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Calgary's Enough for All: Canada's First Financial Empowerment Model

Posted on April 5, 2018
By Alison Homer

Financial vulnerability affects many people in Calgary. Wages are not keeping up with the rapidly increasing cost of living, and most people living below the poverty line belong to households in which at least one person is working. Many people are living above the poverty line, yet still experience financial vulnerability due to low levels of savings and high levels of debt.

Calgary was the first city in Canada to develop and implement a financial empowerment model. Its city-wide Financial Empowerment Collaborative was launched in 2015 by United Way of Calgary and Area, the City of Calgary, Vibrant Communities Calgary, Momentum, Bow Valley College, and the Government of Alberta. The Collaborative designs and delivers initiatives that support Calgarians living on low incomes to reduce debt, increase savings, and build assets. It strengthens partnerships, builds capacity of organizations to provide financial empowerment services, advocates for policy and systems change, and increases the number of Calgarians benefitting from financial empowerment services and supports.

The bold goal of Calgary’s Financial Empowerment Collaborative is for 45,600 Calgarians living on a low income to see a positive change in their net worth by 2023. Since its launch, more than 20,000 Calgarians living on a low income have already experienced this change.

Successes from 2017 include:

  • 1,534 Calgarians living on low incomes received community supports for basic needs;
  • 587 tax clinics were held in the community, led by 857 trained volunteers;
  • 8,445 tax returns were filed through tax clinics, resulting in $3,721,649 in tax refunds for Calgarians living on low incomes; and,
  • 143 front-line staff across 17 partner agencies supported Calgarians living on low incomes to open 961 new RESPs for their children.

The City of Calgary sees building the financial stability of their youth and families as an investment in the city’s future. In large part due to the important work being done by Calgary’s Financial Empowerment Collaborative, financial empowerment is gaining momentum in Calgary. The city is steadily realizing its bold goals, and more and more vulnerable Albertans are being moved from poverty to possibility.

Learn More:

Alison Homer, Cities Reducing Poverty, Income Security

Alison Homer

By Alison Homer

Alison works with Tamarack’s Cities Reducing Poverty as Manager of Learning and Western Cities. She has been involved with Vibrant Communities since 2012 through her previous role as Director of Vibrant Abbotsford.

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