Centers for Working Families Will Expand to 13 Chicago Neighborhoods,

December 6, 2006
Centers for Working Families Will Expand to 13 Chicago Neighborhoods,
Helping More Low-Income Families Build Wealth
CHICAGO – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will invest $3 million dollars
to expand an innovative new effort to help low-income families in 13 Chicago neighborhoods
achieve financial stability and build wealth. Centers for Working Families (CWF) are one-stop,
neighborhood-based facilities that provide job services, financial counseling, fairly-priced
financial products, free tax preparation, and screening for public benefits.
MacArthur funding will bring Centers to neighborhoods participating in the New Communities
Program run by the Chicago office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC/Chicago)
and operated by local organizations. An estimated 22,000 individuals and families are expected
to be assisted by the Centers each year.
Median household income in these neighborhoods ranges from approximately $10,800 to
$39,000, but even in relatively higher-income neighborhoods there are significant populations of
low-income families. In Logan Square, for instance, where median family incomes approach
citywide averages ($40,720), 17 percent of the families live at the poverty level.
MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton said, “Most low-income families are working, but no
matter how hard they try, they can’t climb the financial ladder. This creative approach treats all
aspects of a family’s finances – employment, debt and money management – as a single,
integrated system and gives priority attention to the area most in need of repair. MacArthur
supports such efforts to strengthen communities for the benefit of individuals and families but
also for the positive contribution that such communities make to our city and our region.”
“Centers for Working Families help people get a good job, get out of debt and effectively
manage the assets they have. It gives people the tools to take control of their financial future,”
said Andrew J. Mooney, executive director of LISC/Chicago.
Centers for Working Families offer families several significant advantages:
Job services are available to all participants for as long as they need them. CWF sites offer
job placement, job retention, re-placement, and career advancement assistance to all residents
of the community, as well as their friends and family.
One-on-one financial counseling is provided to all participants by full-time experts with
extensive experience in money management. CWF counselors include former private sector
bank branch managers, financial planners, and certified credit counselors.
Fairly-priced financial products and services are made available through CWF partner banks
and credit unions. Customized banking products reduce dependency on payday loans and
other costly financial instruments.
Free tax preparation services are offered on site at many CWFs. Free tax services increase
family income by maximizing use of the Earned Income Tax Credit (worth up to $4,300
annually for low-income families).
State-of-the-art software screens participants for public benefits eligibility. CWF staff
assesses eligibility for benefits such as food stamps, health insurance for children, and fuel
assistance; this information is then used to help participants apply for and access these
Centers for Working Families are based on a model developed by the Annie E. Casey
Foundation and have been established in 13 cities around the country. The Annie E. Casey
Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation are sponsoring a Leadership Conference for investors
and other organizations interested in this effort in Chicago December 6 and 7.
The New Communities Program is a long-term initiative of the LISC/Chicago to support
comprehensive community development in 16 Chicago neighborhoods. The five-year effort
seeks to rejuvenate challenged communities, bolster those in danger of losing ground and
preserve the diversity of areas in the path of community change. Since 1980, LISC/Chicago has
infused more than $150 million into housing and economic development, which has leveraged an
additional $3.5 billion in community investment. More information is available at
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grantmaking
institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the
human condition. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development
of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public
policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest
media. With assets of more than $5.5 billion and an annual grantmaking budget of
approximately $225 million, MacArthur is one of the nation's largest private philanthropic
foundations. More information is available at
Press contacts:
Jen Humke, MacArthur Foundation, (312) 726-8000,
Caroline Goldstein, LISC/Chicago, (312) 697-6455 or (312) 318-3208 (cell)