CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - COVID-19 has put a strain on families to make ends meet, with many of them sitting below the poverty line. A new report from Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) shows why now, more than ever, families need higher wage jobs.
“Nearly one out of every five families, our neighbors, don’t make enough to meet their basic needs,” said Ridge Schuyler, the dean of Community Self-Sufficiency Programs at PVCC.
According to the community college’s newest Orange Dot Report 4.0, roughly 17% of families in the Charlottesville region did not make enough money to afford essential like food and clothes, before the pandemic even began.
“The number of struggling families, if we were to do a snapshot today with census data that we don’t have yet, it would show a lot more struggling families than the ones that we’ve got,” Schuyler said.
The struggle to make ends meet is not equally shared.
“About 35% of Black families make less than $35,000 a year compared to 14% of white families. So we need to be intentional about connecting with people who have been historically overlooked, and make sure that we’re providing pathways of opportunity for everyone.”
Now, the community college is trying to ramp up its Network2Work@PVCC program to make that percentage drop, by connecting job seekers with higher paying opportunities.
“Right now, in network to work, we have 70 different employers listing 100 different jobs with multiple positions per job. We have $10 million worth of available income for families just waiting for the job seeker network to connect them to those opportunities,” Schuyler said.
The assistance doesn’t stop there. Schuyler said community-wide programs are needed to help people keep their job, once they land it.
“The final piece of the puzzle is the provider network. The resources that a job seeker may need to get them from where they are to that job that they are such a good match for, such as providers that can help with childcare and transportation and medical assistance and a car repair,” Schuyler said.
Schuyler says things like home ownership and other assistance programs can make a huge impact.
“We need to be creating more seamless pathways to home ownership, which in America, is the way we create wealth. So how do we help people get the training they need to get more employer recognized value so they can put aside some money and eventually buy a home that they can pass down to their children and provide their children with a financial cushion so they can, themselves, raise themselves up and earn a family sustaining wage,” he said.