA’s efforts to increase financial literacy in the Northland of Wisconsin.

West CAP
West CAP services Polk, Barron, St. Croix, Pierce, Dunn, Pepin and Chippewa counties. They used their portion of the Associated Bank investment to support the general operations of their Skills Enhancement Program. The program assists adults in low wage jobs to gain educational certificates and/or diplomas that increase their ability to earn a living wage and have access to health care benefits. To highlight the advantages of the Skills Enhancement Program, West CAP provided the following story:
Student AB from Rice Lake successfully graduated from the Associate Degree of Nursing Program at WITC in May. She was able to pass her nursing board exam and get hired at Spooner Health and The Mayo Clinic as an RN. She is receiving employer health benefits and has increased her wages by an extra $14.78 an hour (from when she entered the Skills Enhancement Program) and increased her hours worked by 29 hours a week. Because of this, she has increased her annual income by $61,199.

Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin
CACSCW used their part of the grant to assist a program participant. CAC’s entire portion was paid to a local vendor for materials and labor needed to make household repairs in November 2019. Without the Associated Bank award, the household would have been at risk of missing a rent payment. This assistance preserved the household’s good standing with the landlord.

 
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