On a recent visit to Chautauqua Opportunities Inc. in Dunkirk, Rep. Tom Reed expressed his interest in working with community organizations to support individuals in the transition from poverty to self-sufficiency.
"It's vitally important to get individuals and families the care and assistance they need in the short term, but more important to prepare them for a future of self-sufficiency and economic independence," Reed said. "To give them a fair fight at this, it is important we partner with those on the front line of fighting poverty so that our collective resources are as effective and efficient as possible. Chautauqua Opportunities is a prime example of a local group working hard toward that end, and a group we look forward to collaborating with."
"Chautauqua Opportunities looks forward to a future partnership with Congressman Reed and those in governmental service to re-shape our existing supportive services," said Executive Director Roberta Keller. "They need to better equip and prepare those Americans living in poverty and those who are vulnerable to falling into poverty, and an avenue out of poverty and a plan that can lead to economic security."
COI walked Reed through its individual evaluation process, specifically the entrance interview, to see how the organization can be most helpful in getting individuals benefits, but more importantly, how those benefits can be leveraged to help them out of poverty.
"The current welfare system is made up of a patchwork of programs, administered in different manners by different federal agencies," Reed continued. "Since the programs do not work in conjunction with one another, the goal of effectively assisting and caring for the needy is often not met. That's why we're looking for ways to strengthen the system to better empower individuals to make sound financial decisions by incentivizing positive actions to promote long-term economic independence and break the vicious poverty cycle."
Reed also met with Keller in March in Washington to learn more about their operations and talk about ways to partner to advance their mission. The meeting in March led Reed to visit their facility firsthand in Dunkirk for an overview of their services.
COI provides services for about 20,000 residents each year with the goal of promoting economic security and opportunity. Services include workforce development and short- and long-term financial planning to set individuals on a stable financial path.