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For release on delivery
3:30 p.m. EST
February 22, 2021

Economic Inclusion in Lower-Income Communities
by
Michelle W. Bowman
Member
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
at
“Advance Together” Celebration
sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
(via webcast)

February 22, 2021

Thank you, President Kaplan, our Advance Together partners, and everyone here
for joining us today. I am honored to participate in this event and welcome the awardees
of this important initiative to celebrate your success. Today marks a significant milestone
in this effort to improve economic opportunity for residents of 25 counties across the
great state of Texas. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas created Advance Together as a
way to promote initiatives in Texas that reduce inequities in education and workforce
development, and these Implementation Awards recognize outstanding examples of
furthering those goals.
The Importance of Education and Workforce Development Initiatives
At the Federal Reserve, our community development mission is to promote
economic growth and financial stability across the country, particularly in vulnerable
communities. The ability to access quality education and training to build workforce
skills is critical for low-income workers seeking greater opportunity for themselves and
their families. Likewise, reducing the disparities in labor market opportunities among
individuals in our society helps to support broader economic growth and financial
stability.
These issues have taken on even greater importance over the past year. The
COVID-19 pandemic has upended our personal and professional lives and continues to
cause economic hardship for many Americans. While the economy has recovered
substantially from the effects of the pandemic, it is concerning to see signs that the
improvements have been uneven, with some households continuing to struggle with
unemployment and facing financial difficulty.

-2Information from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Household Economics
and Decisionmaking, or SHED, provides evidence of these disparities. 1 In the July 2020
responses to the SHED, many households reported major employment disruptions due to
COVID-19, including layoffs, reductions of hours, or unpaid leave. By mid-summer,
many of the affected individuals had returned to work, and many were receiving
unemployment insurance benefits and other financial assistance. Even so, unemployment
remained very high in July, and 23 percent of SHED respondents said they were either
“just getting by” or “finding it difficult to get by.” Not surprisingly, those experiencing
employment disruptions disproportionately reported that they were likely to have
difficulty paying their bills.
The survey showed that employment disruptions and financial challenges
disproportionately affected people of color and low-income families. And, unlike during
previous recessions, a larger share of working women than men were laid off from their
jobs. 2
For many families, the pandemic exacerbated existing financial challenges.
Economic mobility is largely driven by family financial stability and geographic
resources such as transportation, quality education, and broadband access. The Fed’s
research and its ongoing work in community development show that there is no quick fix
for the disparities in household financial stability. And no single organization or
government agency can solve these complex problems alone.

See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2020), Update on the Economic Well-Being of
U.S. Households: July 2020 Results (Washington: Board of Governors, September),
https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2019-report-economic-well-being-us-households-update202009.pdf.
2
See Board of Governors, Update on the Economic Well-Being, in note 1.
1

-3The Importance of Collaborative Efforts
This brings me to the importance of collaboration to address multidimensional
community issues. While affordable housing and quality jobs are two very visible needs
for low-income households, meeting these needs requires strategies that stretch across the
fabric of the whole community, including childcare, education and training,
transportation, and a safe and healthy environment. Collaboration between individuals
and organizations of different talents and strengths can help find the kind of holistic
solutions needed to bring greater opportunity to those at risk of being left behind in the
recovery.
Today, we are here to celebrate Advance Together, one such effort to foster
economic inclusion through innovative and collaborative programs. In 2020, the Federal
Reserve completed a review of “place based” community development initiatives, those
focused on a single community or area, across its 12 districts. While the place-based
initiatives varied in purpose, scope, and approach from community to community, the
very best of those local collaborations are reflected in Advance Together’s winning
proposals. Most notably, each of these community-driven initiatives uses evidence-based
research, fosters public–private partnerships, and promotes a collective vision for
success.
The four winners that we are honoring today are the Educate Midland and
Education Partnership of the Permian Basin; the Big Country Manufacturing Alliance,
based in Abilene; the Family Pathways 2-Gen Coalition in Austin; and the Deep East
Texas College and Career Alliance.

-4It has truly been a pleasure to learn about the unique and innovative efforts each
of you are undertaking to address the education and workforce challenges in your own
communities. Members of the Educate Midland & Education Partnership are analyzing
student data to deepen their understanding of student outcomes by race and to identify
practices that can reduce inequities in education and workforce development that limit
economic opportunity. The Big Country Manufacturing Alliance is streamlining training
and job placement for young workers interested in manufacturing careers. The Family
Pathways 2-Gen Coalition supports students with children on their path to a college
degree. And, finally, the Deep East Texas College and Career Alliance is helping rural
and first-generation college students attain post-secondary credentials that are in demand
by employers.
Just as Advance Together benefited from past place-based initiatives, the lessons
learned from your local collaborations will inform and influence new community
strategies going forward. I look forward to following your efforts to create economic
opportunity in communities across Texas. It’s really an honor to join in your celebration
today. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all of the participants.