Local programs aimed to help families get out of poverty deemed “missing link”

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A program to help pull families out of poverty is receiving national attention.The Washington Post calls three Financial Opportunity Centers in Kansas City "the missing link" to help the working poor climb the ladder of success.

The program is located at Rockhurst University's Prosperity Center, the Guadalupe Center and The Women's Employment Network.

Financial Opportunity Centers connect job training with one-on-one financial coaching. At Rockhurst's Prosperity Center, those struggling to make ends meet in the working class learn how to boost their credit ratings, eliminate debt and build savings.

The program focuses on helping families refinance student loans, get out from under pay-day loans and find careers that pay more than minimum wage and offer health insurance.

"Most people don't know how to improve their credit score that dramatically, but it's not that difficult," said Chris Vukas of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. "The financial coaches are really the key. They work directly with the clients. They allow the clients to set their own budget and to have their own financial goals, instead of telling the clients what their goals should be. That's really one of the big differences."

Vukas says those in the program have seen a 50 percent increase in their credit scores, thanks to the financial coaching. And in the last year the program has been up and running, it's helped 125 people move into better paying jobs.

This is not a job placement service. You must have employable skills, before coaches help you learn how to move up the ladder to a better position.