Economic Security

Below is a detailed discussion of the meaning of poverty and financial self-sufficiency. Following that discussion is a listing of local organizations dedicated to improving the economic well-being of individuals and families.

Understanding Poverty and Financial Self-Sufficiency — Some Definitions

The United States government uses two principal methods to measure poverty: the poverty thresholds established by the Census Bureau and the poverty guidelines used by the Department of Health and Human Services. Basically, the Census Bureau approach is used to determine how many people live in poverty and the Health and Human Services data is used to determine eligibility for various benefit programs. The difference in these measures is not major. For a comparison of the two approaches, click here.

There are significant shortcomings in the federal approach to measuring poverty. While the methods have been updated and the measures adjusted for inflation, both approaches utilize the original 1964 method, which focused most attention on food costs. Many critics feel that modern housing, child care and health care costs are not adequately considered. A second shortcoming is that the federal approaches use a single measure for the entire nation (except Alaska and Hawaii), ignoring variations in the cost of living.  For a discussion of efforts to modernize the U.S. approach, click here.

So what is meant by financial self-sufficiency? While there is no simple answer, a good definition comes from a report by Dr. Diana Pearce entitled "The Financial Self-Sufficiency Standard for New York," which was prepared for the Washington D.C.-based Wider Opportunities for Women. According to the report, "the self-sufficiency standard measures how much income is needed, for a family of a given composition in a given place, to adequately meet its basic needs —without public or private assistance." The report estimates financial self-sufficiency needs using a more detailed list of expenses than the federal approach, and then it develops an estimate for each county in the state.

Enhancing Financial Resources — Family and Community Services

Several large community-based organizations are dedicated to providing service and assistance to our area's poor and lower-income families and individuals.

  • The Urban League of Rochester seeks to enable African Americans, Hispanics, the poor and other disadvantaged groups to secure economic self-reliance, parity and power, and civil rights. The Urban League's strategy focuses on ensuring a quality education for children, achieving economic security for adults and eliminating barriers to equal participation in the economic and social mainstream of America.
  • Action for a Better Community (ABC) supports and develops self-sufficiency among low-income families in Monroe and Ontario counties. ABC provides direct community services, early childhood programs (including Head Start), and employment and economic literacy training.
  • Ibero-American Action League strives to foster growth and development, primarily of Hispanics. The organization provides advocacy and culturally sensitive programs and services, which are intended to raise the socio-economic status, well-being and citizen awareness of participants.
  • Catholic Family Center is Rochester's largest family-service provider assisting 64,000 people each year through comprehensive programs for all ages, races, religions and economic circumstances.  The organization serves Monroe and Wayne counties at 19 locations.
  • PathStone strives to empower individuals, families and communities to attain economic and social resources for building better lives. Among the services provided are: financial education; housing assistance (including foreclosure intervention, home buyer education and rehabilitation services); and emergency support programs. Based in Rochester, the organization serves seven states and Puerto Rico. PathStone serves all counties in the ACT Rochester region.
  • New York State Community Action Agencies have been the proven local, grassroots, federally-designated network of anti-poverty agencies in New York State.

Enhancing Financial Resources — Financial Services

Lifespan provides a variety of financial services to area seniors, including financial management, bill-paying, and employment services.

ESL Federal Credit Union works to help individuals in our community access the essential financial services, guidance, and support they need to achieve their financial goals; access to credit, cash and payment services, financial guidance and community partnerships. 

Five Star Bank works to support the success of Western New York and strengthen our communities through volunteer activities, charitable investments, and need-based product offerings. Click here for Five Star Bank's inaugural Community Report where you’ll read about many of the programs, products and services offered.

Enhancing Financial Resources — Encouraging Enterprise

The Rochester Chapter of Junior Achievement focuses on educating area students on economic and business issues, financial literacy and free enterprise education.

Enhancing Financial Resources — Legal Assistance

Legal assistance can be an effective means of achieving or preserving financial self-sufficiency. Several local organizations focus on providing legal assistance and information to those in financial need.

Empire Justice Center provides help to people throughout New York state. At its Rochester office, the nonprofit law firm assists individuals in a wide range of areas, including child care, child support, disability benefits, health, housing, immigration rights and more.

Legal Assistance of Western New York links people in need with legal help and legal information.

The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc. provides free legal services and legal education to New York's agricultural workers.

The Legal Aid Society of Rochester is a not-for-profit organization that provides direct civil legal services, including lay advocacy and related human services, to adults and children. They also offer a housing, immigration, and child advocacy programs.

Enhancing Financial Resources — Advocacy

Through several campaigns and task forces, Metro Justice provides education and lobbying to create social change and social justice.

People Receiving Assistance

Direct financial assistance to individuals is managed by each county. Assistance to eligible individuals generally includes food stamps, temporary financial assistance, home energy assistance, and Medicaid. Policies and procedures may vary by county. Below is a listing of the social service departments for each county.