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Program to Help Minnesotans Out of Poverty Running Out of Money

August 9, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A program that's helped thousands of Minnesotans out of poverty since its inception in 1998 is now facing a financial crisis of its own. Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (FAIM) was not funded in the current budget, but supporters are hoping that it isn't the end of the line.

Jan Backlin, director of home ownership programs at Anoka County Community Action Partnership, says FAIM helps the poor with matched saving accounts, with the money to be used for higher education, home ownership or the establishment of a small business.

"This is such a good program for people to get out of poverty. Asset building is just so very important for the lower-income and middle-income population, and we really need to keep that going so that people have that opportunity in the state of Minnesota."

She says FAIM is facing a slowdown in services it can offer, as it continues to operate with only funds already in the bank or earmarked, but adds it does have strong support among state lawmakers and they're hoping that funding will eventually be restored. Each state dollar that goes to FAIM is matched by the federal government.

Backlin, who works with FAIM through her position as Anoka County CAP director, says they also provide financial education and counseling, helping people with their taxes, in reducing debt and building their credit.

"Credit is very important for people for getting a loan, to starting a business, to buying a home. They need to have their credit in good shape."

Among the thousands who have succeeded with FAIM is Deborah Monden of Fridley, who opened her own tax services business this year.

"The FAIM program really gave me the opportunity to be accountable to myself, to my dreams. I've always had the dream of starting my own business, but to actually move forward was a little scary and challenging. So it definitely made that happen for me."

And Monden says it's not just those taking part in the program who benefit from people getting out of poverty, buying homes and starting companies.

"For myself, I'm looking to move out of my home office and into a commercial space, and also to hire a part-time assistant. So definitely it's a job creator and I think it's just a terrible loss for Minnesota."

More information on FAIM is online at www.minnesotafairm.org

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN