Pathways from Poverty
The Self-Sufficiency Standard
On April, 2021, Naomi Lett presented the United Way’s Pathways from Poverty – The Self-Sufficiency Standard at the Greater Island Council of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton’s monthly general meeting of members.
About the United Way
United Way Association of South Carolina (UWASC) works to maximize the capacity and effectiveness of local United Ways and provide leadership on issues that impact the quality of life of South Carolina residents. Through a network of collective partnerships, UWASC is committed in its efforts to:
- Provide support and enhance capacity of local United Ways
- Coordinate and champion action on significant public policy issues; and
- Improve effectiveness and coordination of health and human services in South Carolina.
United Way fights for the Health, Education and Financial Stability of every person in our community. They go beyond temporary fixes to create lasting change in communities around the world. By bringing people and organizations together around innovative solutions, they impact millions of lives every year.
About Naomi Lett
Naomi Lett is the President and CEO of the United Way Association of South Carolina. Her work in this capacity includes leading statewide public policy that amplifies local community investments of 25 United Ways across South Carolina in health, education, and financial stability. She also represents the interest of United Way‘s in a variety of statewide capacities including disaster response and operating the South Carolina 211 information and referral system. Naomi has a long history of working to affect policies that improve people’s lives.
Naomi assumed her current role in August 2018. She is a graduate of James Madison University and served in Nigeria in the Peace Corp. She is a Riley Institute Diversity Fellow and an alumni of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership. She was a recipient of the Congressional Angels in Adoption Award, and currently serves in the community as a board member for Katrina’s Kids and as an Innovation Advisor for the i3 Incubator at the University of South Carolina’s College of Social Work.
Her presentation, Building Livable Communities & Pathways from Poverty was an overview of the Self Sufficiency Standard.
The standard defines the minimum incomes to be without any public or private assistance. It includes 750 family compositions. The official poverty measurement focuses on food only covers 57% of basic needs. Now, housing and childcare are greater than 50%. The standard includes cost categories: transportation (public and private), health care, food, childcare, housing, and miscellaneous items, as well as the cost of taxes and the impact of tax credits.
SC’s cost of living is typically low, but in Beaufort County costs rose significantly over the years. The largest number of people work in accommodations and food, which are low paying jobs.
Naomi reviewed the food insecurity and evictions rates and explained that SC has the highest eviction rate in the US. Beaufort County food insecurity is 8.6%, eviction rate is 1.7%;
The Self-Sufficiency Standard Guide to building livable communities covers the key issues that need attention:
- robust/efficient public transportation systems to lower cost
- childcare, a key factor in “fiscal cliff.” 57% of childcare sites closed during the pandemic. They have minimal profit margins (stimulus bill should help). They also can’t find people to work at childcare centers and need tax credits for them.
- accessible/affordable housing for a variety of wage earners.
The cost of living outpaced wages 4:1 in 4 years. The only major occupation in SC that pays a livable wage is nursing. Examples of programs to move people out of poverty:
- financial literacy – credit, banking, basic budgeting
- Supportive services – childcare, adult care
- Workforce development – job training, GED attainment, Vocation & credential programs, internships
Creating lasting change through legislation:
- S-16 financial literacy for graduation
- H-3130 Opportunity Zone Enhancement bill (need to create separate legislation to peel off tax credits so grocery stores can claim tax credits)
There are many opportunities for the GIC to work in this area, especially in childcare, transportation and housing under the banner of Community Unity.
Gap between bottom and top in Beaufort county is very high. Low income jobs will always be there. We need resources in place to address this.