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Community Action Agencies were authorized as part of the “War on Poverty” launched by President Johnson when he signed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, Public Law 88-452. Less than a year later in 1965 Coconino County's Board of Supervisors (BOS) established the County’s Community Action Program, under a CAA Board starting in 1966. In 1973 the County funded this CAA as a Community Services Project for one year and in March 1974 it became a County Department. In addition to the Board of Supervisors local authority, CAAs are also federally regulated.
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Coconino County Health and Human Services (CCHHS) Community Services is a designated Community Action Agency and strives to enhance the well-being of the less fortunate and isolated residents of Coconino County by providing food and shelter, transportation, home care, economic empowerment, and other beyond poverty self-sufficiency assistance. It is a leading safety net agency providing case management services integrated with financial coaching, micro-entrepreneurship training, and Individual Development Account assistance. Also provided are senior services and court-ordered public fiduciary assistance for those whose disabilities prevent them from adequately doing their own financial management.
Although revenue sources and amounts vary from year-to-year, only about half of CCHHS Community Services typical funding comes from County General Funds. One-third of revenues are provided by federal and state grants, and of the remainder, some funding comes from non-profit foundations and private donations. Community Services is considered a public non-profit so contributions made to its programs and services are tax deductible. Community Services is also on the State of Arizona’s list of qualifying charitable organizations which is necessary for donations to qualify for the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit. All contributions through the Charitable Tax Credit are a dollar for dollar credit off your state taxes, up to $400 for an individual and $800 for a couple filing jointly.
As the designated CAA, CCHHS Community Services (CCHHS-CS) completes a comprehensive community needs assessment every three years to inform strategic choices related to programming and services. The Coconino County Community Needs Assessment Report 2017 (CNA17) was completed by Northern Arizona University Laboratory for Applied Social Research, and was sponsored by both CCHHS-CS and United Way of Northern Arizona with funding support from UNS Energy Corporation and Arizona Public Service Company. This report includes input from lower-income community member focus groups, CCHHS-CS’ consumer surveys, U.S. Census Bureau, and other secondary demographic data. The 97-page report is available via a weblink on CCHHS-CS’ Webpage (http://az-coconinocounty2.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/7421). When CNA17 was presented for adoption by the Coconino County Board of Supervisors (CCBOS) in December 2017, CCHHS-CS created a topic frequency word cloud from its content and “housing” was the most frequently mentioned word (see below). Affordable housing is a huge need especially felt by those living with incomes below the federal poverty guideline. CNA17 shows that 49.6% of CCHHS-CS’ consumers live below 50% of the poverty line, even though many are employed. Even though the need for affordable housing is clear in the report, the most common need among these CCHHS-CS consumers was for financial coaching pertaining to budgeting and credit, skill development, and education. Observed in the 2017 CAP Financial Empowerment case study which went on to recommend integrating purposeful strategies to address this need. CCHHS-CS’ Housing Stabilization proposal incorporates an integrated financial empowerment package of services to increase financial stability and prosperity. CCHHS-CS’ proposes to improve the content of its currently well-received Financial Literacy and Empowerment workshops, but also to combine it with other resources for a more comprehensive, integrated services strategy, including One-to-One Coaching and resource referrals in collaboration with other social and financial services partners. Improving financial capability can be daunting and overwhelming for community members at any income level, but especially for those in poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012-2016 American Community Survey shows poverty is still much higher in Flagstaff than the United States, Arizona, and Coconino County: •Persons in poverty in U.S. (12.7%), Arizona (16.4%), Coconino County (17.8%), and Flagstaff (23.3%). Poverty Rate is one of the 56 outcome measures within five categories (Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Homeownership & Housing, Health Care, and Education) by which Prosperity Now (formerly Corporation for Enterprise Development, CFED) ranks states. Its 2017 Scorecard ranked Arizona 40th of 51 states, including D.C., for a D grade. Undoubtedly, Arizona’s poor ranking is largely due to its above-mentioned income poverty rate. There is also a likely connection to the meager adoption of only 18 of 53 needed policies Prosperity Now posits would benefit the entire state, including Coconino County. Prosperity Now’s analysis shows Arizona and Coconino County are worse than the U.S. average for: •Asset Poverty Rate: Arizona (29.5%), Coconino County (27.1%), and U.S. (25.5%) •Liquid Asset Poverty Rate: Arizona (41.8%), Coconino County (37.8%), and U.S. (36.8%) •Households with Zero Net Worth: Arizona (20.5%), Coconino County (19.7%), and U.S. (16.9%) Research conducted in 1990 by Dr. Michael Sherraden, his book Assets and the Poor: A New American Welfare Policy, and work by CFED, showed that asset poverty even more than income poverty holds back individuals and families, preventing them from moving beyond poverty. High cost of living, especially with regard to housing, severely negatively impacts those living in poverty. Flagstaff’s cost of living and housing cost are some of the highest in the nation. Flagstaff rents are 48th highest of 210 metro-areas and its median home-price is 43rd highest. Flagstaff housing costs drive Coconino County’s high cost of living and according to The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Select Arizona Counties and Families, 2012, Coconino County’s self-sufficiency income requirement for one-adult with one-preschooler households was $38,787/year, 256% above the Federal Poverty Level. According to the National Housing Conference’s (NHC) calculator, in order to afford fair-market rent for a 1-bedroom in Flagstaff it requires an annual income of $36,360. This is more than the median income of a host of occupations in Flagstaff, including Bank Teller, Customer Service Representative, Dental Assistant, Delivery Truck Driver, Fast Food Cook, Janitor, Medical Billing Clerk, Security Guard, etc. Additionally, NHC calculates that to afford fair market rent for a 2-bedroom requires an annual income of $45,400. This is more than the median income of many other occupations in Flagstaff, including Fire Fighter, Police Officer, Plumber, Electrical Engineering Technician, LPN Nurse, Machinist, etc. As reported in CCHHS-CS’ 2017 Community Needs Assessment, Flagstaff Fair Market Rents vs. actual rents on a 2 BR apartment are $1037 vs. $1427. The actual rents require a household to earn about $27.44 per hour full-time wages to afford housing.
Community Services program information is available on Coconino County Health and Human Services Office of Community and Career Services Webpages, as well as elsewhere within these FAQs.