A group of nine Fahe members in a meeting on Zoom.

Fahe Members Partner Nationally to Bring Financial Opportunity and Digital Inclusion to North Central West Virginia

Fahe Members Randolph County Housing Authority (RCHA) and Homeownership Center partnering with Highland Community Builders (HBC) and Rural LISC have launched their Digital Navigator program and a Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) to serve the residents of Randolph, Barbour, Tucker, Upshur and Lewis counties in West Virginia.

“These new programs have been made possible through the financial support of the Robert Wood Johnson/Benedum Foundation Partnership,” said Karen Jacobson, Executive Director of RCHA and President of HCB.  “The opportunity to partner with Rural LISC and implement an FOC model designed to support our residents in becoming and remaining financially self-sufficient is very exciting.  We are also pleased to work with Rural LISC, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and other community-based organizations in Appalachia to increase digital equity in rural communities. Now, it’s more important than ever to add a digital layer into the social safety net so individuals can navigate the complexities of our current economic and education realities.” 

HCB, RCHA and HOC will offer new, tailored services through the FOC designed to help individuals secure living wage jobs, build credit, reduce debt and gain wealth. The FOC model has more than 15 years of data, with more than 100 community-based partners. The data shows the model increases year-round employment, reduces non asset-related debt, builds a positive credit history, and increases assets.  In this model, a coach works one-one-one with participants to help them set and reach their own financial goals.

 “During a critical national economic turning point, the FOC model is more important than ever, said Caitlin Cain, LISC Vice President and Director of Rural LISC. “FOC coaches support individuals in learning how to change their financial behavior in ways that increase income, decrease expenses and help acquire assets. Layering a digital equity component to this work as well gives our communities the tools they need to recover from the COVID crisis and thrive in an increasingly digital economy.”

The newest FOC is the fourth to be opened among the Fahe Network.  In 2019, Rural LISC partnered with Fahe Members Clinch Powell Resource Conservation and Development Council, Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Agency, and Appalachian Community Action and Development Agency, to open three FOCS in Northwest Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The new and complementary Digital Navigator program will offer a suite of services including advice for residents on free or affordable home internet service options, sourcing affordable computers or other internet-connected devices, and building confidence with digital skills. Digital Navigators work with individuals to co-create a plan for advancing in the digital realm with activities meant to decrease social isolation and increase economic participation and more. The West Virginia organizations are part of a nine-community program Rural LISC launched this fall in seven states in Appalachia.  The program adds a “technology layer” to the services of HCB, RCHA and HOC—all community-based organizations that already work with residents to help them on a range of needs from rental housing to homeownership to job training.

The new FOC and Digital Navigator programs have a combined goal to collectively support more than 200 individuals and families in their first year. 

This launch was part of Digital Inclusion Week 2020 (October 5- October 9), sponsored by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.  Digital Inclusion Week seeks to bring people who dedicate their lives to Digital Inclusion together to highlight the impact of their work and find solutions to close digital divides.

To learn more about the programs or to schedule an appointment, please contact us at 304-940-6776 or rcha@rchawv.org  attention Jennifer Griggs.