The Cooperative Ministry (TCM) has worked with under-served low-income populations since 1982 when five faith congregations in Columbia, South Carolina established TCM to help prevent homelessness, hunger, and utility shut-offs among households with inadequate financial resources and social supports. Today, TCM provides crisis assistance and financial sustainability programs to support low-to-moderate income wage earners in their efforts to live out of poverty.
Our programs and services are developed with input from our Congregational Advisory Committee. Representatives of our supporting congregations meet bi-monthly to assist with assessing community needs and developing strategies for addressing needs while minimizing duplication of services.
In fiscal year 2013-14, TCM provided 8,394 crisis assistance services to 3,620 unduplicated heads of household. Crisis Assistance services include rent/mortgage and utility payments, gas and bus vouchers, food pantry, hygiene kits, clothing and furniture bank; health insurance premium payments, prescription medication subsidies, and assessments of eligibility for public benefits. Households in Richland County zip codes 29203, 29204, and 29210 receive 51% of TCM’s crisis assistance services. The median household incomes in the three zip codes are $31,191, $33,060, and $36,606, respectively, as compared to Richland County’s median income of $48,359.
Financial education and asset building for low-income populations are key elements of TCM’s sustainability initiatives: Autos for Opportunities, Insurance Premium Assistance, and Financing Your Future. Each program addresses an aspect of individual development that is linked by research to improved economic outcomes over the lifespan.
Vehicles are donated to the Autos for Opportunities program by individuals, businesses, and other non-profit organizations to enable adults to work and build wealth for themselves and their families. To date, the program has provided 655 refurbished cars to employed heads of household whose incomes on entering the program are 185% or less of the federal poverty level.
TCM’s Insurance Premium Assistance Program is two-fold. Certified Application Counselors help consumers who are in need of health insurance explore their options for obtaining insurance through Healthcare.gov or other publicly-funded programs. Grant funding provides subsidies to help consumers who meet income and other criteria purchase private health insurance and access health care.
Financing Your Future (FYF) provides financial education for TCM program participants, ex-offenders who are re-entering the community, and for low-income community residents at large. Community-based workshops are offered twice monthly—at noon and 5:30 p.m.—to accommodate working adults. Manning Correctional Institution hosts bi-weekly sessions at the prison for inmates who are within 3 months of release. Volunteers from banks, credit unions, insurance companies, law offices, credit counseling programs, and chambers of commerce serve as workshop facilitators.