Volume 1, Issue 6                                                                             August 2015
In This Issue

Executive Profile: Jacob Maas

Heating credit deadline 
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MCA's Mission
To serve member agencies  and strengthen their capacity to alleviate the causes and circumstances of poverty.

August 25

Community Action Partnership 2015 Annual Convention

EITC facts 
for support 

In an effort to fund Michigan road repairs and improvements, some legislators are pushing to eliminate the Michigan Earned Tax Credit (EITC), a tool that grants working families some tax relief.  The $117 million potentially saved by eliminating the EITC is minimal compared to the $1 billion plus needed for the transportation plan.  Here are some facts and talking points about EITC:


EITC was cut in 2011...
  • In 2011, lawmakers cut the credit from 20 percent to 6 percent, causing a $285 million tax hike on the lowest earners
  • Businesses were given a $1.65 billion tax break while thousands of low-income families suffered
It's not a government handout...
  • Households eligible for the tax credit pay a greater share of their income to state and local taxes than wealthy people do
  • The credit is only for those who work and pay taxes
It has economic benefits...
  • Boosts local economies by allowing low-wage workers to keep more income
  • Money is spent locally on groceries, car repairs or children's daycare
  • For every $1 spent in a community, EITC would generate $1.67 in new economic activity
If eliminated...
  • About 820,000 working class families will lose the credit
  • It would be the second time in five years law makers have raised taxes on low income families
I f restored to 20 percent...
  • Tax credit would help lift more than 15,000 families out of poverty
  • Economic prospects of 800,000 families would be improved
Deadline for home heating tax credit 
September 30 SideStory3

  Low-income homeowners can get about $140 toward utility bills if they file for a home heating credit before September 30.

   The credit is designed to provide assistance to low-income residents or veterans with disabilities, including those who are hearing or sight impaired. Michigan residents who are not in these groups may also qualify for the credit.  It can be for either renters or homeowners, and helps participants avoid energy bill debt.


For more information, click here.

Have a Catalyst story idea?
Is there a story or issue you'd like to see covered in Catalyst?
Let us know what's happening in your agency or region.  Recent events?  People news?  We welcome your input and feedback.  Please send your comments and ideas to:
In last month's Catalyst, we neglected to include the Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED) in the list of host sites with Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps (MFPC) AmeriCorps programming.  OCED is focusing exclusively on the Financial Empowerment component, which is the second new programming focus of MFPC this year. 

Summer conference recapFeatureStory

Community Action leaders unleash 'people power'

MCA's Kate White introduces speakers at the July conference.
   More than 240 Community Action leaders from across the state gathered last month to tackle agency opportunities and challenges during MCA's annual summer conference.
   Along with strategizing ways to increase self sufficiency among families in their communities, attendees gained insight on leadership, communication and collaboration. 
   National leadership consultant Jonathan Michael Bowman inspired MCA leaders to create clear visions to empower people and effect change in communities through his keynote address, "The Fine Art of People Power."
   Other conference speakers included Valerie Brader, director of Michigan Agency for Energy; Marcella Wilson, executive director of Matrix Human Services; and Brian Mills, chief operating officer of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. 

MAE's goal: Getting energy policy right to benefit peopleMAE

Valerie Brader of MAE speaks at MCA's         conference.
   Ensuring affordable access to energy for Michigan residents, especially low-income populations, was a key focus at MCA's conference last month, including a presentation by Valerie Brader, director of the newly created Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE). 
   "There are real human costs to getting energy wrong and real human benefits to getting it right," Brader told the audience of MCA leaders.  "Michigan is still above the national average for energy use and the best way to cut costs is to use less and waste less."  Noting that offering utility assistance to families who need it can have far-reaching positive effects, such as improving education outcomes for children and reducing unemployment, Brader explained the state's energy goals and challenges and outlined the governor's recent message on energy. 
   The agency is looking for ways to reduce Michigan's dependence on coal in favor of newer, cleaner technologies and increase overall reliability, such as lessening the number of power outages and investing in the state's power grid and pipeline system to ensure smooth, safe operations.  
   "Some communities still have mercury streetlights, which have been illegal since the 70s," Brader mentioned as an example.  "They were grandfathered in but it's time to replace them."  
   "We greatly appreciate your leadership on energy policy," MCA Executive Director Kate White commented during the question and answer session.  "Your energy knowledge and experience is a tremendous asset to the state and to our organization as well."
   Brader joined the Snyder administration in 2011, when she served as deputy legal counsel and senior policy adviser to the governor.  She is a former partner with Bodman PLC, practicing environmental and corporate law.  She earned two master's degrees from the University of Oxford and a juris doctorate at the Georgetown Law Center.  She completed undergraduate work at Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges.  
   Marcella Wilson, Ph.D, came to Bellaire to tell MCA conference attendees about her agency's efforts to alleviate poverty in Detroit.
   In her position as president and CEO of Matrix Human Services - a nonprofit that serves children, youth, families and adults -- Wilson helped create a system of care trademarked Transition to Success (TTS) with programs based on the premise that poverty is a condition that requires treatment, rather than a weakness or character flaw.
   The program trains direct care professionals across health, education, government and human services to address the economic, health-related and educational barriers to self-sufficiency by coordinating existing, already funded services into a logical, step-by-step process.
   Wilson says that treating poverty and the social determinants in an effort to prevent negative health and educational outcomes makes both clinical and fiscal sense.
   A lifelong Michigan resident, Wilson has more than 30 years of experience in health care and social work services.  Her work at Matrix has been showcased on the "CBS Evening News," in The New York Times and at Harvard University.

MSHDA COO says partnership with MCA can benefit MichiganMAE

Brian Mills of MSHDA speaks at MCA's conference.
   Brian Mills, chief operating officer at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), told attendees at Michigan Community Action's Summer Conference that MSHDA wants to partner with MCA to address local needs.
   MSHDA assistance could take several forms, including training seminars, delivery of services and customer assistance, Mills said.
   He noted that some resources managed by MSHDA are dwindling.  Community Development Block Grant funding is becoming increasingly limited and coming with additional strings attached.
   Mills joined MSHDA in May, filling the new COO position which was created to maintain continuity following recent turnover among executive directors.
   "Hopefully the new structure is helpful to our partners as well, but we'll let you be the judge and jury of that," he said.
   MSHDA's mission is to build on its self-sustaining model and help Michigan grow through making wise investments, Mills said, noting that MSHDA staff and its board of directors will work on a new strategic plan this fall.
Executive Profile:  Jacob Maas executive
Challenges for ACSET 
similar after 30 years
   When groups join hands to help a community thrive, the impact is far-reaching, says Jacob Maas, executive director of the Area Community Services & Training Council (ACSET) in Grand Rapids. 
   "I always like the fact that we are not doing this alone.  We can have an impact on one individual, one family or an entire community.  It's the partnerships we've developed that are making a difference."
   Maas has led ACSET for 2½ years.  A Hope College graduate, he came to the agency first as a contract administrator for Michigan Works! for Kent, Allegan and Barry counties.  Maas says the challenges confronting the agency today are not unlike those from decades earlier.  Food, energy assistance and housing remain key areas of focus.  ACSET celebrates its 30 th anniversary in 2015.  
   "The perception is that the economy is better, but to a lot of our clients it's not getting better. The cost of living has gone up.  In Grand Rapids - and west Michigan in general - the (improved) economy is hampering our clients' ability to afford quality housing."
   The economic landscape across Kent County (population 600,000) varies, Maas notes.
    "We have pockets of strong neighborhoods, and others that have been left behind."
     Still, there are inspiring success stories, which Maas says are powerful to witness.  He recalls one elderly couple that received assistance from ACSET's commodity foods program.  Later, they raised a garden in their backyard, and brought some of their harvest to help other ACSET clients.
   "They're on a fixed income, and though they can't afford much, they're giving back.  To be part of this is so inspiring.  I'm privileged."
    A special thanks to our conference sponsor Consumers Energy for its participation and support.