Tag Archives: Arizona Community Action Association

Money Tree, WEB

St. Luke’s $125,000 grant boosts living wage initiative

The Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA) will use a $125,000 St. Luke’s Health Initiative (SLHI) innovation grant to design and implement Raise Arizona, a statewide living wage initiative to identify, recruit, certify and recognize employers that pay a living wage.

In total, SLHI awarded grants totaling $475,000 to ACAA, City of Phoenix-FitPHX, Cultivate South Phoenix Program and The Rightcare Foundation.

Raise Arizona, one of a number of ACAA programs designed to mobilize communities to address and eliminate poverty, also will drive “consumer support and dollars to Living Wage Certified businesses for their commitment to pay employees a living wage and their contributions to the community where they do business,” said ACAA Executive Director Cynthia Zwick.

Zwick said the program’s goal is to identify 50 Living Wage Certified employers in the first year and 75 during the second 12 months as well as to hire a Living Wage Business Recruiter.

“As an anti-poverty organization, our mission and our day-to-day focus is to end poverty in Arizona,” Zwick said.  “Among the most important ways to do that is to provide employees with a living wage that can help them move toward financial stability and independence.”

Zwick said she expects to fill the business recruiter position within the next three months.  The program’s start-up will follow.

Food Basket

Can You Live on $1.28 Per Meal?

Try buying food for one meal for $1.28. It’s not easy, but more than 1 million Arizona families undergo that decision-making process every day. That is the average amount of money provided for each person per meal in the household through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

The Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA) is hoping community members, business leaders, elected officials and advocates will spend the week of Oct. 6-13 getting a first-hand understanding of what it means to live on $27 a week during the SNAP Challenge.

More than 1.1 million Arizonans relying on assistance to feed their families have just $27 a week – or $3.85 a day – for food. That’s $15 a day for a family of four.

“In Arizona, 1 in 5 people struggle with hunger and 1 in 4 children live in households considered food insecure,” said ACAA Executive Director Cynthia Zwick. “While this experience cannot give us a true sense of living in deep or prolonged poverty, it can provide insight into some of the challenges families confront. That’s what we’re inviting people to experience.”

Participants will be provided with food-buying guidelines and will be asked to blog about their experiences at www.azcaa.org/blog as well as on through their own social media outlets.

“What many people don’t understand is that SNAP keeps people out of poverty by filling a critical need to be able to provide food for their families,” Zwick said. “It relieves the pressure of deciding whether to buy food or medicine or pay the electric bill.”

SNAP Challenge participants will be asked to use $27 to pay for all food costs for the week.

There’s also a widespread misconception that people on SNAP are bilking the system or committing fraud, “but the facts show otherwise,” Zwick said. “Last year, of the more than 1.1 million who relied on SNAP, only 87 cases of fraud were documented. That’s an incredibly efficient and productive system.”

Established in 1939 as the Food Stamp Program, more than 49 million Americans, or more than 1 in 7, rely on food stamps to purchase needed food each month. Eligibility is based on income and assets depending on household size. SNAP is a critical bridge to help individuals and families establish financial stability so they can move out of or away from poverty.


Say No to Predatory-Driven Risky Loans

While Arizona recovers from an economic crisis rooted in predatory lending practices, a bill before the legislature proposes another round of risky loans not too far removed from the horrific payday-lending loans now mostly a good-riddance memory.

HB 2526 would increase interest rates and fees on consumer loans of $3,000 up to 36% and double loan-origination fees from $75 to $150, a troubling proposition leaving Arizonans footing the bill for consequences of high-cost debt while benefiting primarily out-of-state lenders.

HB 2526 essentially allows the loans without regard to a borrower’s ability to repay. And, as if fees and interest weren’t enough, these loans come stacked with more fees for nearly useless insurance products providing little to no benefit to borrowers.

It‘s easy to see how a loan pitched as a productive quick fix is actually designed to sink borrowers into inescapable high-cost debt through a despicable cycle of refinancing and flipping.

The proof is in the lenders’ own data. Companies making these types of loans report that more than 70% of these loans have been refinanced from existing loans. This tell-tale sign of predatory lending – flipping borrowers over and over to collect new fees – became all too familiar during the mortgage crisis.

This is also an obvious sign that these high-cost consumer loans are not structured to be affordable, even at the outset. Nor do they encourage borrowers to graduate to cheaper forms of credit or other means of addressing financial stress. Instead, once lenders make the first loan based on these unsustainable terms, the result is typically a long-term debt cycle making it virtually impossible to build assets for the long term.

In addition to high costs and churning, equally troubling is that these loans will likely be bundled and sold right back to Wall Street.

Finally, while bill supporters assert that expanding this type of unsafe lending will curb abusive car-title loans, adding another predatory product to neighborhoods already saturated with similar no-out options is not the answer.

If the legislature wants to address car-title-loan abuses, then do it directly and we’ll stand behind and support those efforts.
But making weak excuses to deflect focus from a bill that would allow predatory lenders to push already-struggling Arizonans deeper into debt is, at the very least, insincere.

For these reasons, AARP, the Center for Economic Integrity and Community Action Agencies, which provide support and services to the newly poor and the working poor, along with many other groups urge Arizona legislators to prevent predatory lending by opposing HB 2526.

Cynthia Zwick is executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association. For more information, visit www.azcaa.org.


ACAA honors Hildebrand, Schmaltz, Grijalva, Torres

Ginny Hildebrand, who is retiring this year as President and CEO of the Arizona Association of Food Banks, and Tim Schmaltz, Executive Director of the Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition, have been named the 2013 Margie Frost Champions Against Poverty by the Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA).

This is the first time that two recipients will share the award named for Margie Frost, the longtime community activist and creator and former director of the East Valley Men’s Center, a facility for homeless men re-entering society.  Frost, the 1990 Mesa Woman of the Year and recipient of the 1995 Alma Blew Award for Most Outstanding Service to Humanity, died in 2006.

Hildebrand and Schmaltz, consistent and powerful advocates in the effort to reduce or eliminate poverty in Arizona, will receive their awards at the ACAA Statewide Conference (Strengthening Communities through Innovation, Investment, Inclusion) on Friday, May 10 at 11:15 a.m. at the Carefree Resort and Conference Center, 37220 Mule Train Road in Carefree.

The ACAA Leadership Award selection committee also will recognize:

• U.S. Representative Raul M. Grijalva with the 2013 Legislative Leadership Award for “his representation of the people of Arizona in helping to make a difference in the lives of those impacted by poverty,” according to ACAA Executive Director Cynthia Zwick.

• Pastor John Torres (JT) with the 2013 Beating the Odds Award for his “personal accomplishments and in beating the odds to overcome many challenges and obstacles to improve his life and give back to the community,” Zwick said.  Pastor JT overcame drugs, alcohol, gangs and prison to serve local social service and faith-based organizations in the West Valley.

Heart in Hand Awards, annual recognition of the contributions of individuals across the state in the battle to end poverty, will be presented to:

• Jack Davis, by the City of Phoenix Human Services Department

• Alice Tipton, by the Community Action Human Resources Agency (CAHRA), Pinal County

• Amy Schwabenlender, Valley of the Sun United Way, by Maricopa County Human Services Department

• Ana Robles, City of Somerton, Desert Valley Senior Center, by Western Arizona Council of Governments

• Reverend Rula Colvin, by Gila County Community Action Program

• Scott Coverdale, Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona, by Pima County Community Action Agency

• Harvey Grady, by Northern Arizona Council of Governments

• Elizabeth Archuleta, Chair, Coconino County Board of Supervisors, by Coconino County Community Services.

The two-day ACAA Statewide Conference features keynote addresses by Elizabeth Archuleta, Chair, Coconino County Board of Supervisors; Jennifer Brooks, State & Local Policy Director, Corporation for Enterprise Development; and Kimber Lanning of Local First Arizona.

Break-out sessions include key principles of Motivational Interviewing (Denise Beagley, Magellan Health Services of Arizona), Asset Building Strategy (Luis and Francisco Cervera, eMoneyPool), Moving Toward Evidence-Based Practice and Intro to the ROMA Next Generation Center of Excellence (Kelly McGowan, ACAA, and Sandra Mendez, National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP), Building Healthy Client/Customer Relationships (Moe Gallegos, City of Phoenix Human Services Department), Mental Health 101 for Caseworkers (Denise Beagley), Create a Social Media Plan You Can Manager (Elise Peterson, Meridian Designs & Creations), Creating Hunger Free Communities (Amy Schwabenlender, Vice President Community Impact, Valley of the Sun United Way), Building an Effective Issue Campaign (Serena Unrein, Arizona PIRG), A Place at the Table Screening and Discussion (Ellen Teller, Food Research & Action Center); Becoming an Excelling Community Action Agency (Russ Spain, Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership, Idaho Falls, ID); Viewing of “The Line” and Discussion (Laura Penny, Director, Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona); Affordable Care Act (Matt Jewitt, Children’s Action Alliance); and Save Our Home Arizona (Mickey Breen, Arizona Department of Housing, Save our Home Arizona).

For information or to register, visit www.azcaa.org or call (602) 604-0640.

Cynthia Zwick

Let the Sun Set on Debt Trap Loans

In 2008, more than 1.2 million Arizona voters said no, by a 2-to-1 margin, to triple-digit interest rates and special exemptions from the state’s usury laws for payday lenders by rejecting Proposition 200, which would have permanently legalized 300% APR payday loans in Arizona.  Since then, through bi-partisan efforts, the legislature and Arizonans have rejected several new attempts by lenders seeking carve-outs from the state’s consumer loan laws.

A recent news story conveys the urgency of why more work is needed to enforce and uphold the voters’ mandate.  The report showed that many title loans may simply be payday loans in disguise, only possibly worse since borrowers may be putting their car at risk.

While voters were smart enough five years ago to reject the Prop 200 ballot initiative, payday lenders obviously will try to do and say anything to hide their high-cost, predatory product.

Today, they’re simply hiding in the shadows of one predatory loan scheme – car title lenders – to continue their same old dollar-stripping ways.  Regardless of the name they use, it’s clear that it’s just more of same: triple-digit interest rates, putting checking accounts and cars of the most financially vulnerable at great risk and leading to a long-term cycle of repeat debt.

These types of loans ultimately push families into financial situations much worse than when they began – particularly in rural communities – with consequences including bankruptcy, delinquency on other bills, and ultimately bank account closures.

The Arizona Community Action Association, which provides services and programs to assist the vulnerable Arizonans and working poor stabilize their financial lives and move out of and away from poverty, works diligently to protect thousands of Arizona citizens from falling into title-loan type traps from which they may never escape.  These so-called lenders, many from out of state, must comply with laws protecting consumers from outrageous interest rates and predatory practices.

More than 80% of the readers responding to the recent article in The Arizona Republic were quick and to the point, characterizing car title lenders as “piranhas.”   This underscores the very clear public sentiment of the overwhelming majority of Arizona voters who demanded that the sun set on these types of predatory loans.

We appreciate the work of the legislature in preventing payday or other high-cost lenders from rolling back the voters’ mandate.  However, the abuses and tactics exposed by The Republic dramatically emphasize that targeted efforts must continue to ensure the voters’ mandate is both enforced and fully realized to end triple-digit interest rate debt trap loans.

Our community deserves nothing less.


Cynthia Zwick is the Executive Director of the Arizona Community Action Association.