One of the basic concepts of Dismantle Poverty’s work is, simply, to provide resources and opportunities so people can meet their full potential and thrive.
Even before the 10-year Plan to Dismantle Poverty in Washington was finalized, though, the Poverty Reduction Work Group’s influence helped prompt Gov. Jay Inslee to establish the Economic Security for All (EcSA) initiative.
EcSA, announced in June of 2019, provided $5.9 million in grants to help fight poverty in Washington state by working with organizations in four workforce development areas to develop plans and sustainable activities to help lift families to above 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL). That’s $34,480 for a family of two; 26% of Washingtonians live in poverty.
“These grants will make a tremendous difference for thousands of people in communities all over Washington,” Inslee said at the time. “They will empower local areas to build sustainable models and creative partnerships to address the needs of families and others who experience poverty.”
That idea is manifested in both Strategy 3 and Strategy 6 of the 10-year Plan. Those strategies include increasing economic opportunity by targeting equitable growth and wealth-building among people with low incomes, and building an integrated human services system that addresses the holistic needs of families in poverty.
EcSA puts those ideas into practice. The initiative was intended to build and test locally developed approaches to streamlining access to existing services and benefits — essentially, helping local groups find ways to make resources easier to get for the people who need them most.
The first round of funding went to four workforce development areas with their own models, all of which are designed to be replicated, if they demonstrate success: :
- Benton-Franklin Workforce Development Council ($856,755): Focused on Connell, this model establishes transportation to opportunities and resources in the Tri-Cities; provides access to physical and mental healthcare; supports access to affordable, reliable, and quality childcare; and focuses on employment and training efforts in high-demand occupations in Connell and the Tri-Cities.
- Spokane Workforce Development Area ($1.7M): This model expands the efforts of the Spokane Resource Center (SRC), which co-locates the resources of multiple organizations to make services accessible in one place to reduce poverty and homelessness, expand access to healthcare, substance abuse, and mental health services. The model creates additional capacity to serve SNAP recipients and provides a framework to help them attain skills and training to transition into careers with a family-sustaining wage.
- Southwest Workforce Development Area ($1.6M): In the Kelso area, this public-private partnership (including the local manufacturing industry) provides jobsite access to a variety of community programs to help people gain the support, skills and employment to move out of poverty. Local government and industries work on creating more inclusive workplaces, targeting outreach to under-employed individuals, and providing support to employers to hire and train employees for positions with pay at or above 200% of the FPL.
- WorkForce Central ($1.75M): In Tacoma, this model combines the best practices from a number of existing models through a 211-based Common Referral System that virtually connects partners and programs to simplify connections to services. This model also provides access to multiple partner services in one central community hub at the Salishan Association Family Investment Center to support training or education, finding employment, and mitigating personal or financial barriers.
In January, the Governor’s office announced $5.5 million in additional funding for EcSA to expand the program across the whole state.
Through working with the four original areas, the EcSA Technical Advisory Group realized the need to open up the process, allowing workforce development organizations more flexibility in setting up their local implementation plans and developing procedures to carry out that work in a virtual environment.
The returns from those original groups also showed four promising approaches to EcSA plans.
- Service coordination through physical co-location or the 211 Common Referral System. This could be either physical co-location or coordination through the 211 entry point. This may include:
- A single intake and enrollment appointment (in-person or virtual) for one participant that includes multiple service providers.
- Permanent physical co-location of services in one building.
- Temporary co-location of services that could occur on regular intervals.
- Event-based co-location of services from multiple providers.
- Coordinating Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and non-WIOA services together to meet participants’ needs through training and into employment. Coordinating services and programs together to address personal and financial barriers for participants as they work toward employment that leads to self-sufficiency.
- Focusing on high-need areas. Concentrate funding on specific areas, rather than spreading efforts across larger geographic areas.
- Using navigators. Navigators serve as the primary contact point for participants and help mentor, guide and support them in connecting with services they need.
For the expansion of EcSA statewide, each local Workforce Development Council will work with their partners, the EcSA Technical Advisory Group, and the Employment Security Department (ESD) to develop local approaches to streamline access to existing services and benefits so individuals and families can get the resources they need to thrive.
There’s also plenty of resources available to help with the development of their plans, and the initiative’s expansion through 2024 gives local boards plenty of time to develop and fine-tune their locally developed approaches.