LEADOn! Article

Local Focus: Louisville – Louisville’s Alliance for Development through Diversity, Empowerment, and Resources (LADDER), Emerges as Leader in Advancing Financial Empowerment and Economic Advancement for People with Disabilities

The LEAD Center has supported the expanding work of LADDER (Louisville Alliance for Development through Diversity Empowerment and Resources) since its inception in 2014. LADDER, a collaborative of community-based organizations, workforce services, and financial institutions led by the Louisville Metro Government’s Office of Resilience and Community Services, supports opportunities to integrate financial empowerment in workforce development systems to insure the inclusivity of persons with disabilities in accessing empowerment opportunities, and seeks to establish a community-wide culture of inclusiveness.

LADDER has embarked on a number of initiatives to universally design services and supports that advance financial capability related to employment goals and to improve positive financial behavior for individuals with disabilities.

LADDER Asset Building Strategies (LABS) Program

Over the past two years, LADDER alliance members from the Office of Resilience and Community Services, Center for Accessible Living, Goodwill Industries of Kentucky, and the KY Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) collaborated on a new matched savings and loan pilot program designed to assist Louisvillians with disabilities to improve their savings habits and make more informed decisions about their finances. Today, nine participants have completed their matched savings and/or loan programs, which included completing a financial health assessment used to set their own savings goals. Each participant also received guidance from a financial coach and a peer mentor. The remarkable achievements of these individuals resulted in $4,280 saved by participants, of which $3,965 was matched to their savings goals for an outstanding $8,245 in assets gained. Many participants exceeded their own savings goals! Participants in the loan program saw their credit scores increase by an average of 280 points! As a result of this program, 100 percent of the participants are now banked, and have new knowledge about healthy savings habits; 89 percent are confident in achieving their financial goals. As the LABS pilot program comes to an end, LADDER is working to demonstrate the impact and results of the program through a public awareness campaign.

Read more about the LABS program, method, impact, and outcomes in the April 2018 Financial Capability Month Blog published by the LEAD Center.

Expanding the Reach of the Financial Empowerment Curriculum and Tools

LADDER has worked tirelessly to create a community-wide culture of financial inclusiveness and accessibility that serves the diverse Louisville metro population. LADDER continues to (a) train disability and other community provider staff across the metro area on their Financial Empowerment Curriculum developed by Bank On Louisville, (b) integrate a financial health assessment into programs and services, and (c) offer the online Financial Capability Toolkit for Workforce Development for use in the workforce system and through its partners. LADDER’s initiatives helped spark the development of the Financial Integration Team (FIT), a broad-based community of practice that focuses specifically on integrated economic advancement services to support people with disabilities through partners across the country. Erin Waddell, Social Service Program Supervisor, Advocacy and Empowerment Division of Louisville Metro Community Services, presented in Milwaukee, Wisc. at the Urban Economic Development Association’s Emerging Topic Series Summit on Financial Inclusion for People with Disabilities on June 27. She shared information about the innovative approaches the City of Louisville and LADDER Alliance have taken to address the needs of people with disabilities with low and moderate incomes. Her presentation sparked new conversations for key stakeholders in Milwaukee, including the disability community, financial institutions, the asset development community, and government agencies, to build on the achievements of Louisville as they work to build inclusive pathways to financial empowerment and stability for people with disabilities.