Local economy – Economic factors are an enormous issue in this community. Of all the cities in America, Alexandria has the seventh lowest average credit score. A successful community must have a solid financial footing, but many residents here are floundering. (See the ALICE page on this website to find hard data.) Financial instability leads to health instability because it discourages people from seeking medical care from appropriate providers. Instead they either do without or wait until the problem is overwhelming and then crowd into emergency rooms.
Mr. Gary Perkins of the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA) operates the Business Acceleration System or BAS. He has offered to operate the “Icehouse” entrepreneurship program for our neighborhoods, recruiting, training, and coaching a cohort of residents each year in starting and operating their own businesses. These would begin as side businesses for most; even an extra $100 per week can be the difference needed to lift a family out of poverty. However, those who wish to take their efforts into full-time status will receive support for doing so. Funds for this part of the project have been incorporated into our budget.
Our United Way convenes the Financial Stability Roundtable, a group of local bankers and financial professionals whose goal is to help more families be financially stable. Under the auspices of this Roundtable we operate a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that completes and files basic tax forms for low to moderate income families. We have made this program available within the project neighborhood during tax season. We are also collaborating with Red River Bank, Capital One Bank, and others in the creation of a Financial Success Center that provides financial counseling and education along with strategy planning for credit repair. In these programs, local banks can claim credits for their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requirements while facilitating financial success and even potentially developing a broader customer base. We offer VITA services and financial education to neighborhood residents, using schools and churches in the neighborhoods so that more people will attend.