A multi-year public policy initiative that will explore personal finance themes, including employment, healthcare, debt and safety nets.
Project Resilience will:
- Explore public policy in response to the pandemic;
- Analyze economic impacts of policy efforts;
- Identify characteristics of financial resilience; and,
- Promote education around principles of resilience and financial preparedness.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a global economic collapse that affected households, communities, and the nation. The coronavirus pandemic created major challenges for all aspects of people’s lives – jobs, healthcare, housing, education, social networks, and overall well-being. Through Project Resilience, IEI will closely examine one critical issue families have faced during the pandemic and previous recessions: significant impacts on personal finances. According to a Robert Woods Johnson Foundation nationwide poll early in the pandemic, 46% of U.S. households reportedly faced major financial problems during the initial coronavirus surge. Respondents identified depleted household savings, and inability to pay debts and afford medical care as major contributors to their fiscal instability. North Carolinians’ financial reality mirrored national trends with 1 in 6 – or 17% – of adults reportedly in arrears on rent, and 28% citing difficulty with affording basic household expenses.
The economy cycles through periods of expansion (growth) and contraction (recession). Volatility in the market is to be expected; however, some are more vulnerable than others during these fluctuations. COVID-19 instigated a steep economic downturn that affected millions of people in different ways. During downturns, those who are financially secure can maintain and persist despite turbulent circumstances. During times of recession, people at the margins often suffer. Without proper safeguards in place to manage financial upheaval, economic downturns will continue to cause massive domino effects with far-reaching consequences.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to withstand hardship due to unreliable access to secure resource reserves that cover immediate needs. Financial resilience allows individuals to persevere while enduring financial distress over a sustained period of time. IEI recognizes that cultivating resilience is a complicated, multifaceted process that will take time, investment, practice, and effective policy implementation to achieve. The long-term goal of Project Resilience is to determine which aspects of resilience can be isolated and addressed so that North Carolinians can better prepare ahead of the next recession.
The Institute for Emerging Issues’ Project Resilience is a multi-year public policy initiative that will explore personal finance themes, including employment, healthcare, debt and safety nets. These themes are highly-correlated with fiscal stability, and a closer examination will help us better understand how positive and negative experiences in these areas promote, or discourage, financial well-being. We’ll also consider each issue area from different stakeholder perspectives (i.e credit unions and banks, local and state governments, and small businesses) in order to assess policy and program responses to fiscal distress. IEI will examine topic-specific research, interview subject matter experts, and convene group conversations to create a framework for our findings.
As we engage and explore key concepts related to financial resilience, the following questions will guide our work:
- How have credit unions and banks, businesses, local and state governments responded to the economic instability caused by COVID-19? How have these sectors responded in past recessions in an effort to support families experiencing financial distress?
- Which policies/programs were helpful? Which ones were less useful?
- What would it look like for NC to implement policies or programs that have a proven track record of promoting financial resilience?
Project Resilience will produce three summative products by the final year of engagement. Overall project deliverables include:
- An aggregate analysis of resilience-related efforts that leaders/organizations implemented, which had a positive impact on household finances.
- Proposed recommendations for credit unions and banks, businesses, state and local governments to guide their efforts in providing stabilizing support and resources for people in pursuit of financial stability.
- A toolkit developed for individuals and families so they are equipped with knowledge, resources, and support to weather financial storms.
Project Resilience is an exploratory effort – based on best practices research and community-engaged feedback – that is designed to promote greater financial preparedness and resilience for North Carolinians.
Alicia James, Policy and Program Manager