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Mahoning County Financial Stability Partnership

Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County
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Innovation Leader: Deborah McCullough, Manager of Adult Services, Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, dmc@libraryvisit.org

Problem Statement

The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County was in the first group of grantees for the ALA/FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) Smart Investing@ Your Library® for 2008-09. Two of the objectives in the grant were to expand the Library’s work with community partners to help meet the needs of low to moderate income individuals and families in Mahoning County achieve economic self-sufficiency and to expand work with tax preparation services (EITC). The Library partnered with the United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley to initiate this work.

Innovation

The Library plays a pivotal role in these ways:

  1. The MCFSP was formed and meets regularly at the Library, the Library Director serves as co-chair of the group and the Library’s Project Principal of the Smart Investing @ Your Library® grant serves on the financial literacy committee.
  2. The partnership has grown from several community members to 24 partners in the 2 year period. Members include representation from local and state government offices, Youngstown State University, the United Way, Community Legal Aid attorneys, Family Services Agency, Junior Achievement, Catholic Charities, the training division of Ohio One Stop, and Consumer Credit Counseling Service to name a few. 
  3. The MCFSP developed and is working to achieve four goals: 1. to increase financial literacy through training and informational resources. The Library works in this area with its Smart Money website http://libraryvisit.org/smartmoney.htm and provides meeting room space for financial literacy programs. 2. to increase awareness of the opportunities to gain income. This is the goal that connects families to programs such as tax preparation and assistance programs. 3. To increase awareness of the importance to save income. 4. to organize to influence public policy locally, statewide and nationally. This goal deals with consumer protection, predatory lending, and foreclosure prevention to name a few.

Progress

  1. The MCFSP was recognized in 2009 by CFED (Corporation for Enterprise Development) as a driving force in boosting individual and family income. The MSFP continues to grow and is now forming a new strategic plan to further embed its work.
  2. The Library exceeded its goals in the Smart Investing @ Your Library® grant and has been invited to reapply. Expansions grants will be awarded in August 2010.
  3. Since 2007, the VITA & TCE sites for tax preparation have seen approximately a 30% increase in the use of free tax preparation sites at the local community action centers, the Library branches throughout the county, and Youngstown State University. Since 2008, there has been an increase of 17.6% in money returned in EITC. The IRS reported tax credits to individuals in the county in 2009 amounting to $2,564,452. The Library hosts 6 tax preparation sites.