Penquis has been named one of six U.S. winners of the 2020 TD Ready Challenge presented by TD Bank. A grant in the amount of $269,500 was awarded to Penquis, Maine’s largest community action agency serving primarily Penobscot, Piscataquis and Knox counties with additional economic empowerment services to Hancock, Waldo and Washington counties.Penquis will use the TD Ready Challenge grant to improve the financial stability of low-income individuals and families through the Rural Maine Financial Coaching Collaborative by training frontline staff in social service organizations to integrate basic financial coaching and housing counseling into their case management services.

The Rural Maine Financial Coaching Collaborative will serve Eastern, Central, Mid-Coast and DownEast Maine.

The collaboration will work with over 10 agencies and train more than 30 providers in helping hundreds of low-income clients to weather financial difficulties, prioritize bills and budgeting, and develop and negotiate payment plans, in addition to supporting case managers in understanding the basics of the foreclosure and rental eviction processes to help keep clients in their homes or find reasonable alternatives.

“Penquis has brought forward a creative and scalable solution to help those disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19,” said Sheryl McQuade of TD Bank. “Being a winner of the TD Ready Challenge is a testament to the skill, ingenuity and vision of its creators, as well as their dedication to ensuring our communities emerge from the pandemic more resilient, inclusive, vibrant and ready for the continually changing future.”

The TD Ready Challenge is an annual initiative, laddering up to the TD Ready Commitment, TD’s corporate citizenship platform, aimed at opening doors to a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow. Acting as a springboard for social innovation, TD established the TD Ready Challenge to identify and support scalable solutions that address societal issues identified within the four drivers of the TD Ready Commitment: Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an immense impact on society and that’s why the 2020 TD Ready Challenge encouraged organizations across TD’s North American footprint to create innovative solutions to help create accelerated, sustained and equitable recovery in the face of COVID-19.

“This collaboration comes at just the right time to help us strengthen our communities through our partnerships as we navigate these challenging times,” said Chris Linder, CEO, MaineStream Finance, a subsidiary of Penquis. “Training frontline social service workers in financial coaching and housing counseling capitalizes on the trust already established with the clients. This approach avoids the logistics of referring the client for a separate, unfamiliar service and advocate. As a result, the client learns about strategies for dealing with housing insecurity and eviction, reducing debt, improving credit and obtaining additional financial resources from someone they trust, while we at Penquis support the frontline worker.”

In total, TD awarded $10 million (CAD) for the 2020 Challenge, as part of the $25 million (CAD) that TD has allocated to help strengthen community resilience and COVID-19 recovery through the TD Community Resilience Initiative.