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Project aims to gives financial boost to 1,000 low-income Central Texans

The St. David's Foundation, Google.org, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation announced Tuesday a $1.3 million grant that will bring a new anti-poverty project to Austin.

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN -- Just as the Move Baby, Move exercise program was gaining recognition in Louisiana and Texas, New Orleans resident and fitness specialist Aaron Palmer was shaken after his co-founder Meranda Varnado died.

Together, they had teamed up to create a music-based chair aerobics program for older adults. But in 2012, after Varnado’s death, Palmer said he was “in bad shape for a long time.”

About two years ago, Palmer decided to check out the Family Independence Initiative project, which is aimed at lifting low-income families by giving them direct access to funds. The anti-poverty project, he said, helped him refocus, plan and keep moving forward to fulfill his goals.

On Tuesday, the St. David’s Foundation, Google.org, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation announced a $1.3 million grant that will bring the initiative’s anti-poverty project to Austin. Over the next five years, the initiative plans to work with community-based organizations and other partners to reach 1,000 low-income Central Texas families.

The project challenges traditional anti-poverty program methods and instead gives working poor families access to up to $3,200 during the two-year partnership. Families set their own goals, such as buying a car or purchasing a home, and report back on how they used the money via a data platform that tracks their progress. Policymakers, foundations and companies learn through the data how to best provide resources.

“Low-income families, like all families, know what they need and thrive when they have choices, the ability to get and give help to their peers, and access to small amounts of capital to seed their initiative,” said Kimberly McPherson, senior program officer at St. David’s Foundation. “These ingredients allow families to make progress for themselves, and their community.”

Read the full story on the Austin American-Statesman, here.

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