Apr 8, 2022
In the Manager Minute Studio today is David Leon, Director of Workforce Programs at the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) along with host of the Manager Minute podcast, Carol Pankow.
Find out how the projects David has led are shaping the approach that Virginia is taking in relation to work incentives counseling (benefits planning). What is the overall structure? Why did DARS see it as imperative to develop the capacity for work incentives counseling in Virginia beyond what is provided by the WIPA(Work Incentives Planning and Assistance)?
Find out what resources and tools David is recommending and what advice he has for you.
· Next Gen Personal Finance https://www.ngpf.org/
You can find out more about VRTAC-QM on the web at:
Work Incentives Counseling---Finding the incentive to engage in work incentives counseling with Virginia DARS!
Speaker1: Manager Minute brought to you by the VRTAC for Quality Management. Conversations powered by VR, one manager at a time, one minute at a time. Here is your host, Carol Pankow.
Carol: Well, welcome to the Manager Minute. I am so fortunate to have David Leon with me in the studio today. David's the director of workforce programs at the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, or, as you all endearingly refer to it as DarS. So, David, how are things going at DarS?
David: Excellent. Thank you for having me and thank you for asking.
Carol: Well, I was doing a little LinkedIn research about you, and I see you have been with the agency for over 11 years, and you're really known as a powerhouse in the VR community with some super creative work, especially as it relates to the agency's goal of helping those populations that experience both disability and poverty. And I learned that Virginia Diaries was awarded one of the announced Disability Innovation Fund grants, and I would definitely like to hear more about that at a later date. So, I'm gathering that the projects you've led and continue to lead on behalf of DARS with support from your commissioner, Cathy Hayfield, have really helped shape the approach that Virginia is taking in relation to benefits planning. And on a side note, I saw you're also a recent graduate from George Washington University with your master's in VR counseling. I always have to give a plug. My employer, I really admire you for going back to school and accomplishing that.
David: Thank you.
Carol: So today we're going to tackle the topic of benefits planning and learn more about the success of Virginia DARS has experienced. Now, when I asked around about VR best practices, your name kept coming up over and over again. And I know many agencies do kind of a one and done with benefits planning. They get something on the plan, they kind of move on. And my understanding is that your agency has gone far beyond that. So, let's dig in. What is the overall benefits planning structure in your agency?
David: Thank you, Carol. And let me start by saying anything we have been successful at here in Virginia is really based on our commissioner commitment to this work. The agencies buy into the value of this work in a systemic way, along with what we find as best practices from other agencies. I'm very proud of the work we do here in Virginia, and there are many other states with different approaches who we have borrowed pieces of over the years. Basic approach to benefits counseling is around what that looks like as a culture within the agency. To that end, we've done several things that I want to touch on first, and those include an expectation that all counselors go through VCU's intro to benefits course. That is something that all of our placement staff and our VR counselors are expected to go through. Every client who is potentially on benefits is expected to have within their IEP work incentive services. So, from an agency cultural perspective, there are a couple of things that are important there. We want our counselors to know at least a little bit about the subject and hence the reason that they go through the introduction to disability benefits. That's the course offered every month or two through the WIPPA program. That is the very basic six-part session on Intro to SSI, Intro to SSDI benefits. We also want all of our clients to get these services. The other piece that's important in Virginia is we don't refer to this as benefits counseling. We refer to it as work incentive counseling and work incentive services.
The reason being we don't want to focus on benefits. We want to focus on work. You get what you focus on, and we want to focus on maximum employment and maximum earned income for our clients. So, another piece that's a little bit unique to Virginia, I think, is that every individual who goes through work incentives, counseling will be shown one example of what their life might look like if they are completely off cash benefits. Whether it's possible or not, we want every one of our clients to think it could be possible one day, and we want to create a document that kind of has a shelf life so that maybe you're not ready today, but maybe next year you get that opportunity after your case closed and you're going to have a report in front of you that might show you, Oh, now that I'm earning this much, it says I should look for these work incentives. So that's a little bit about the structure for within the agency. From a counselor perspective. Within our structure, we also have work incentives, specialist advocates. Those are people trained either through Cornell University or VCU, to provide work incentive services or benefits counseling as the rest of the country knows of it. And those individuals often work for employment networks and have partnership plus relationships. They don't always. But that is a best practice for our agency. And that's so that if somebody does choose to work their way off cash benefits, there's a natural link to an employment network and to continue to receive those services after post closure from the same people who provided them during the case.
We also within our structure have a work incentive specialist whose sole job is to provide training for our counselors and those work incentive specialists each month we do state. Specific trainings on our state Medicaid system. Other things related to Virginia, how to use reports for counseling and guidance, and those hours count usually for their continuing education. So that's a really nice thing. It's a way to help make sure the people we have trained to provide services stay current. The other thing our work incentive specialists does is provides quality control. When a newly credentialed practitioner wants to provide services in Virginia, they have to share their first several reports with our work incentive specialists who double checks them, make sure they're correct and they are not allowed to provide the services independently without sending them until the person who works for me says You are good to go and that does something else. Know you think of rapid engagement. It creates a relationship between newly trained benefits practitioners and our staff in charge of quality control, so that when something wonky comes up, they know who to ask and they feel comfortable asking. That's a really key part of our system. The last thing that's unique to Virginia, we have state specific software that all of our work incentive specialists use when they're working, a case where you put in the scenarios earning X amount of dollars and it will do the math for you, along with provide an output of what potential work incentives might apply.
And what we require are a couple of things. For a report to be completed and shared with the client and counselor, there has to be a copy of that individual's benefit planning query known as the BPI. The rationale for making sure that's a piece of it is sometimes we learn things that will really be important to the counseling and guidance process. For instance, if someone has a rep payee or an authorized rep, that's an additional conversation with the VR counselor about who might need to be at the table when it comes to talking about work goals. If someone has an overpayment on their benefit planning query, that might be an indication that we need to really hit home on the importance of wage reporting or budgeting, or other aspects related to what that overpayment has done to a case. So those are some reasons for that document. Another thing that's a little bit different about how we do our work world summary and analysis, which is the Virginia version of a benefit summary and analysis. We require the actual use of that individual's IP goal. And again, it's another opportunity to utilize Virginia specific labor market information around what the wages look like at 20 hours a week or full time for the types of jobs they're looking at. Again, everywhere through this process, we are reinforcing that value and goal of employment.
The other nice thing about that is by the time someone gets to that work incentive specialist to go through the Work World Report, the individual might suddenly say, well, they want to do something different than is the goal in their plan. It's another point where we can ensure consistency with the client and their counselor. So, all of those are parts of what this first product looks like. The work world summary and analysis. We have a bunch of different services available. All of them are a la carte after that Work World Report and they are designed to be based as needed and outcome based. So, whereas you can go to the WIPA project, and you might be given advice, you might not necessarily be given things in writing, or if you're in the hierarchy at a place where you're going to get a benefit summary and analysis. If you say, I want to know what happens if I go to work 20 hours a week, you're going to get a report that shows that our clients come into a work world report and say, I want to know what happens if I'm going to work 20 hours a week. We say we're going to show you that, but we're going to also show you what it's like to work 25 hours a week using these two work incentives. And we're going to show you what it might look like working 40 hours a week, totally off benefits, because if someone hasn't imagined it, we don't want to artificially limit their potential for work.
Some of the other services we offer through our work incentive services assistance with for achieving self support that's paid in two parts, one for submitting it and a second payment. If approved, we can help with impairment related work expenses. Blind work expenses. Student Earned Income Exclusions Subsidies. Medicaid Works. Our state's Medicaid buy in Virginia is a 209 B state, so we pay to help people get 1619 B protection. We will pay to help someone with an overpayment. We will pay to help someone set up an individual development account and able now account. We will pay to help someone get section 301 protection. And then under financial empowerment, we will pay for financial health assessments. We created a pre service called Maximizing Employment Potential through career pathways, we call it Max. And that's really kind of a choose your own adventure about career and money. We're really excited about that. It's still got some kinks to work out, but some of our providers have really created some cool tools there. And then we have a. Couple of services around budgeting skills, using financial empowerment tools. So that's all the different services we have currently. And again, each one, the individual only gets paid when they have proof, they've provided the service or in many of those work incentives, when that work incentive has been applied to the individual's case within Social Security or sometimes within our state social services system.
Carol: Well, I like what you said about you get what you focus on. So obviously starting out by focusing as an agency, you've made it important for your counselor. So that came through really loud and clear by everyone having that exposure to at least that introductory level training through VCU. So that I thought was really cool. And then also ensuring you're incorporating that into the plan that they must do that. I do have a question, though. I wondered about that state specific software, kind of that technology piece, like what did it take to get that all cooking?
David: That was something that existed before I got here. It was developed by folks at VCU and was developed as a policy tool for Social Security Administration. Things moved on. We had the opportunity to move it to be specific to Virginia and move it to the Web. So, we've taken ownership of that and continue to update it each year. And now it is just a Virginia specific tool with our kind of rules and thresholds built in. But it started well before I got here as a policy tool that then was converted to be used in Virginia. There is something similar that is called DB 101. I shouldn't say similar. It's very different because if another state wanted the tool we had, we would just give it to them and say, Hey, maybe help cover part of the development costs for any changes and another state would have to pay to get their specifics put in. But what I really appreciated about it is two or three different work incentive specialists could put the exact same information in in different parts of the state, and the math would be the same. That's cool, and that's really important because that stuff is not always right. And the other thing that's nice about it, I haven't looked at DB 101 in a long time, but last I checked, that tool was more designed as a self-service tool, and a lot of our clients don't know if they get SSI or SSDI.
They don't always have a full picture, and I would never want to trust such a complex system to someone who hasn't really been trained to look for potential discrepancies and errors, especially. I guess the other thing oh, I heard from a friend of a friend who said, don't ever work more than this many hours because this thing happened. Right? We all hear the stories, and every situation is different, and you can never know that other situation to really compare it to your own. The other thing I just wanted to add about our approach with our counselors, because we've had some staff also trained to do more than just that basic level. One of the things we are fortunate to have here in Virginia is Wilson Workforce Rehabilitation Center. I believe eight states have comprehensive centers, much like WWRC, we have a staff at WWRC who is trained to provide all of the work incentive services. And that individual is one of the few internal staff who regularly provides these services in a comprehensive way. So, if someone goes to the center for other things, they might get some of these other services there.
But we've also at times trained some other staff in these at a higher level, not with the expectation that they actively practice. We wanted people around the state to be able to triage or to know if somebody needed a referral. So strategically, we had trained our autism subject matter expert. We had trained the person who was in charge of PreETSs We had trained the person who was in charge of small business, set up self-employment. So, we had trained some other folks and a few counselors here and there. Again, not with the expectation that they provide services, but those folks who might be in a room with a broad audience and get asked a question and be able to say, Oh, you need this person and understand that based on that question, they needed some extra help. And so, some of those staff and the positions I mentioned have come and gone. But we continue to when the opportunities come up, try to add other internal staff just again to have more people at that next level understanding. And I think right now we have maybe three different VR office managers who are credentialed through Cornell and maybe one who's credentialed through VCU. And we have a district director who has their benefits practitioner credentials.
Carol: That's super strategic. Like you've been super strategic about that. When I think about the PreETS or the small business, all those different areas that has been smart to spread that out commonly. I just think back to my own agency. You have like one person, you know, there's that one person that knows it. They're the keeper, you know, the keeper of the knowledge and the other people. Have a little smuedge. I like what I'm hearing. You know, when you talked about that another state could take the what you've got developed, you know, that software basically they'd have to pay to get it developed with their data and such for their state. So, you guys are open to that?
David: Absolutely. Yeah. We worked on a grant and then get what happened. We were going to do a grant with another state where the grant would have covered it for them. I don't remember what happened, to be honest with that potential project. Maybe in the end we found out we got something else at that time in our ability to do both was and I'm learning with the RSA diff one new grant at a time is plenty.
Carol: Yeah, right. Good advice. So, I'm going to take you back a little minute because obviously you didn't just dive into the middle of this. This came from somewhere. So why did DARS see it as imperative to develop this capacity? And so, I'm not going to use my benefits planning for this work incentive counseling in Virginia, you know, beyond what's provided by the work incentive planning and assistance, those weapons, what's kind of that bigger picture?
David: You know, first, the WIPA projects fantastic. It's a great resource. It's important to remember they've gone from 113 to 107 to 93 to 87. The number of projects continues to go down, meaning the number of individuals that need to be served or could be served by each has gone up at the same level. Funding from when with a began funding has not changed. It's important to know. So, in a state like Virginia, where we have over 300,000 people potentially eligible for services, what we were finding is the clients of our agency were not always getting the services they needed just in time based on where they were at. And sometimes you have clients who are doing self-directed job searches, you have all sorts of folks. Some people could wait, but sometimes people couldn't, and that was creating issues. The other issue in Virginia, we are one of a lucky few states that's called a 209b state, which means Medicaid protection is not automatic. We were helping people get great jobs and some of them were losing their Medicaid prior to the Medicaid expansion and prior to the buy in through no fault of their own. But because they didn't know they had to apply and had a very tiny window to apply to keep their Medicaid. So, when our state had the Medicaid infrastructure grant in the early 2000, developing this program was a piece of it. And originally the folks who went through it were called Work Incentive Specialist Advocates, and they were called Work Incentive Specialist Advocates because of the advocacy piece around making sure those protections would be in place from Department of Social Services and DMS and Medicaid.
That's really where this program began. Truth be told, my start was in this field through a local community service board. I started as a job coach and then I went to manage a sheltered work program, and when I was there early 2000, I was really surprised that some of the folks who were in my program that in my mind could be working and, in each case, something had happened related to their benefits that I didn't understand. But when this program was started, I was a provider, and I was in the first cohort to be trained as a work incentive specialist advocate. That was in 2005. The program didn't really do much in terms of what DARS had hoped in those early years. I was using it and I was thrilled that I had access to the person at the time who was the work incentive specialist, and we were able to work through those cases within the sheltered work program I was in where they were. At the very least, I was able to help folks move to enclaves and hourly pay from sub minimum. So that was a really nice thing to watch. So, you're talking to someone who believes in this from every level of how work incentives can help.
Carol: Which is why your name keeps coming up. You're kind of the pioneer. You've been doing it for a while.
David: I just got lucky. I got very lucky to understand how it could help people I cared about that were underemployed. I came to the state. We had this program. It wasn't really going anywhere. And the way we had done the training the first time, the training I had was fantastic. It was through a specific organization that wasn't providing it anymore. We had to restart and my former boss, Dr. Joe Ashley, who's a brilliant guy, was like, David, what should we do? How can we restart this? And I was working on the Ticket to Work program, and my thought was, what if we invite people who have been through this or who are willing to go through this that are willing to become employment networks because having those services at the employment network would be a reason for someone to choose to keep their ticket after case closure. And it might provide reasons for them to get other cases that might not come to DARS, he agreed. We used innovation and expansion dollars and partnered with Cornell University at the time to offer several rounds of training. When I got here, we had roughly 40 people who had maintained their credentials and said they were interested. Now we have 110 people today that are active and are currently fully credentialed. That doesn't include the internal staff. And by pairing this with the rest of the Ticket to Work program, I think it helped some of those agencies see the potential, and it definitely slowly helped those that chose to become employment networks create another stream of revenue because we as a VR can think something is important all day long.
But if we don't provide tangible benefits for our partners in the community, well, they might support someone going through the training, but are they going to support giving them the time to do the work? Right. So, when I got here, we didn't really spend any money on those services. And now each year we spend between 400 and 500,000 a year in case service dollars on different work incentives. And what I'd say is our cost reimbursement has gone up. Now, I'm not a researcher. I can't say that it's a direct causation that spending this amount has led to this increase in our program income through cost reimbursement. But we have seen a nice increase in that area that looks like it trends along the same lines of our growth in the work incentives. And I will say that when you look at our numbers in terms of our rehab rate, which isn't as important these days with other changes, but it was significantly higher for those individuals that had work incentives services earlier in the process when we were able to hear the people who didn't get it, here are the people that did. It was about a 25-percentage point higher rehab rate for those that had work incentives and that remained constant as we continued to grow it. We don't track that anymore because again, it's not how we're measured these days, but it was a pretty cogent argument for the continued increase and development of these services.
Carol: So, I want to circle back on the money for a minute. So, you talked about using innovation expansion funds to start and then you made investments with your program income to help fund. Have you used any other kind of funds? Is that all been sort of VR money or has there been any other kind of funding that's helped you to kind of scale this up?
David: Interesting you ask again; we are always looking to improve. Right. And there were those promise grants a few years ago. One of the things that came out of that, and I think California did this work, California worked with Cornell University on a course related to youth benefits counseling. We are using pre dollars right now and we are offering the Cornell youth training to all of our current wishes for free. So, something they're not spending $650 on. Right. We're offering them the chance to get this second credential. And we're also offering it to our staff who have completed the introduction to Social Security disability class through VCU. They can't get the certification because they aren't fully credentialed. But again, we are trying to infuse this next level how to talk to families about money for their sons and daughters. So, we are doing that right now. I think people are a little zoomed out. I thought for sure each of these sessions would be 100% full. We're averaging 25 to 30 instead of the 40 I'd hoped. But again, we keep trying things and we keep trying things that incorporate our work incentive specialists around the state, our field staff. What things can we do that will help further align these goals? And then another thing we've tried, but again, on a very small scale, we have a Nadler grant around financial empowerment and able accounts, and it involves some financial coaching. And through that project, I've been able to pay for about five staff to become certified in financial social work again. And we pick people who are with us. Why? Because we're trying to really figure out how the financial empowerment piece fits, because the more I've seen, the more I'm convinced that they go hand in hand.
Carol: I agree. So, what do you hear from your staff? Like you guys have made this an incredible investment in staff. There's all these different levels and I'm sure some folks really like that. More specialization in this area. What does staff think of all this? And be honest.
David: I wonder if they tell me the truth. I mean, Drew, here comes Dave. He's going to talk about Social Security benefits or financial empowerment again. No, I think when people get it, they start to get it more and more. And what excites me is when you hear more nuanced questions like I've heard everything from why isn't this a requirement in your master's in rehab counseling? Like, I've heard all sorts of things about it. And I think what's nice is we now provide at least a one hour training every month. That's specifically for counselors. It's not mandatory, but we get 40 to 50 every month that sign up. We also are willing to go to different offices so regularly we will go to an office and do an hour to an hour and a half presentation and then my staff will stay to do one on one staffing. So, in terms of strategy of building the capacity, I think the way you provide information to the field, even now when we do it virtually, we're about to have a training later this month for a specific office. We're going to set the training from 10 to 1130, and then one of three people from my team will be available for the next two and a half hours. Half hour increments for any of the staff to staff some cases. Right. You just heard it. How do we engage you right now with your caseload to make sure we're answering your questions that might not have been as appropriate for that group discussion?
Carol: You're high energy. So, I'm sure as you bring it across, it's not like, oh, well, we're going to do this work incentives stuff. And here's another thing to do, because then they can see the value to them and in the end to the customer. I mean, that's the ultimate goal. It's getting people where they want to be and having the information so they can make an informed decision about what they're doing.
David: Absolutely. I love it. The other thing we do a lot and I have to do this less and less, which is great. But when we were building it, any time there was a good success story that included benefits counseling, I would write it up and I would turn it in so that our commissioner saw. So, I was trying to support and encourage almost like that growth mindset, form of communication. How can I write about someone's behaviors as a counselor that were doing what I needed them around benefits, counseling as a big positive? We did a lot of that early on. Like if a counselor got to see their name in a weekly report that they didn't write up, it added to their social capital. Right. It was a positive reinforcement.
Carol: And you guys are good at social media, like your commissioner is fabulous. So, I follow Cathy on social media too in Virginia.
David: DARS Cathy is amazing at that. In fact, she has taught me more about that than I believe it. I now I think about that stuff, and I never would have ten years ago.
Carol: So, what resources would you recommend for agencies who would like to expand their capacity to discuss a client's financial situation? I know there's probably some really great tools or something out there that you could help out with.
David: Now we're on to more of the financial empowerment, right? I think there are a few things. And first is, how do you get counselors to feel comfortable talking about finances? Right. We've gone to grad school for this master's and rehab counseling, but maybe we have credit card debt, maybe we've had a bankruptcy, maybe we've had a bill we couldn't pay on time. How do you get counselors to feel okay about that? That's the first thing. And we offer some trainings we've developed here in Virginia around like working with people in poverty as a form of cultural competency that I'm really proud of that work. And again, some of it we took from some great work from Kentucky. We added and grew it through our targeted communities’ projects and some other projects and really try to help with a kind of behavioral economics framework for why clients may make some of the decisions they do. But the tools I love the most and that we support the most are twofold. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Your Money, Your Goals Toolkit is phenomenal. All of their materials are free to use. They allow for co-branding. So, for our partners, if they want to use their materials, they can put their own logo on them. So, it adds again, it adds to the perceived value you can go through and pick specifically the tools you need for any given situation. FDIC is money smart. They have money smart for youth, for adults, for various ages. And the money smart curriculum is in line with the standards of learning, at least for the state of Virginia and most states that have a financial education, financial literacy requirement in school.
One of the things that makes this work easier, frankly, in Virginia is that a are commissioner gets it or commissioner full on believes in the importance of financial literacy and financial empowerment. In fact, when we talk about the folks who are working their way off cash benefits, we don't necessarily talk about the money. We talk about how many people we helped work their way out of poverty. Right. And that's how she likes to frame it. So, you take your cues from your leader. Commissioner Hayfield firmly supports this work. But the other tools that we really like here in Virginia and have been fortunate to be able to use, we use some tools from next gen personal finance. That is one of the most incredible nonprofits I've ever had the pleasure of getting to work with or meet any of their folks. All of their tools are really geared towards that K through 12 teacher who might be working within the financial literacy or financial education space, maybe those economics teachers in high school, personal finance, but they have developed some amazing tools and we use some of them regularly. And I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the National Disability Institute. We use a lot of their tools, and our financial health assessment actually was developed during our career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities Grant with the help of the National Disability Institute. So, I think they're still there. But when we were developing this tool, I had lots of experts to run ideas off of, and when we had staff go through the financial social work program, we took that opportunity to revisit our financial health assessment and see if what we learned would change. And sure enough, we rewarded almost all of the questions to be more matter of fact so no one would feel bad about themselves. The way the question was worded, we made them all much more neutral, really. And I think all of those tools have been fantastic. To me, it's what is someone going to feel comfortable using and how is someone going to speak to this work in an authentic voice where they feel comfortable and proficient and there's 20 other tools out there. Most major banks have financial literacy programs you can get from their websites. We are just starting to partner with the State of Virginia Credit Union and we're going to try some other things with them. And then at our center, see, we are about to try a program called Cares for Youth that was established and created by a federal bankruptcy judge. Again, I guess he ran into people declaring bankruptcy more than once and thought that there should be some other help for folks. But we didn't have training in that when I went to high school. Now in Virginia, you don't graduate without a class in personal finance. It would have been very helpful because I can tell you firsthand, I have probably five shirts that have Visa, American Express logos on them with my college mascot. And I definitely had some debt because I thought the shirts were cool and they seemed free at the time.
Carol: I think the free is the is the key word there seemed. Yes. So, yeah. So, you have brought up like a ton of tools. And for our listeners out there, what advice would you give them if they're sitting in an agency where maybe they haven't spent a lot of thought about this? And we know that has happened across the country. People have just had different focuses. There's been different things going on. But for somebody that wants to get started because you guys are well down the road, like, what advice would you get for even kind of getting focused in this area?
David: Someone who works for a VR agency, there are several areas I am particularly interested in effecting change related to this work, so I can talk about those very easily. How many individuals that we successfully place have their jobs potentially put at risk when something that should be a known recurring expense comes back up? But it's more than 20 or $30. Example, someone needs hearing aids. They're hearing aids are not working as well. Their job performance comes down while they go on our waitlist to get new hearing aids. Why isn't the discussion at closure around this is going to be an ongoing medical expense that you might need down the road? How are you going to budget for this now? That's a loaded thing for me to say because everybody's situation is different. But if we don't at least have the conversation, that assumes everybody must always come back for this service over and over and over. And I'm not saying that nobody should ever come back, but we owe it to all of our clients to have the conversations. Another example, there was a study in 2013. It may have changed, but 47% of job applicants included a credit check. How do we help people understand how their financial behaviors affect job propositions and employability? It's a key part in this ever-changing world. We have clients who may need to move for a job. The amount they might pay for a vehicle or rent could change based on that credit report. These are real world things. It's not something I'm just saying these things actually happen. The rate you get for various loans is dependent on those credit scores.
You might be taken out of an interview pool because of your credit report, especially for certain industries. So, from being in a place where our job is to get people jobs, financial empowerment can reduce the barriers to employment. I believe that 100%. And if we're not looking at how to make sure we're doing that, we're missing part of the picture. So that's the other example I would make is it's not just durable medical equipment. We have done a lot in the last ten years using technology. We have helped people program into an iPad, videos of their job or scenarios of what to do when certain things come up in a job. That's not a huge expense. But why wouldn't we make sure that that person is in a position to purchase a new one when it can no longer be updated? Because those things do happen and it's a shame to see somebody have to even worry about will they be able to keep their job while going through that paperwork? Not to mention, time is a commodity, and we keep people tethered to the system unnecessarily, which to me robs people of their agency. I think that's really the areas that that's why that's so important to me personally. That doesn't mean we don't help when we can and we shouldn't jump in when we can, but we help more if we prepare someone and avoid those ebbs and flows. There have also been lots of studies related to lost productivity at work when people are worried about their finances.
Carol: Well, you're very profound, David. I have to say, I like that. Keeping people tethered to the system, making that. Comment that really resonates with me very much. So, if folks are listening and they want to get more information about what Virginia is doing, I mean, is there a good way I don't know if there's any information on your website or what's the best way if somebody is going, oh, my gosh, he just blew my mind and he said a million things. What's their best way to maybe get a little more information about what you are doing?
David: I'd be happy to talk to anyone who is interested in this stuff or send them to the people on my team doing the different pieces. One other thing with financial empowerment and what agencies can do. We as an agency are a member of our state's Jumpstart Coalition. It's Jumpstart, but that SE is like a dollar sign. It's a national organization around K through 12 financial education. Be a great way to get some partnerships going for that print space. But another thing that we're really fortunate to have at least one fully functional version. There's a group called the Cities for Financial Empowerment in Roanoke, Virginia, where they provide free financial coaching and help with credit, establishing bank accounts and savings. And we don't have to be the experts. We just have to ask enough questions to know that someone could benefit and help get them connected. So the other thing that's important with all this is much like with the work incentive services, I would never expect all of our staff to become experts in this work, but I would expect them to understand that if you're working with someone who receives supplemental security income or Social Security disability insurance, that you know enough to make sure you're getting them to the person if they're not asking the questions. And those same things exist in many parts of our states and other states where there are free services, quality services for more detailed, in-depth financial coaching and assistance. And the city's program is a wonderful one. I want to say there's 30 or 40 sites around the country. We've also helped a community start a program through getting ahead and the getting by world. And it's through the bridges out of poverty system. And again, really, we just continue to look for programs that might exist. Is there a way to partner and get some of our clients involved?
Carol: Well, David, I appreciate every single thing you said today. I think it was very exciting. I think it will be fun for our listeners to get their minds around this as well and see what we can do to make a dent in really advancing our work in this area across the country. And I appreciate what you're doing there in Virginia, so thanks so much for joining me today. I appreciate it. I hope you have a great day.
David: Thank you very much. I love this stuff. I really appreciate being a part of it.
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