Many low- and moderate-income individuals and families in the community are eligible for various public benefits, but do not know what is available or how to apply.
Often it takes several visits to multiple agencies to get the help they need. Many do not have the ability to get through all the details for such programs as food stamps, childcare or housing assistance, health insurance and veterans’ services.
With Lucas County’s poverty level greater than the state’s average, the majority of the residents who are eligible are not taking advantage of available cash assistance benefits.
Greater Toledo Community Foundation asked Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) to create a Mobile Benefit Bank staffed by AmeriCorps members who travel to churches, senior centers, food banks, festivals, housing shelters and other places where people congregate.
With more than $180,000 in grants from the Foundation, trained AmeriCorps members equipped with mobile computers, printers and telephones meet one-on-one with residents to determine what assistance is available and to provide free legal assessments.
This non-traditional approach has helped hundreds access almost $1 million in food assistance and $194,000 in tax refunds. With the success of the program and a grant from the Foundation, the Mobile Benefit Bank is expanding to Wood County and will help even more people live better.