Below is a detailed discussion of the meaning of poverty and financial self-sufficiency. Following that discussion is a listing of local organizations dedicated to improving the economic well-being of individuals and families.
The United States government uses two principal methods to measure poverty: the poverty thresholds established by the Census Bureau and the poverty guidelines used by the Department of Health and Human Services. Basically, the Census Bureau approach is used to determine how many people live in poverty and the Health and Human Services data is used to determine eligibility for various benefit programs. The difference in these measures is not major. For a comparison of the two approaches, click here.
There are significant shortcomings in the federal approach to measuring poverty. While the methods have been updated and the measures adjusted for inflation, both approaches utilize the original 1964 method, which focused most attention on food costs. Many critics feel that modern housing, child care and health care costs are not adequately considered. A second shortcoming is that the federal approaches use a single measure for the entire nation (except Alaska and Hawaii), ignoring variations in the cost of living. For a discussion of efforts to modernize the U.S. approach, click here.
So what is meant by financial self-sufficiency? While there is no simple answer, a good definition comes from a report by Dr. Diana Pearce entitled "The Financial Self-Sufficiency Standard for New York," which was prepared for the Washington D.C.-based Wider Opportunities for Women. According to the report, "the self-sufficiency standard measures how much income is needed, for a family of a given composition in a given place, to adequately meet its basic needs —without public or private assistance." The report estimates financial self-sufficiency needs using a more detailed list of expenses than the federal approach, and then it develops an estimate for each county in the state.
Several large community-based organizations are dedicated to providing service and assistance to our area's poor and lower-income families and individuals.
Lifespan provides a variety of financial services to area seniors, including financial management, bill-paying, and employment services.
ESL Federal Credit Union works to help individuals in our community access the essential financial services, guidance, and support they need to achieve their financial goals; access to credit, cash and payment services, financial guidance and community partnerships.
Five Star Bank works to support the success of Western New York and strengthen our communities through volunteer activities, charitable investments, and need-based product offerings. Click here for Five Star Bank's inaugural Community Report where you’ll read about many of the programs, products and services offered.
The Rochester Chapter of Junior Achievement focuses on educating area students on economic and business issues, financial literacy and free enterprise education.
Legal assistance can be an effective means of achieving or preserving financial self-sufficiency. Several local organizations focus on providing legal assistance and information to those in financial need.
Empire Justice Center provides help to people throughout New York state. At its Rochester office, the nonprofit law firm assists individuals in a wide range of areas, including child care, child support, disability benefits, health, housing, immigration rights and more.
Legal Assistance of Western New York links people in need with legal help and legal information.
The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc. provides free legal services and legal education to New York's agricultural workers.
The Legal Aid Society of Rochester is a not-for-profit organization that provides direct civil legal services, including lay advocacy and related human services, to adults and children. They also offer a housing, immigration, and child advocacy programs.
Through several campaigns and task forces, Metro Justice provides education and lobbying to create social change and social justice.
Direct financial assistance to individuals is managed by each county. Assistance to eligible individuals generally includes food stamps, temporary financial assistance, home energy assistance, and Medicaid. Policies and procedures may vary by county. Below is a listing of the social service departments for each county.