Prioritizing Economic Mobility for All Residents

United Way of Greater New Bedford Prioritizing Economic Mobility for All Residents
Organization tackling financial instability head-on with increased programming and grantmaking for low-income families.

A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2022 study found that of the 65,150 wage earners in New Bedford, 51% make less than $50,000 a year (1), and 18.7% (2) of the community lives in poverty, which is higher than the national average of 11.6%. (3) To combat the persistence of poverty for New Bedford and the eight surrounding communities it serves, United Way of Greater New Bedford (UWGNB) is rigorously expanding its economic mobility efforts through an increase in grant support and the inclusion of three new programs: Baby Steps, Financial Futures, and Financial Wellness at Work.

“Time and again, we hear about families who are unable to properly plan and budget for their financial needs,” commented UWGNB President & CEO Michelle N. Hantman. “We understand that the resulting consequences can be catastrophic. Research shows that poor financial management perpetuates the cycle of poverty, and it’s why we are dedicating more resources, programming, and deepening our infrastructure to make a greater impact in this critical area.”

United Way recently kicked off Financial Futures, a new program that provides coaching and curriculum specifically geared to women who want to gain control over their finances, increase economic self-sufficiency, and transform their lives by learning core money management skills. This 12-week program results from a new partnership between UWGNB’s Women United initiative and Boston based nonprofit, Women’s Money Matters, which will facilitate three separate cohort sessions. The first session is taking place virtually, but subsequent offerings will be in person. United Way is actively recruiting local coaching volunteers and accepting enrollment for future cohorts.

UWGNB’s Family Resource & Development Center also became an enrollment hub for BabySteps, a statewide program run by the Office of Economic Empowerment to incentivize new parents to open an U.Fund 529 College Investing Plan. Every child enrolled within its first year of birth or adoption can receive a $50 deposit into the account. Selected to serve the South Coast, United Way’s Family Center staff is trained and on hand to assist in the enrollment process, helping families take the next steps in saving for their child’s future. UWGNB is one of ten enrollment hubs across Massachusetts.

In early 2024, Financial Wellness at Work will roll out within four pilot companies: Davico Manufacturing, Imtra Corporation, Milhench Supply Company, and New Bedford Community Health Center. United Way coordinators will provide confidential coaching, year-long workshops, and access to resources to enable employees to make informed money decisions and take better control of their finances. The pilot will last six months, at which point United Way will continue its outreach to build partnerships with other local companies throughout Greater New Bedford who prioritize the well-being of their employees and understand that when an employee is supported in this manner, they are more productive, financially healthy, and committed to their work. United Way is hiring a program coordinator and has formed an advisory group made up of local bankers, benefit specialists and the HR and leadership of participating pilot companies. This program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation through a partnership with United Way Worldwide.

“Our goal is to create economic stability and upward mobility for the individuals and families we serve,” elaborated Hantman. “We are thrilled to lead this multi-prong approach to minimize poverty levels and fill a resource gap that has been hard to rectify.”

In addition to staffing and programming, funding for economic mobility initiatives has increased by 28% in 2023 through the organization’s Community Impact grantmaking. In June, $90,000 was issued to five nonprofits who are also committed to abolishing financial insecurity. Grants support tax preparation for low- and moderate-income residents, financial management for seniors, homebuyer education classes for first time homebuyers, financial literacy courses for young adults working towards their HED, and assistance with managing personal finances to obtain or maintain housing. United Way of Greater New Bedford will continue to grow its investment in economic mobility related endeavors given how inextricably linked it is to combatting poverty.

United Way of Greater New Bedford is the local chapter of United Way Worldwide. It has operated since 1953, advocating for family resilience, health access, economic mobility, and educational opportunity for every person in the nine communities it serves through essential services such as the Family Resource & Development Center, Hunger Commission, and New Bedford Community Connections Coalition. Additionally, United Way funds local organizations whose programming addresses these issues and matches them with volunteers through Volunteer SouthCoast.



  1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2022 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New Bedford, MA
  2. 2022 Census, New Bedford, MA
  3. 2022 Census, United States