Organization and Program Overview
Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) help low to moderate income families boost earnings, reduce expenses, and make appropriate financial decisions that lead to asset building through an integrated service model approach. The centers provide individuals and families with services across three critical and interconnected areas: employment services, financial coaching and access to income supports.
The income supports counselor (otherwise referred to as a public benefit specialist) provides direct services to low to moderate-income individuals who are enrolled as Financial Opportunity Center participants. Income supports specialists assist clients in finding ways to supplement their income, or reduce their expenses through benefits that the FOC will refer to as income supports. Income supports may include, but are not limited to public benefits such as food stamps, medical benefits, LIHEAP for Utility assistance, and more; other benefits may include Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Child Care Works. These income supports may be difficult to apply for, or challenging to find, or understand. It is the role of the income supports specialist to make these benefits accessible to FOC clients. Furthermore, the income supports specialist must be resourceful and motivated to find new benefit sources for their FOC clients.
The income supports specialist will work with employment counselors and financial coach to ensure that the client is getting assistance across these three major service areas. The income supports specialist plays a valuable role in helping clients achieve financial stability.
- Provide one on one income supports counseling to program participants.
- Conduct a general benefits screening
- Discuss all benefits for which the client is eligible with that client
- Assist the clients through the application process, as needed
- Understand other services offered by the agency, such as the employment services and financial coaching, and connect the clients to these other services
- Outcome tracking—track the stories and successes of program participants.
- Maintain contact with the client and monitor the status of their applications (e.g. lost, approval, denial, re-certifications, etc.)
- Salesforce, a client management system, to document and reflect the outcome of their clients accurately and in a timely manner
- Update the Combined Financial Assessment (CFA) for their clients to reflect changes to their budget via income supports (e.g. food stamps) OR alert the financial coach to this change [in instances where the financial coach makes all budget updates--depending on the process at the FOC]
- The income supports specialist may conduct workshops as a means of outreach and education
- The classes may be part of a larger job readiness class offered by the FOC, or may be occasional workshops to the public
- Develop workshop materials or tailor existing materials to meet the needs of the community
- Workshops should be relevant to the community, and may include topics such as: SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, Social Security
- Develop relationships with local government offices and community organizations
- Cultivate a strong relationship with other Community Development Neighborhood Advisory Agencies and other Financial Opportunity Centers.
- Connect with Governmental offices such as Division of Housing and Community Development; local Social Security Offices, etc.
- Create a network of referral organizations to help you assist the client in obtaining income supports (e.g. local Goodwill voucher program, free dental-work programs, WIC etc.)