Prosperity Indiana held its statehouse day, Prosperity IN Action, on January 31, 2017. Among the more than 40 participants were members and partners representing a broad spectrum of services, interests and communities across the state. In addition to their individual concerns, participants were also asked to discuss the ways the network’s 2017 priorities, including Senate Bill 559, SB245 and SB227 and its companion bill HB1097 addressing foreclosure counseling resources, charitable property tax treatment, and combating efforts to expand payday lending, affect their work and clients.
Neil Elkins, Housing Services Director for TRI-CAP in Jasper, attended to discuss a variety of bills that TRI-CAP is following. He said TRI-CAP is most focused on the state’s PRE-K program and finding ways it can work in tandem with the organization’s federal Head Start funds; the potential expansion of payday lending; and the tax exempt status clarification for nonprofit affordable housing developers, since TRI-CAP is the owner of Neighborhood Stabilization Program properties being rented to residents that are below 50% of area median income.
“We are being taxed pretty heavily on these homes. We want to take the charity purpose decision away from the assessors and make it consistent throughout the state,” Elkins said. “We frankly wanted to support all of [Prosperity Indiana’s] platforms on that day. We also wanted to show our support to Prosperity Indiana and their efforts that they put forth to support the nonprofit agencies in Indiana.”
TRI-CAP used the statehouse day as a launching pad for new and improved relationships with legislators. He said it was important to attend in person because, although TRI-CAP has a great relationship with the state and federal senators and representatives serving Jasper, the organization operates programs in more than 22 Indiana counties and rarely meets with other state legislators in neighboring counties. As a result of the statehouse day, TRI-CAP has since met with another state senator and a representative and is scheduling more visits by legislators to their office in Jasper in the coming months.
Kathleen Lara, Policy Director, said it is the passion and commitment from members like Elkins that make Prosperity Indiana’s efforts important and successful.
"I'm really thankful for the vision of our policy committee, which helped drive this event, and for the many members who participated in our statehouse day. Face-to-face time between constituents who represent member organizations and their legislators is enormously effective in demonstrating the true community-level impact of their work and how our policy priorities empower local efforts. It increases accountability and builds relationships between policymakers and the individuals working hard to build strong communities throughout the state," Lara said.
She added, “And as important as that one day was, it's also critical for members to stay engaged throughout the session to raise their voices through testimony, calls, meetings and emails to their legislators. And then after session is over, we'll need their help in crafting our priorities for the future. Our work is never done; but it's far more effective when we're doing it in partnership with those in the field who can tell the stories of impact on those who need us most."
For details on Prosperity Indiana’s 2017 state priorities, go here. To stay connected to Prosperity Indiana’s advocacy efforts and other initiatives year-round, in addition to following the blog, subscribe to the member newsletter, connect via Facebook or Twitter, and go to the advocacy action center to check out current campaigns, sign up for action alerts and more.
A PLACE TO CALL HOME…
If you’re interested in developing, maintaining, and promoting a place to call home for low-income families, you may find the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis’ half-day Affordable Housing Program and Community Investment Workshops helpful to you and the work you’re doing.
In 2016, FHLBI provided their members and sponsors with almost $15 million in grant dollars to support local affordable housing needs throughout Michigan and Indiana.
They’re gearing up to do the same in 2017, and it all begins with these workshops. Learn how to use FHLBI’s programs to help those in need in your communities:
Plus, the workshops provide networking opportunities for FHLBI members to connect with housing developers and community development practitioners to partner and access these programs.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND?
Evansville IN (Register)
Holiday Inn Airport
Indianapolis IN (Register)
South Bend IN (Register)
Hilton Garden Inn
Prosperity Indiana is looking to grow its capacity again – this time even more focused on how we can support members’ work through capacity building support.
We are currently recruiting four VISTA positions. One of them will replace our current Assets & Opportunity Network VISTA Kelan Fong, who still has plenty of work to do before wrapping up his term in June. When asked what drew him to VISTA, Kelan admitted that he was initially drawn to the program partly because he thought it would be easier than looking for jobs elsewhere, since VISTA provides an extensive jobs listing from which to choose. But he also wanted to do something that mattered.
“I’ve always wanted to work with a nonprofit. I wanted to learn more about the nonprofit world in Indianapolis and make more connections,” Kelan said. “Working here, I get to see what the nonprofit field is like more in-depth, and I obviously wanted to make a difference as well, which I think I have.”
Much of Kelan’s work has been focused on the rollout and delivery of the Your Money, Your Goals training program for the A&O Network. In 2016, 150 individuals from 98 legal aid and social service organizations were trained on this toolkit that helps front line staff and volunteers incorporate financial conversations into their case work. Your Money, Your Goals provides the resources needed “to help people set goals, choose financial products, and build skills in managing money, credit, and debt.”
Kelan has also contributed to the communications strategy of the network, helped build an Expert Directory for A&O Network partners, and is working on his legacy project related to lending circles. But Kelan has not just built the capacity of Prosperity Indiana through the A&O Network; his service with the organization and the Network has likewise built his capacity as a recent graduate and young professional.
“This is the first 40-hour workweek position that I’ve had. So, I’ve definitely grown. I think I’ve gotten a lot more organized. And although I haven’t done advocacy, I’ve learned a lot by being exposed to policy work and how that happens at the state level. It’s also been good to learn best practices about how to help low-income Americans,” Kelan said.
And referencing the subsistence living allowance provided to VISTAs, he laughed, “It has definitely also helped with my budgeting as well.”
For those interested in becoming the new A&O VISTA, or filling one of the other positions Prosperity Indiana will host, potential applicants should visit the VISTA Campus “How to Apply to AmeriCorps VISTA” page. Prosperity Indiana’s VISTA positions are listed on the job board under the following Program Names:
Assets & Opportunity Network (described above)
Nonprofit Impact (to support strategic plan goals like building the Outcomes Platform and establishing an Institute, or laboratory, framework for Comprehensive Community Development capacity building)
Member Capacity Builder (to work onsite with members to fill short-term or project-based capacity gaps)
Those interested in filling the VISTA positions, or any members interested in a Member Capacity Builder placement, may contact Jessica Love, Associate Executive Director, with any questions.
On Wednesday, February 1, Prosperity Indiana's policy team and one of our members, Regina Flowers, a housing counselor with the Community Action Program of Evansville & Vanderburgh County, Inc., delivered powerful testimony supporting SB 227. The bill would preserve critical foreclosure counseling resources for Hoosier homeowners in trouble by extending the foreclosure filing fee which is due to sunset in July of this year. The fee is paid by lenders each time they file a foreclosure proceeding. Those resources are then directed to statewide efforts to prevent foreclosures, through the Mortgage Foreclosure Counseling and Education Account. The bill was not voted on during the hearing, but received favorable consideration by committee members, based on discussions during the proceedings. Our one pager background on the bill can be found here. Thank you, Senator Jim Merritt, for your leadership on this initiative! Read on for Prosperity Indiana's full testimony.
COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC POLICY, TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF SB 227, KATHLEEN LARA, POLICY DIRECTOR, FEBRUARY 1, 2017
Chairman Alting and members of the committee,
Thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. My name is Kathleen Lara and I am the Policy Director for Prosperity Indiana, a network of 230 non-profit organizations, units of local government, private companies and institutions dedicated to building strong communities.
Working to advance policies that respond to urgent human needs and improve the quality of life in communities of all sizes throughout the state is essential to our members. That is why I come before the committee today urging strong support for SB 227. I would also like to thank Senator Merritt for this leadership on this important piece of legislation.
Around the state, our members and partners work diligently to help those few economic opportunities build assets and achieve housing stability through a large and diverse portfolio of programs. Housing counseling, and in particular, foreclosure prevention counseling, is a keystone of those efforts as it provides emergency assistance for homeowners in crisis.
The foreclosure filing fee, which helps to fund the Foreclosure Prevent Network hotline and counseling services as Senator Merritt mentioned is imperative to interventions statewide. This counseling assistance includes managing household finances to resolve a delinquency, informing the client of options for resolving the delinquency, helping negotiate with lenders, providing information on financial assistance programs, explaining the foreclosure process, providing referrals to other service providers (including legal counsel), and sometimes helping to find alternative housing.
We know that foreclosure prevention housing counseling is extremely effective in helping struggling Hoosiers save their homes. The evidence is not just anecdotal. According to the latest figures from HOPE NOW, which is included in the papers I passed around, 770 permanent home loan modifications occurred in Indiana in the 3rd Quarter of last year alone. Additionally, two of every five homeowners who go through the GET HOPE hotline and attend a settlement conference, also funded through the filing fee proceeds, achieve a non-foreclosure workout.
In May of last year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a publication finding that counseled clients were 2.83 times more likely to receive a loan modification and were 70 percent less likely to redefault on a modified loan than were similar borrowers who were not counseled. The publication also reported homeowners who received a mortgage modification to resolve a serious delinquency were 45 percent more likely to sustain that modification if it was obtained with the help of housing counseling.
We are fortunate today to be joined by one of our members, Regina Flowers with the Community Action Program of Evansville who will speak to her experiences in working with struggling homeowners first-hand. She will share what consumers are facing even though foreclosure rates throughout the state are below the rates we saw during the peak of the housing crisis. We know that the work is not complete and that is why it is so critical to extend the foreclosure filing fee before it is set to expire. According to the GET HOPE data, at the end of the 3rd quarter in September, there were still 20,663 loans over 60 days delinquent and 639 foreclosure starts in Indiana. Further, RealtyTrac found that in December, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Indiana was 54% higher than the previous month and 30% higher than the same time last year even though nationwide, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing was 1% lower than the previous month and 17% lower than the same time last year.
There is still an urgent need for the counseling and legal resources funded in part by the foreclosure filing fee proceeds and it is important to note those funds fluctuate depending on the number of foreclosures filed. So, if there are fewer foreclosures, the proceeds are diminished. By the nature of how the fee was set up, we are funding these programs in proportion to need throughout the state.
As a representative of members who are interested in both saving the homes of Hoosiers and stabilizing local real estate markets to create economic opportunity for working families, I urge your support for the measure and thank you for your time today.
INDIANAPOLIS – Prosperity Indiana will host Prosperity IN Action at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday, January 31. The event is designed to bring together representatives from Prosperity Indiana’s membership, representing community economic development drivers, with state lawmakers. Prosperity Indiana, its members and partners will urge lawmakers to act on critical policy priorities that respond to urgent human needs, help expand economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in communities of all sizes.
Kathleen Lara, Prosperity Indiana’s Policy Director, said, “We want to see our members directly engaged with their legislators so policymakers better understand the impact of members’ work. We believe it is important for legislators to hear firsthand how our policy priorities affect their constituents and communities.”
Lara identified Prosperity Indiana’s key priorities for 2017 as clarifying the affordable housing property tax exemption, defending key programs in the budget, protecting consumers and strengthening asset building opportunities for low-income Hoosier families. In terms of the affordable housing property tax exemption, Prosperity Indiana wants to see the enactment of legislation that clarifies that tax exemption for 501(c)3 non-profit organizations that own and operate affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families should be consistently applied throughout all of Indiana’s 92 counties. Senate Bill 559 addresses this concern.
See the full press release here.
The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) is seeking summer interns for several different divisions:
The Community Programs intern serves as part of the Community Programs team, which administers programs related to energy assistance, weatherization, and homeownership counseling for low income and vulnerable populations.
Community Services - Continuum of Care or Coordinated Entry
The Community Services interns serve as part of a team which provides funding and program management for the organizations serving persons experiencing homelessness in the Indiana Balance of State Continuum of Care (CoC). See http://www.indianabos.org/coc for more information about the CoC.
The Internal Audit intern will assist in evaluating existing internal control documentation, testing current processes and providing recommendations. The Internal Audit Intern is expected to constructively work with departments to improve internal controls across the organization.
Housing Choice Voucher
The Housing Choice Voucher intern serves as part of the Community Programs Department. Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) funding received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides rental assistance to over 4800 families within IHCDA’s jurisdiction. Please visit http://in.gov/ihcda/2333.htm for additional information on the HCV program.
Legislative Affairs and Policy
The Legislative Affairs and Policy intern provides logistical and program support for an education and outreach effort to encourage dialogue around critical housing and community development issues among practitioners, policy makers, and the communities they serve.
Real Estate Production
The Real Estate Development Production intern will work to develop an outreach strategy for the programs that the Real Estate Production administers, including HOME Investment Partnership, Community Development Block Grant Owner Occupied Rehabilitation, and Ramp Up.
The City of Bloomington seeks a full-time Assistant Director for the Housing and Neighborhood Development Department. The position oversees coordination of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) process; assists with the oversight of the housing counseling program, including providing housing counseling to individuals. Assists with the Rental Inspection Program, as needed. Attends departmental boards and commission meetings, as needed. Supervises the front line staff in their daily activities.
Candidates should have a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration or related field. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of construction finance and pro forma analysis. Ability to interpret and apply federal laws and regulations dealing with community and economic development programs. They should also have a thorough knowledge of the housing market and industry practices and finance issues.
Minimum three to five years working in a government environment or experience in implementing governmental programs. Supervisory experience. Knowledge of and experience in implementing the federal CDBG and HOME programs. Salary $62,500-$68,182.
Interested parties may apply by fax (812-349-3446), email (email@example.com), or at City Hall, Human Resources Department, 401 N Morton Street, Suite 230, Bloomington, IN.
This morning, Kathleen Lara, Prosperity Indiana's Policy Director testified before the Indiana Senate's Family and Children Services Committee in support of SB 154, a key state priority bill removing the asset limit test for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits. The committee considered testimony, but did not take a vote on the measure. Read her full testimony below. Another priority bill supported in the Committee by Prosperity Indiana passed with a vote of 8-1, in favor of dropping the ban on individuals with certain drug offenses from receiving SNAP benefits. Read more coverage on that bill by clicking here.
COMMITTEE ON FAMILY AND CHILDREN SERVICESTESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF SB 154KATHLEEN LARA, POLICY DIRECTORJANUARY 23, 2017
Chairman Grooms and members of the committee,
Thank you for the opportunity to speak this morning. My name is Kathleen Lara and I am the Policy Director for Prosperity Indiana, a network of 230 non-profit organizations, units of local government, private companies and institutions dedicated to building vibrant communities and resilient families. I am also here today on behalf of the partners of the Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network.
Working to advance policies that respond to urgent human needs, help expand economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in communities of all sizes throughout the state is essential to our members and partners. That is why I come before the committee today urging strong support for SB 154, a bill that will help financially vulnerable, food-insecure Hoosiers reach and maintain economic sufficiency.
Our members and partners work diligently to help those with few assets and few economic opportunities access financial literacy education, open savings accounts, find workforce development training, attain higher education, and achieve housing stability. Our networks have helped launch community loan centers to cut down on payday loan reliance. They have helped to train non-profit organizations on best practices in helping low-income clients manage money successfully. They help operate Individual Development Account programs that allow low-wealth consumers to receive financial education and open matched-savings accounts to afford higher education, open a business or buy a home.
So, our member networks know that consumers are eager to access these opportunities and work hard to advance their financial goals. Unfortunately, we find that too often, low-income consumers are in a system where they are set up to fail or held back from their full potential. Too often we hear that low-income Hoosiers should receive a hand up, but not a hand out and yet the very nature of the certain program rules contradicts that philosophy. The SNAP asset limit test is among those rules.
Despite member efforts underway to help break through generational poverty and thus, decrease reliance on public assistance, rules such as the asset limit test can have the unintended consequence of training beneficiaries to stay dependent – to keep their assets low or risk losing essential food assistance during tenuous times.
Program beneficiaries are not eligible if they make more than 130% of the federal poverty level, roughly $31,600 annually for a family of four and the program constrains assets to below $2,250. That may sound like a generous asset limit, but when you consider that our network partners teach clients that they need three months’ worth of income savings survive a financial emergency, the three months’ worth of savings even at this low-income level exceeds program allowances.
Logically, if we want Hoosiers to be economically sufficient, we cannot penalize them for saving funds and forcing them to spend down savings, retirement accounts, or selling off assets to become SNAP eligible. That is important when you consider that SNAP benefits were designed to temporarily help individuals and families maintain food access as they weather financial turmoil, especially since benefit is not even their primary source of income for food. It is, as the title indicates, supplemental. The program already deducts the amount they expect a household to pay towards food - 30% of net income.
The revisions in SB 154 make economic sense in supporting the financial independence of low-income Hoosiers. The Urban Institute reported just last June that more flexible SNAP policies increase the likelihood that lower income adults live in a household where at least one member has a bank account and there is at least $500 in the account. Entering the financial mainstream by opening bank accounts is in line with what our network case managers repeatedly recommend to clients.
Removing the asset limit test not only makes economic sense for consumers, it makes economic sense for the state. We know from other states that eliminating the asset test reduces administrative costs. For example, Pennsylvania’s Department of Health Services announced that the 2015 elimination of its asset limit test for SNAP was estimated to save the state $3.5 million annually.
Prosperity Indiana members believe in asset-building strategies that help lift Hoosiers out of poverty permanently. We believe compassionate, common sense policy updates like those contained in SB 154 are essential to building strong families and communities. We urge your support for the measure and thank you for your time today.
After almost a year of working alongside the City of Michigan City and the residents of Michigan City’s Eastport neighborhood, the quality of life planning process that Prosperity Indiana guided for that community is completed. Now in the implementation phase, the plan was presented to the City Council by Director of Capacity Building Rose Scovel on January 17.
Using a comprehensive community development model, Prosperity Indiana helped residents and stakeholders in the Eastport neighborhood develop a plan for the future of the area. Taking into account insightsfrom formal and informal leaders, the plan addresses what the public, private and philanthropic sectors can do in collaboration with residents and stakeholders to make Eastport a better place to live, work, and play.
With the project now completed, Rose said, “The most rewarding part of doing this work is becoming part of the neighborhood, having people get to know one another and want to work together. That, and bringing resources to the community that they weren't familiar with.”
The neighborhood planning process included focus group meetings, listening sessions, surveys, a visioning session, and goals and action planning meetings. The culmination of the planning process is a neighborhood level plan for improving their quality of life. In Eastport, the five key topic areas for the plan, around which there were individual working groups, are Business, Housing, Walkability, Civic Infrastructure, and Engagement/Pride.
While Prosperity Indiana has a well-defined process that can be adapted to every community, each neighborhood has its own unique set of opportunities and challenges that come to bear, many of which will take months or years after completing the plan to fully take advantage of or otherwise address. While this makes the work more difficult, it is also what makes it so important.
Rose said, “The most challenging part is that there are issues facing the neighborhood (like food access) that there isn't the capacity to resolve in a time frame that is meaningful to the neighborhood.”
That is why helping neighbors establish a unifying force to work together is vital to their future. For many communities, the planning process is just as crucial to their success as the actual plan. Often neighbors meet for the first time and find common interests and concerns during this endeavor to create their shared vision for the future of the area. Finding this connection with their neighbors sets them up for greater success when they move to implementation.
Rose noted, “The most exciting outcome in Eastport is that the neighborhood resident group is reforming and developing their capacity to lead change in the neighborhood.”
And positive change is exactly what Prosperity Indiana is in the business of helping people and places create across the state.
For more about this project, see the following press releases and media briefs from April, June, July, August/August (FAQ) 2016 and January 2017.
Prosperity Indiana supports a network of organizations from all sectors and a variety of fields. That network includes many talented and effective leaders, several of whom were highlighted on our blog in a series that began last October to mark our 30th anniversary. Through our services, we strive to support all Prosperity Indiana members in becoming leaders who make an impact on their communities. Last fall, we launched the Expert Directory Survey to ask members to identify their level of experience on a variety of subjects. This tool is helping us understand our members better and providing us new ways to connect members to opportunities within the network. The below chart provides a summary of responses on several leadership characteristics from the first 70 people to complete the survey.
Those who identified themselves as an “expert” have incorporated these skills into their work to a significant degree and are comfortable sharing their knowledge with others.
We’re excited to announce a new member service to use this data to grow leaders in our network. Members may now request to be matched with a mentor to help them tackle a challenge or learn a new skill. Mentors are people with significant experience in the field who have volunteered to assist their peers by spending one to two hours meeting or speaking with them one-on-one to address particular topics.
If you’re setting resolutions for 2017 and are looking for support in developing strong goals and action plans or if your resolutions include strengthening your command of finances or your ability to facilitate difficult conversations, request a mentor to receive tips, resources, and guidance for reaching your goals. Below is a list of some of the areas in which mentors have agreed to serve; but there are many others—use the Mentor Request Form to let us know what topic you’re interested in.
If you’d like to exercise your own leadership potential and be a mentor, please complete our Expert Directory Survey. In this survey (accessible exclusively to members through our Member Directory page), you’ll identify your level of experience on a variety of topics. You can also indicate your willingness to provide training, technical assistance, and/or mentorship to other members. As more people join the Directory, its potential as a tool for connecting with other professionals grows. So, please share it with other network members.
Be a mentor. Ask a mentor. Become a leader.