Two HUD grants assist in gaining skills for jobs
Two federal grants are designed to help struggling Yuma families turn their lives around. The grants will help public and assisted housing residents connect with local services to obtain education and training to find jobs.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Yuma County Housing Department $113,430 to pay for two positions in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
The department's Housing Choice Voucher-Family Self-Sufficiency Program received $57,430 to fund one position, and the Public Housing Family Self-Sufficiency Program received $56,000 for another position.
The funding allows these local programs to retain or hire service coordinators to work directly with HUD-assisted families to connect them to the supportive services that meet their individual needs to become gainfully employed.
“This funding ultimately links individuals to child care, computer access, job training and other basic skills individuals need to compete for jobs that pay a living wage,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said.
“To continue to grow America's economy, we must see to it that every American has the skills and resources they need to become gainfully employed.”
In Yuma, the FSS programs help low-income families achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency through various resources, including education, training, employment, child care and housing.
The goal is to enable participating families to find employment, increase earned income, reduce or eliminate the need for rental and/or welfare assistance and make progress toward achieving economic independence and housing self-sufficiency.
Participants in both programs sign a five-year contract that requires the head of household to obtain employment and no longer receive welfare assistance at the end of the five-year term.
The program offers them an escrow savings account for a down payment on a home or other personal goals, such as starting a business or paying off debts, according to Yuma County housing specialist Maria De Los Reyes.
Families set the goals they want to achieve. De Los Reyes said that about 60 percent choose homeownership. The second most popular goal is higher education.
“Because of the economy, they want better jobs,” she said.
They promise to deposit a certain amount of money into an escrow account every month. The escrow account is comparable to a savings account, she noted.
The lesson is that if they work hard and put extra or new income toward the escrow account, they get a big payoff, De Los Reyes said.
It's a big incentive for working toward self-sufficiency, she added.
“These grants are a win for both the individual grantee and Arizona families who participate in HUD rental assistance programs,” HUD regional administrator Ophelia Basgal said. “The grantee can retain or hire a new employee whose job is to help individuals find employment.”
Nationwide, the funding announced Friday includes $15 million through the Public Housing-Family Self-Sufficiency Program and $60 million through the Housing Choice Voucher-Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
In Arizona, the grants total $1.5 million, enough to fund 24 positions.
HUD has evaluated the effectiveness of the FSS Program through a study conducted from 2005 to 2009. The study showed that financial benefits are substantial for participants who remain and complete the program, according to HUD.
The study is the second of a three-part series that evaluates the effects of the FSS program. The first study found individuals who participated in the program fared better financially than those who did not enroll in the program, HUD said.
The agency is working on a follow-up study that tracks the outcomes of people who were still enrolled in the program at the end of the study. The third and final study looks at the effectiveness of the FSS program nationally.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.
Who is eligible for the Family Self-Sufficiency program?
• Residents within the jurisdiction of the Yuma County Housing Department
• Individuals who are eligible or presently participating as a resident of the Section 8 or Public Housing
• Individuals with low income
• Individuals willing to become self-sufficient