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Stagnant incomes, increases in the cost of living, and high levels of unemployment have exponentially increased the financial instability of millions of Americans, illustrated by current foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. What’s more, federal and state budget cuts have decreased funding for health and human service programs that traditionally provide a safety net in hard economic times.

In 2008, United Way announced three national goals that will drive its work to mobilize the caring power of communities in the areas of education, income, and health. Our 10-year income goal is to increase the number of lower-income working families that are financially stable. To that end, United Way launched a national initiative to identify strategies and approaches that will positively impact communities and help the United Way system achieve its national goal.
United Way is promoting the concept of Integrated Service Delivery — the seamless delivery of services such as enrollment in income supports, direct service programs, case management, workshops, etc., as one approach to increasing financial stability among lower-income working families. In the past several years, a number of local United Ways have launched Financial Stability One Stop Centers, a place-based, integrated service delivery program that includes participation from multiple community-based organizations. These Financial Stability One Stop Centers reduce the challenges to accessing multiple services, eliminate redundancy, and decrease wait times for individuals and families. The Financial Stability Center approach also eliminates many of the major barriers to utilizing services that can positively impact the financial picture of individuals and families both immediately and down the road.

To more fully explore this delivery mechanism for integrated services, United Way Worldwide and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation developed the Bank of America and United Way Financial Stability One Stop Learning Network. Nine United Ways and their community partners comprised the Learning Network. Each was in a different stage of planning, implementation or operation with their Financial Stability Center and participated in a series of learning opportunities to analyze, document and share their experiences during the nine-month project period.