How Vermonters are Faring Financially--2015 Scorecard Results
Many Vermonters are still struggling to make ends meet.
The figures just came in and we’ve got good news and bad news.
First the Good News: Every year Cfed-the Corporation for Enterprise Development-releases data on their Assets and Opportunity Scorecard. The data use 135 measures to reflect the financial well-being of Americans and the scorecard breaks the data down by state to show how states compare to one another and to report on the policies states are adopting to help improve the financial outlook for their citizens. Vermont ranks #2 in overall measurement of data regarding income, employment, health care, education, and housing. Hurray for the Green Mountain State!
The bad news is that it’s all relative to the rest of the country. According to the scorecard, millions of Americans are not benefiting from the economic recovery, and there continues to be significant disparities between the poor and the wealthy. In Vermont, we still have 12.6% of our population living below the federal poverty threshold, 26.7% are asset poor, meaning they don’t have emergency money if a crisis hits, such as a job loss, a health problem or a car repair, and nearly 46% of Vermonters have sub-prime credit, making affordable loans out of reach for many working families. The average credit card debt for Vermonters is $9,822, right around the national average. Look around you—these are your neighbors, and your friends--the grocery store associate, the car wash attendant, the school cook who feeds your kids, and the single mom LNA who takes care of Grandma—in short, these are the working poor of Vermont.
We can celebrate that Vermont ranks in the top 10 of states that have adopted policies to help alleviate the effects of poverty. These include policies like eliminating the asset tests for LIHEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program), and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), prohibiting Payday lending practices, offering a state EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) in addition to the federal EITC, and other consumer protection policies that protect people’s assets and help them overcome financial hardship. But there’s more policy work that can be done to help low-income Vermonters. For example, Vermont still has an asset limit requirement for folks who are applying for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or Reach Up, as it’s called in Vermont. This means that folks who receive a tax refund must “spend down” the money rather than put it in a savings account if they want to maintain their Reach Up benefits. But an empty savings account means no cash on hand for the car repair to help them get to work, or funds to pay for the unexpected furnace repair bill. Eliminating the asset limitation for Reach Up makes sense because having a safety net such as an emergency savings account is exactly what someone needs to help them move off of public assistance.
Our mission at Capstone Community Action is to provide comprehensive service to help people achieve economic well-being with dignity and develop partnerships to strengthen Vermont communities. Our commitment is to alleviate the suffering caused by poverty, to work with individuals and families to move out of poverty, and to advocate for economic justice for all Vermonters. Despite Vermont’s #2 ranking overall on the 2015 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, there’s still more work to be accomplished to help all Vermonters achieve economic prosperity.