Why should our community prioritize economic opportunity?
Fairfield County has the second-highest rate of income inequality of all U.S. metropolitan areas. Black and Latino households in our community have significantly lower incomes, more debt, and own less real estate than white households. This financial inequality has gotten worse in recent decades because of the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State of Income & Asset Building in Fairfield County
How is FCCF bringing people together to fix this problem?
There are proven programs and policies we can build on to help achieve shared prosperity in our region. But this will require individuals, community leaders, lawmakers, businesses, and organizations to come together to take action. With your support, our Economic Opportunity Fund invests in collaborative programs that:
Increase Economic Mobility
We are working with the Connecticut Urban Opportunity Collaborative to launch a Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot to show how direct cash assistance can catalyze social and economic mobility.
Identify Paths to Shared Prosperity
We are funding important research to identify the costs of income inequity, the opportunities associated with addressing inequity, and potential gaps in the financial and technical support available to entrepreneurs of color in Fairfield County.
Foster Career Pathways
A new Internship & Stipend Fund will deliver grants for career training and internship programs that give young adults a chance to gain on-the-job experience while they earn money.
Strengthen Community-Based Work
We are growing our support to help local groups strengthen their community leadership and grassroots work to advance economic opportunity, and to fund strategic projects that span several years.
How can I get involved?
Want to move economic opportunity in Fairfield County forward? Here are three ways you can help ensure every person has the chance to earn a sustainable income and save for the future.
Contribute to the Economic Opportunity Fund to be part of our collaborative work in this area.
Join our email list to receive information on economic opportunity and how you can make a difference.
Learn more about past & current projects
Learn about projects that have helped the Community Foundation build a strong network of partners, and inform our ongoing work for economic opportunity.
We are investing in career development solutions that create economic opportunities, such as the Job Seekers Support Fund at the Community Foundation. This Fund established in partnership with global hiring platform Indeed awards grants to nonprofits in Stamford that help people overcome obstacles to accessing quality job opportunities. In 2023 the fund gave grants to four organizations: C.O.R.N.E.R.S. ($50,000), The Stamford Partnership ($50,000), Women’s Mentoring Network ($50,000), and Building One Community ($100,000). The grants support individuals with things like training and education, disability assistance, dealing with the criminal justice system, and basic needs like housing and transportation.
We’ve learned from past programs we’ve developed, like our Thrive by 25 Career Connections program. Launched in 2017 with Norwalk Community College and NCC Foundation, this program helped over 50 students aged 18-25 with a GED or high school diploma get ready for jobs in healthcare.
Another program, the Family Economic Security Program (FESP), started in 2008, supported low-income, single heads of household at Norwalk Community College. Over 100 adult students received services like intensive career coaching, peer-to-peer mentoring, and scholarships. Based on the program’s success, it was expanded to Housatonic Community College from 2015-2021, helping over 400 students. FESP is now available at CT State Community College Norwalk, CT State Community College Housatonic, and CT State Community College Gateway.
In 2015, with the Melville Charitable Trust, we led the Fairfield County Secure Jobs Funder’s Collaborative. This effort aimed to increase the income of families transitioning from homelessness to housing. The Collaborative connected families to education and professional development. We gave a two-year, $24,000 annual grant to Career Resources, Inc., a Bridgeport nonprofit workforce development organization, through the Collaborative.
Through education and thought leadership, we are building public will to advance income and asset building opportunities in our region. We’ve teamed up with the Urban Institute, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and DataHaven to study how inequities in areas like education, housing, jobs, and health affect our region and how making things more fair can bring economic benefits and other positive outcomes for all. As part of this project, we’ll also build a group of informed community leaders who can guide this research and future equity studies.
We are influencing public policy to narrow the racial wealth gap and reduce economic inequity and injustice. For instance, we supported a state program called CT Baby Bonds, which is the first of its kind in the U.S. The program aims to help bridge the wealth gap by creating investments for children in the state’s lowest-resourced households, which are disproportionately households of color. For every baby whose birth is covered by HUSKY (Medicaid), up to $3,200 is put into the CT Baby Bond Trust and managed by the Office of the Treasurer. When the child turns 18, they can use the money to start a business, buy a home, pay for college, or save for retirement. Through the Connecticut Urban Opportunity Collaborative, we partnered with other community foundations to invest $20,000 in launching the Baby Bonds Parent Advisory Council, which helped spread the word to families in our communities and shape how the CT Baby Bonds program is rolled out.
We support the policy agendas of advocacy organizations we fund by submitting public testimony and amplifying key messaging. During the 2023 Connecticut Legislative Session, we pushed for more money for affordable housing, noting that increasing housing opportunities can help people affected by racial injustice build wealth. These efforts contributed to policy wins, and the Legislature agreed to invest $200 million in the Housing Trust Fund and $200 million in the Flexible Housing Program.
We teamed up with CT Voices for Children to write an op-ed for the Hartford Courant called “Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But It Can Buy Health.” This piece explained how programs that give money directly to families, like a state-level Child Tax Credit, can help improve the health and education of kids in need. These programs have been proven to make a difference in the lives of families, helping them stay healthy, do well in school, and earn more money in the long run.
We’re also providing input on how funds from ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) can be given out in ways that the community thinks is best. In 2023, we partnered with the City of Norwalk to advise on their grant distribution process.
Through strategic grantmaking and helping nonprofits build their capacity to make an impact, we are strengthening economic-focused organizations working in Fairfield County. We invest in cradle-to-career collective impact programs that advance equity in education and career readiness, granting $90,000 in 2022 to three initiatives in Fairfield County:
• Bridgeport Prospers ($30,000)
• Norwalk ACTS ($30,000)
• Stamford Cradle to Career ($30,000)