People-Based. Market-Driven.


Cara Chicago helps workers achieve personal financial goals

November 26, 2019

Many alternative staffing businesses offer financial literacy training as a supportive service to help candidates manage their earnings, build savings and credit, and access emergency loans. We recently spoke with Alliance member Cara Chicago to understand how they structure and fund these services.

Job seekers enter Cara Chicago through one of several portals:

  • Cara Classic, a full-time, intensive workforce readiness program
  • Workshops, a flexible training program for workplace-related topics and digital and financial literacy
  • Cara’s social enterprises, Cara Connects, which delivers staffing services, and Clean Slate, which contracts to perform outdoor maintenance services.

Two staff oversee Cara’s financial literacy program, Financial Coach Clennetta Trotter and Senior Manager of Supportive Services & Site Director Lynnette Frazier.

The financial literacy workshop curriculum was developed in-house and covers topics such as budgeting and saving, W-4 withholding and income taxes, credit as an asset, and getting banked. In  one-on-one coaching sessions, Clennetta counsels individuals about their financial concerns and supports them to meet their goals. She encourages individuals to open bank accounts for payroll direct deposits, helps them create and maintain monthly budgets, and works with them to develop plans to repay debt and improve their credit scores.

Individuals enrolled in Cara Classic are required to attend financial literacy workshops and schedule coaching sessions, and all other Cara participants are welcome to attend the workshops.

Clennetta cites two big concerns that drive individuals’ interest in Cara’s financial literacy services. The top concern is finding and maintaining employment to have a better life which includes wealth building and steady access to transportation, so buying a car is often a priority. The second main concern is managing student debt to avoid wage garnishment and/or seizure of income tax refunds. Clennetta sees student debt balances ranging from $5,000 to $100,000, and often encounters student loan defaults (i.e., over 9 months delinquent).

Cara Chicago is able to extend its financial literacy training and services through partnerships with several external institutions. Cara partners with the Homelessness Prevention Fund (a US Housing and Urban Development program) to supply emergency loans to participants in need. In addition, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) helps match participants’ credit building loan savings deposits. Cara also works through two Community Development Financial Institutions (CFDIs), including First Eagle Bank, for credit building and banking services.

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