The Benefit U Project was launched with entrepreneurs, independent workers, freelancers and small business owners in West Virginia in order to help them overcome a major barrier to achieving financial security, namely a lack of employment-related benefits. The project interviewed independent workers to learn more about their unique financial challenges and what products and services would meet their needs. Then it tested a financial technology (fintech) platform that provided many of these resources in order to gauge the feasibility of meeting those needs with an online tool.
Among the key findings, workers interviewed during this project noted that obtaining benefit coverage often fell to the bottom of a long list of priorities they juggle day-to-day and they worry that benefits might be unaffordable, given their modest earnings. But at the same time, they are eager for information and tools to help them make sense of things like Social Security and tax reporting, and they want opportunities to build savings for the short and long term. The use of online, fintech platforms hold great promise for bridging this gap and connecting independent workers with information, services and opportunities to build a stronger financial future. Increased opportunities for fintech and nonprofit collaboration are also very promising, especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has accelerated the online delivery of all business-related services and functions.
The Benefit U Project is a collaboration between the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER®), WISER’s Rural Retirement Project, and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The project was supported by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative.