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WCF / Economic Recovery  / September 2022 THRIVE | Birth to Bright Future

September 2022 THRIVE | Birth to Bright Future

Hi Neighbors –

We’re focusing this and the next two issues of THRIVE on economic opportunity in Whatcom County. With such a big topic, it’s good to start at the beginning — so let’s talk about babies! After that, we’ll look at the many benefits of employee ownership and then conclude with the Millworks, a community benefit project on Bellingham’s waterfront spearheaded by the Community Foundation that wraps these ideas and more into a dynamic demonstration project.

Mauri Ingram,
President & CEO


Economic Mobility Starts at Birth

It is hard to look at a baby without marveling at their sweet perfection and promise. Who is this tiny person? Who will they be? The sky’s the limit!

Or is it? The American story of economic mobility has persisted: Show up, work hard and enjoy the middle-class fruits of your labor. That used to be true[1]. And now it isn’t.

Close to half of the ~2,000 babies born in Whatcom County this year will start from behind, with the odds against them ever making up the distance.

Unlike a child born in 1940, 92% of whom attained a lifestyle better than their parents regardless of childhood circumstances, a child born to a household of low-to-moderate-income today is, without intervention, likely to stay there — no matter how well they show up or hard they work.

Economic opportunity begins at birth. And even though everyone wants to give their children more and better opportunities than they had, the deck is stacked in favor of babies born to higher-income families who are white, college-educated and thus steeped in “social capital,” i.e., the relationships that give people the ability to act on their aspirations as well as the ability to access benefits. These are the essential factors that predict educational attainment, financial security and even life expectancy. And yet:

  • Many families in Whatcom County are severely burdened by housing, childcare, transportation, healthcare and food costs.
  • 46% of children in Whatcom County, and only 25% of Black, Indigenous and children of color, enter kindergarten fully ready to learn.
  • The county is short about 5,000 childcare/early childhood learning slots.
  • A family of four that does find childcare pays up to 4X the recommended percentage of household income. Four times. Imagine what that does to the rest of your budget.
  • A living wage in Whatcom County for a full-time sole provider of a one-child household is $30.57/hour. Two full-time working adults with one child would each need to earn $18.08/hour.

Research – and the experience of educators and parents everywhere – tells us that when children live in a safe, stable place, other basic needs met and quality early learning opportunities, they do better in school and in life. It also shows that the strength of relationships and communities — i.e., social capital — play an essential role in a person’s income and health.

So let’s start there.


What the Whatcom Community Foundation is Doing

Promoting universal, automatic child savings accounts (CSAs) in Whatcom County. When a child starts life with a modest savings account, good things happen. Household stress and parental depression lessens. Family savings increase. Kids develop a college-bound identity. College debt shrinks. Depending on how much is originally seeded in the account, overall family health may also improve.

Children with low to moderate incomes with savings accounts ranging from $1-$499 are 3X more likely to attend college and 4X more likely to graduate from a 2-or 4-year program. (Prosperity Now.)

In a pilot program launching this month, the Community Foundation is partnering with Mercy Housing Northwest and the Washington Student Achievement Council to start 529 GET Children’s Savings Accounts for every child living at Mercy Housing’s Sterling Meadows and Trailview properties:

  • The pilot is the result of several years of study into programs around the country.
  • More than 100 youth under 18 live at Sterling Meadows; all are eligible for the program.
  • Initial deposits of $500 for each child’s account will come from the Child Savings Account Project Fund at the Community Foundation, created by generous local donors.
  • There will also be an opportunity for families and others to add funds to these accounts.
  • We are still raising money to increase the amounts for accounts.
  • Short-term goal: raise an additional $200,000 — enough to fund each account at Sterling Meadows and Trailview with $1,000 and expand the program to other sites, including Millworks Family Housing, which breaks ground soon.
  • Long-term goal: establish a countywide account program that serves as a statewide model.

Supporting Prop-5 —Whatcom County’s Healthy Children’s Fund
The Community Foundation supports making the children and families of Whatcom County a top priority. That means funding childcare and early learning, along with targeted support for children who face big challenges. We recognize that a property tax will be hard on some households. While there is never the perfect time, or the perfect vehicle for launching new solutions we know that supporting the best possible start for families now will save resources over time and more importantly, unleash profound potential that may otherwise wither.

Making childcare resource grants
Since January 2020, the Community Foundation has granted $367,765 to organizations working to improve childcare services, access and capacity in Whatcom County.

Promoted Enrollment in Expanded Child Tax Credit
We engaged 13 local partners to reach non- or intermittent tax filers to ensure they benefited from the enhanced child tax credit in 2021. Although the effort was disrupted by catastrophic flooding in the north county, a key area for outreach, the team helped nearly 700 households file for child tax credit payments.


How You Can Help


Deeper Dive

About Child Savings Accounts
Washington Student Achievement Council
Childcare Tax Proposal Moving to November Ballot
FAQ’s—Yes for Whatcom Kids!
Opportunity Council Childcare Resources
Financing Early Learning and Care in Whatcom County
The American Dream Quantified at Last
Child Tax Credit has a Critical Role in Helping Families Maintain Economic Stability


View the THRIVE Newsletter as e-mailed on 9/29/2022 HERE>



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