Financial Fitness Tip: Time for a spring financial checkup

Solid Ground’s Financial Fitness Boot Camp and ConnectUp are working together to send out  financial fitness tips like these a few times a month through the ConnectUp Resource Wire and will re-post them here on the Solid Ground blog.

Financial Fitness Boot Camp's Coach JudySpring is almost here, and it’s a good time to get a checkup regarding your financial fitness. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are you experiencing anxiety around your bills and payments from the holidays?
  • Are you preparing your taxes or at least thinking about it? (April 15th is just around the corner!)
  • Are you tracking your spending using a budget or spending plan?
  • How much are you saving each month for emergencies?

Well, the above sounds like a lot to do and can be stressful. Using these questions, make a list, or what is referred to as a “Financial Fitness Action Plan.” Prioritize what is most important to you and write a statement explaining why it is important to you. Next, decide what your action steps will be to meet each objective. Who will you contact for information or clarification? Make sure you have a pen and paper handy when calling so you can write down who you spoke to and what you spoke about.

It’s close to tax time. Don’t fret; there are many sites that can prepare your taxes for free. Get all of your documents together so that your time and the preparer’s time will be well spent. To find a free tax preparation site near you, call 2.1.1 and tell the operator that you want information about free tax preparation services. Or text the word TAX and your 5-digit zip code to 313131 or email EITC@uwkc.org or visit United Way’s Tax Help website.

You might say that you don’t have enough money to save. Well, start with $5. The point is, “just do it!”

We would like to invite you all to call the Financial Fitness Boot Camp at either 206.694.6739 or 206.694.6776 and make an appointment to come and see one of Solid Ground’s financial counselors. They can pull your credit report for free, teach you how to develop a budget/spending plan, and teach you how to read your credit report and what to do if you need to dispute an item. They would be happy to assist you with whatever you want to focus on to help you reach your financial fitness goals! Don’t delay, call today!

Ensure YOUR economic security & financial freedom through planned giving!

Martha Swain and Mike Buchman

Martha Swain & Mike Buchman

When thinking about what it means to make a personal donation, writing a check once or twice a year to organizations you care about may come to mind. However, when money is tight, it may be challenging for some to give back. Many would like to assist charities and nonprofits whose values and beliefs align with their own, to help preserve these agencies for the future (Sargent and Shang). Planned giving is an alternative to direct donations that can allow donors to do just that.

With the assistance of legal and/or financial advisors, a planned gift is worked into aspects of estate or financial planning, and can include simple bequests in a will or estate plan, gifts of IRAs, retirement or pension plan assets like life insurance or 401K plans, and living trusts and charitable gift annuities.

Planned giving oftentimes provides additional monetary benefits for the donor as a means to prepare for the future and ensure economic stability for family. These benefits – depending on the type of gift chosen – can include tax deductions or other adjustments to finances that save money. Wise financial planning and asset building is an important part of life, regardless of age or income level, and it is essential to develop plans and prepare for the future.

Mike Buchman, employed with Solid Ground for nearly 20 years, and his wife Martha Swain, a Waldorf early childhood educator, began drafting their wills after their daughter, Maddy, was born. “We were obviously thinking about the future, about making the world a better place for our daughter,” Mike expresses. “We are solidly middle class, if that even exists anymore, and we don’t have a lot of wealth. Still, it felt important and right to put some aside for a few organizations that fed our passions and souls. It felt like we were investing in Maddy’s future.”

Mike and Martha chose to include Solid Ground in their planning process because of “the impact Solid Ground makes in the community and the integrity with which its staff does its work every day.”

Mike explained that “making this gift was so easy. We hired an estate planning attorney to help us write our wills. We met for about an hour and talked about our goals and then drafted the legal documents. Including planned giving was as easy as asking them how.”

Solid Ground strongly encourages you to meet with an estate planning attorney or financial advisor, as Mike has done, to ensure that your documents are accurate and fulfill your designs for the future.

Planned giving – in conjunction with estate and financial planning – offers you the opportunity to reach long-term financial stability, provide for your loved ones after you are gone, and support organizations that, with the help of your gift, will continue to provide much-needed services to your community.

“I’ve given a significant portion of my work life to Solid Ground and I think this is an organization that does exceptional things. … We believe that healthy nonprofit organizations are critically needed engines of compassion, service and change,” says Mike. By giving back to organizations that reflect the values you hold dear, you create a legacy of care and support.

We hope you will consider including a gift to Solid Ground when you meet with your advisors to plan for your future. If you already have named Solid Ground in your will, we would very much like the opportunity to thank you for your generosity. Of course, if you prefer to remain anonymous, your gift will be kept completely confidential. Please note that public recognition of your gift can encourage others to do the same.


For more information on planned giving, please consult your professional advisor. If you’re interested in being a part of Solid Ground’s next 40+ years, please contact Leah Lee at 206.694.6852 or at leahl@solid-ground.org.


Affordable Care Act: Help us continue to get the word out!

Image from U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services study - HealthCare.gov

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services study – HealthCare.gov

King County is a national leader in obtaining health care coverage through expanded Medicaid and Qualified Health Plans. In 2013, King County set a goal of enrolling at least 180,000 residents (80,000 in Medicaid and 100,000 in subsidized Exchange coverage) by 31 March 2014, the end of the initial enrollment period.

On Friday, we convened the Executive Committee of the King County Enrollment Leadership Circle to review our progress. I’m pleased to report that by early this month, over 75,000 King County residents have been enrolled since October! Our challenge is that of those 75,000 new enrollees, only around 20,000 are enrolled in a Qualified (subsidized) Health Plan. Also, those enrolled between the ages of 19 and 34 are significantly low.

While King County is on-plan to achieve its goal of enrolling 80,000 persons in (expanding) Washington Apple Health (Medicaid), we need significant renewed effort to reach our goal of ensuring 100,000 eligible residents obtain affordable care through a Qualified Health Plan.

Solid Ground will remain a leader as a part of King County’s collective effort to leverage this historic opportunity (see The Affordable Care Act: A potential ‘life-changer’ for people living on low incomes). As we know well, education, employment and health care are essential to ending poverty.

That is whywe are encouraging everyone to talk with family, friends, colleagues and clients, especially those who are ages 19 – 34. Please initiate conversations regarding health care and encourage those who do not have coverage to enroll prior to 31 March 2014. Thank you!

Seattle employs financial empowerment to help families thrive

Financial Fitness Boot Camp's Coach Judy

Financial Fitness Boot Camp’s Coach Judy

Seattle will be the first city on the West Coast to open no-cost Financial Empowerment Centers. Solid Ground will partner with Neighborhood House to provide a satellite center, likely at Sand Point Housing at Magnuson Park, in order to offer easy access to financial counseling for families and individuals in our transitional and permanent housing programs. 

One-on-one counseling will help people reduce debt, build credit, guard against predatory lending practices, understand foreclosure, and protect against fraud. Asset development coaching and budgeting will lower monthly costs, increase income, buffer against sudden crises, and prepare people for retirement.

Seattle’s program is modeled after the first financial empowerment pilot, launched in 2008 by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The original pilot, according to the foundation, has helped over 19,000 families reduce their debt by more than $9 million.

Six Financial Empowerment Centers will open in 2014, with the main full-time site stationed at Neighborhood House in Rainier Vista. Each center will be positioned close to or within social service facilities that can offer additional resources for those living on low-incomes. Additional offices will be located at NewHolly, the Jim Wiley Community Center, YWCA Opportunity Place and North Seattle Community College.

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation provided a three year grant for the project, and is partnering with City of Seattle, Neighborhood House and United Way.

Breaking the cycle of poverty involves more than just helping people living on low-incomes make ends meet. At Solid Ground, we want people to be healthy, happy and build the skills they need to thrive.

In the coming year, we will implement our own plan to integrate financial empowerment into social service delivery at Solid Ground, developed during a six-month financial empowerment Learning Cluster hosted by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). And with the support from CFED through an 18-month Learning Cluster that began this month, our plan will provide the education and tools people living on low and moderate incomes need to move beyond just surviving to a place of stability, self-sufficiency and financial health.

The Affordable Care Act: A potential ‘life-changer’ for people living on low incomes

King County "Coverage is Here" logoIn partnership with King County Public Health, Solid Ground’s Family Assistance program has been engaged in outreach and education on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since open enrollment began October 1. As the December 23 enrollment deadline to receive benefits starting January 1 approaches, it becomes more important than ever to reach out to King County residents.

Despite the well-reported problems with the federal website, HealthCare.gov, Washington State’s exchange site, wahealthplanfinder.org, has had relative success enrolling people, though not without its own challenges. While the state exchange site has had its hiccups, it is still performing better than the national federal enrollment website. As of December 3, wahealthplanfinder.org enrollment topped 175,000 while the federal exchange, which serves 36 states, enrolled about the same.

Stephanie Earhart, Family Assistance Lead Benefits Attorney, is managing Solid Ground’s Education and Outreach program for the ACA. According to her, both the federal and state website glitches are causing the most issues with enrollment.

“The problem with wahealthplanfinder.org is rooted in the fact that, in order to confirm an identity, a cross-check must be performed through the HealthCare.gov website – which also hooks up to the IRS, Social Security and immigration sites. If anything goes wrong with those hubs, we get an error code on our end. People enrolling will then be told to call the customer center, but those centers are overloaded with calls,” Stephanie explains.

Another option is to file a paper application. However, paper applications must still be entered into the same system, and thus will experience the same glitches consumers are struggling with. Stephanie mentions that in November, “only 17% of those on existing Medicaid plans had renewed them – likely because those renewals were filed as paper applications. There is a backlog now, and who knows when those will get processed.”

Instead, she encourages King County residents to use the Washington exchange website if possible or find an assistor to help set up an account and work through any issues that might arise.

Neighborcare Health has partnered with Solid Ground, acting as in-person assistors for those needing help with enrollment and navigating the website. A Neighborcare assistor provides enrollment support at Solid Ground every Tuesday between 1-5pm, or you can call 206.548.3013 to schedule a free appointment with an eligibility specialist at a local Neighborcare Health clinic.

One of the Education and Outreach program’s most important goals is to end confusion about ACA and the benefits offered – which is still causing people to hesitate to enroll. “I still talk to clients who have no idea about the Affordable Care Act, or what they have heard is bad. As an agency, that’s one of the reasons Solid Ground is supporting education and outreach. We want people to know that this is actually a good thing. We support it. You can trust it,” Stephanie expresses. She recommends the King County Public Health website as a great resource for more information on all the wonderful benefits – such as the 10 Essential Benefits – Affordable Care coverage has to offer.

We are spreading the message to clients, friends and family: ‘Coverage is here!’ To Stephanie – and many others at Solid Ground who work directly with people who qualify for the new free or low-cost health insurance – the implementation of the ACA is a blessing. Stephanie declares that, “Coming from the work I’ve done for the last 10 years, fighting to get people medical coverage – very sick people who don’t meet the disability standard – the fact that I can say, ‘You can get covered now,’ that’s my focus. For those living on low incomes, this is going to be a life-changer. True social justice.”

If you would like us to visit your community organization to do an education/outreach event, please contact Stephanie Earhart with the Family Assistance program: stephaniee@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6714.

Circulator bus makes the rounds

This piece was contributed by Kari Ware, Solid Ground’s Transportation Director.

Front view of a Solid Ground Circulator busAfter getting off to a slow start with just 74 riders on October 1, 2012, the Solid Ground Circulator bus is gaining momentum, with over 70,000 people served to date. Ridership is steadily growing each month. A year into the program we now average 303 riders each day!

The route is designed to get riders as close as possible to as many services as possible in the downtown Seattle core area. Riders are commenting that they wouldn’t be able to get to those much-needed services without our bus. They really appreciate our friendly, professional drivers and the dependable service.

Paratransit Evaluation Manager, Gaby Bell, acknowledged the “excellent customer service” provided by our drivers. She stated in an email that the drivers are “always polite and friendly,” and “Chuck,” Charles Sanford, “is especially wonderful, always has a smile and greeting, and makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable.”

The Circulator operates seven stops in the downtown core area, Monday through Friday, from 7am-4pm. This program, originally funded through the end of 2013 by SDOT with support of King County Metro, has been renewed for 2014. Routes and service hours will remain the same for the coming year, however we are looking to expand routes and include weekend service for 2015.

Last February, the Circulator was featured on KPLU 88.5FM in a piece by Paula Wissel, Free downtown bus is no longer a best kept secret.

There are no requirements to qualify to ride the bus and it is accessible to everyone, so feel free hop aboard when you are in the area and check it out!

As a reminder, the Circulator will be running on Christmas and New Year’s as these holidays fall on regularly scheduled service days.

You can find more information about the Circulator on the Solid Ground website.

Side view of a Solid Ground Circulator bus

Coverage is here!

Starting October 1, 2013, over 180,000 persons in King County (280,000 in Washington State) have the opportunity to obtain Medicaid or affordable subsidized medical insurance. This incredible opportunity is the result of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with the new benefits beginning on January 1, 2014.

DuoLogosKing County Public Health is the lead agency in King County, and they have set a goal of enrolling at least 93,000 King County residents in this first year of eligibility. (See the Washington Healthplanfinder website for more information.)

I have the privilege of serving as one of the three co-chairs appointed by King County Executive Dow Constantine to ensure that nonprofit/community-based organizations, businesses and the medical community coordinate their respective sectors to actively partner with King County to educate, conduct outreach and assist the County and cities in enrolling those persons who are eligible to have affordable medical care.

I am proud that Solid Ground is one of a select group of partners approved by King County to engage in education and outreach about affordable care. And while Solid Ground will not be offering in-person enrollment assistance, we will refer people to community partners who can help people enroll.

If you would like us to visit your community organization to do an education/outreach event, please contact Stephanie Earhart with the Family Assistance Program: stephaniee@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6714.

Ensuring that low-income persons, including single adults, have Medicaid and that low- and lower-income residents (singles and families) have affordable quality medical care is a once in a lifetime occurrence. Having easy access to preventative medical care and to be able to receive medical treatment when sick or injured is a basic human right – one that has routinely been unavailable to those who are poor and oppressed. Medical care is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle and to our mission of ending poverty.

My ask is that every person at Solid Ground find a way to actively participate in ensuring that the communities we serve are aware of and take advantage of these critically important benefits. The goal is to activate Solid Ground in support of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act and to develop a list of various ways we all can participate. Please share any ideas you have with us. Working together, we can make a huge step in achieving our vision of a community that has moved beyond poverty and oppression to a place of thriving!

For more information, go to the Washington Healthplanfinder website.

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