We’re proud to announce the opening of the J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center, our one-stop financial stability center offering an array of programming to the citizens of New Orleans including financial education and coaching, credit building and counseling, benefits screening, and income tax assistance.
Located inside United Way’s offices on Canal Street, the new facility will also house United Way’s IDA Project, a matched savings account program helping low-income individuals purchase long-term assets through a 4:1 match of their own savings. The program is addressing the challenges of intergenerational poverty by providing opportunities for participants to purchase a new home or vehicle, start or expand a small business, or pay for post-secondary education – all through their IDA accounts.
These in-house financial stability resources will help empower low-to-moderate income families to achieve financial stability today and prosperity tomorrow, leading to more vibrant communities for us all. In the first year, the J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center is projected to serve more than 2,000 people referred from the City of New Orleans’ Network for Economic Opportunity’s Workforce Partnership Centers. These opportunity centers include Strive New Orleans, JOB1 Business and Career Solutions Center, Total Community Action, Urban League of Greater New Orleans, and Goodwill Industries. And today, we’re outlining our bold plan to expand the center’s offerings to each parish in our region.
J. Wayne Leonard, the Prosperity Center’s namesake and longest-serving head of Entergy Corporation, facilitated more than $50 million in charitable donations through Entergy aimed at moving people out of poverty and improving early childhood education. This October, Mr. Leonard was awarded United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s prestigious Tocqueville Society Award. During his powerful and inspiring acceptance speech, Mr. Leonard offered a surprise gift of $1 million toward UWSELA’s anti-poverty agenda. Entergy matched the generous gesture with a surprise $1 million gift of their own.
For years to come, Mr. Leonard's legacy will positively impact the people of Southeast Louisiana.
According to the ALICE Report, the study of financial hardship conducted with the help of our partners at Entergy, low-wage jobs continue to dominate our local economy while basic costs of living continue to outpace wages. In Orleans Parish, we’ve found that 27 percent of our neighbors are living below the Federal Poverty Line, while more than half are living below the ALICE threshold (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). These families and individuals include men and women, young and old, and myriad races and ethnicities. They are people that you see each and every day – the cashier at the grocery store, the server at your favorite diner – many taking on two and three jobs just to make ends meet. ALICE is unable to save for the future and is just one medical emergency, one car repair, or one harsh storm away from falling into poverty themselves.
United Way has recognized that many of our community’s social issues are rooted in poverty and we’ve put a stake in the ground around creating innovative solutions with our partners. United, we will eradicate poverty in Southeast Louisiana. And the J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center is a critical step in the right direction.