PEP Creates New Economy for Low-Income Families

The coronavirus pandemic has cast an undeniable spotlight on the systemic inequities faced by low-income workers, who are often women of color. While they work hard to provide for their families – often juggling more than one job – they face steep financial barriers to accessing opportunities to grow economic equity.

The Pathways to Economic Participation (PEP) initiative is addressing that challenge by creating a new, inclusive economy for those families. Developed by the Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati, Inc. (HOC) – in partnership with Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) and Huntington Bank – PEP is geared to the very demographic of our population now being recognized as an essential element of our functioning economy. Low-income women of color are the key focus of GCF’s racial equity mission, which fits perfectly with 80 percent of the clients HOC serves daily.

GCF acted as a catalyst in the multi-year process of developing PEP, and we are providing $100,000 annually for three years of support.

“PEP provides a non-traditional and disruptive solution to pull families out of poverty and to build economic mobility,” said GCF COO Dora Anim. “We recognize that solutions are not just going to be achieved through funding but through partnerships and investment in time and capacity building as we have with HOC.”

“PEP isn’t the first innovative partnership between GCF and HOC, so the relationship is seasoned and strong,” said HOC President/CEO Rick Williams. “We share an appreciation for unique solutions to economic growth barriers, especially solutions that challenge the systems that keep those barriers in place.”

Huntington Bank, a full-service, Ohio-based lender with an exemplary reputation for meeting customer needs, has also been an active participant in PEP’s development. The initiative employs federally-regulated Individual Development Accounts and, through training and educational support, offers out-of-the-box banking services to help participants succeed.

“Participation in the PEP initiative is an opportunity to change historical banking systems by expanding economic opportunity.” said Huntington Bank Regional Mortgage Manager/Senior Vice President Adam Gunn. “This was clearly the right thing to do. We embrace our responsibility to increase structural access to our services.”

GCF’s funding will help to support 20 families in each of the next three years of PEP. Seven families have already been working with HOC for more than a year, meeting all the criteria to access the financial tools of this unique initiative that work to create an equitable “new economy” of opportunity.