Affordable, reliable transportation is a key element to accessing jobs that pay livable wages. Given Florida’s high unemployment rate, jobs that pay such wages are scarce, with considerable competition for those few offered. These jobs often come with varying shifts, making public transportation—if it’s even available—difficult at best. Worse, many higher paying jobs are located on the outer fringes of metropolitan areas or in rural areas, making reliable automobile transportation necessary for employment and a critical issue for asset building and workforce development in the state of Florida.
The Ways to Work (WtW) program, originally called the Family Loan Program, has become the answer to these issues for thousands of struggling families across the country. Created in 1984 by the McKnight Foundation, WtW has demonstrated that small affordable auto loans, combined with financial education and coaching, can make a substantial difference in moving working, yet challenged families—especially those with distressed credit—along the path to greater self-sufficiency. (See Attachment A)
Today, WtW has developed into the largest nonprofit, direct-to-consumer loan program in the nation. WtW maintains over 50 program sites in 22 states, and originates $4 million in small loans each year. Program offices are operated by nonprofit organizations that are members of the Alliance for Children and Families, a national network of nearly 400 local human service agencies. Over the past two decades, WtW has assisted nearly 30,000 families across the country with loans totaling more than $59.4 million. In addition, the program provides approximately 18,000 families annually with targeted financial education, making WtW one of the largest financial education delivery mechanisms in the country.
In addition to loan capital, Ways to Work, Inc. supports local sites through an innovative program model. The national office provides the necessary tools, marketing support, operating manuals, fund development assistance, onsite coaching and training for loan counselors and host agency managers. In addition, the national office provides ongoing technical assistance, secondary oversight of program operations and loan portfolio health, proprietary lending software, and loan processing and servicing functions.
The time is right to bring this program to the State of Florida. Three metropolitan regions currently have programs that are either operational or in the planning stages. Florida Prosperity Partnership, as the statewide asset building coalition, is proposing to implement a statewide Ways to Work program to reach all 67 counties in Florida. Partnerships will be crucial to the success of this initiative, including workforce development agencies, nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, auto dealer associations, and local/regional prosperity campaigns.