Northwest New Jersey Community Action Partnership
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The Environment and Poverty
Program of the Month


As industry began to develop throughout the United States during the Industrial Revolution and after, the areas closest to these center of productions began to suffer as new materials were fabricated by the ton and pollution was dumped into the air, water, and soil on a daily basis. Even as the country shifted from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based one and the factories began to shutter, the environmental cost of the industrial boom lingered on. Whereas the coal smoke and biological waste from the early years of the Industrial Revolution can be broken down by the environment, the newer chemical pollution can remain in the soil for centuries without a concerted effort to remove it. Many post-industrial plots of land have been identified as “Superfund” sites, or locations that need to be cleaned up because the lingering pollution poses a risk to human health or the environment. New Jersey currently has 150 such sites, roughly 8% of all superfund sites in the United States.

In addition to the significant environmental impact of such pollution, there is also a human cost to it as well. But while one would think that pollution in the air would affect everyone equally, the truth is that those who live closest to such sites are impacted much more, and those populations are frequently made up mostly of minorities or other marginalized groups. Compounding this is the increased rate of cancer and disease that can easily bankrupt people with no insurance, stop them from working, or kill them. The disproportionate about of exposure to environmental pollution that the poor receive compared to the middle class is the subject of environmental justice movements, which aims to ensure that the distribution of environmental benefits and burdens does not fall too heavily on one group at the expense of another.

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NORWESCAP has been offering the Individual Development Account (IDA) Program - Dollars To Dreams since 1999. This asset building tool program designed to enable low-income families to save towards a targeted amount usually used for building assets in the form of home ownership, post-secondary education and small business ownership. This most successful program works one to one with individuals with credit, budgeting, goal setting and of course asset accumulation.

One Hundred and ninety program enrolled participants have saved over $338,000.00, and with their savings their asset purchases total over $9,519,000.00. These assets included first time home buyers, small businesses including photography, pet sitting and cleaning services, and higher education included individuals receiving bachelors and master degrees.

NORWESCAP's Family Loan Program was established in 2001 to serve working individuals and families that might need a small loan to maintain their employment. This proven, innovative program provides small loans to low-income working families who cannot get loans elsewhere. It is based on the premise that life's unpredictable challenges – like repeated car breakdowns or child care difficulties – can easily plunge a family living on a marginal income into crisis and unemployment. By providing a combination of small loans and financial literacy counseling, the program provides help when a shortage of money threatens a family's ability to remain employed.

The Family Loan Program has loaned out over $535,000.00 with a current default rate of 4%.

Northwest New Jersey Community Action Program Inc.
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