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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

'One Crisis Away' KERA-TV Special Explores Four Families On The Financial Edge

Dane Walters
Natalie Berquist is one of the families featured in KERA's One Crisis Away series.

One in three North Texans can’t weather a financial storm that lasts 90 days. The problem's known as asset poverty, and it doesn't discriminate. A job loss, health emergency, even legal trouble is enough to plunge a third of our friends and neighbors into financial distress. 

KERA's series One Crisis Awayis following four North Texas families on the financial edge.

On March 27, a one-hour special will air on KERA-TV, Channel 13, that features these families and explores asset poverty. The special will air again on Channel 13 at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. March 30 and 11 p.m. April 8.

The special was taped in front of a live audience at the Dallas City Performance Hall. We livestreamed the event -- we've posted the video below.

During tonight's program, you can join the discussion by submitting comments about poverty on Twitter @keranews using the hashtag #onecrisisaway.

Meet the four families and explore their stories in our KERA News Digital Storytelling Project.

Video of the forum:

Blog focusing on the One Crisis Away forum:

KERA’s Krys Boyd spoke with three experts: Andrea Levere, president, Corporation for Enterprise Development; Alfreda Norman, vice president and community development officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; and Larry James, president & CEO, CitySquare. The event took place in late February, but it will air as a special at 7 p.m. March 27 on KERA-TV, Channel 13.

8:09 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27: The audience is watching a video about the Madrid family of Rockwall. A medical crisis sent them into a financial crisis. Isac Madrid, who was featured in the series, died earlier this month following a lengthy medical battle. Learn more about the family:

7:56 p.m. Thursday: Alfreda Norman: Don’t put off saving for retirement. Start now.

Andrea Levere: How do we make it easier for people to save for retirement?

How to teach a habit of savings?

Alfreda Norman: Create a diary of everything you spend – figure out how much you’re spending. Some people have no idea of how much they’re spending. Budget to save. Save to invest. Control. Build credit. Reduce debt. And protect it. Sounds easy – but we’re not all doing it. So many people don’t know. It’s not something you necessarily learn in school. Not talking about it at the dinner table. People don’t want to talk about budgeting.

7:52 p.m. Thursday: The audience is watching a video of Shirley Martin, featured in One Crisis Away. The retiree works and gets creative to pay the bills.

7:50 p.m. Thursday: Panelists are talking about how a medical crisis can plunge folks into a financial crisis. Alfreda Norman: Regarding health care costs and the uninsured: What we have to begin to realize this sort of this notion that we’re all in this together. If large portions of the community is not insured that’s going to affect you in some way. In many ways. It affects there is a cost to helping people if they don’t have insurance. If everybody is doing well then we will all do well.

7:47 p.m. Thursday: Larry James: Move-in apartment specials in Dallas an issue. Encourages kids to move about the community. Kids pulled out of schools and put into other schools. Those are the realities of low-income working people.

Alfreda Norman: Discusses poverty terms. You might make decent salary, but you have relative poverty because you don’t have two cars. You don’t have all the luxury things you see on TV. There’s this notion of relative poverty. It’s all very complicated. We’re all kind of struggling to figure out how to define it. A group called Center for Public Policy Priorities takes a deep dive into how much money it takes for various families to live above poverty line.

Andrea Levere discusses challenges for single-parent families. How we deliver services and YWCA Metropolitan Dallas is opening women’s center with a model of comprehensive service delivery. No one thing can answer it. How do you take a household and decide what’s the role of housing, job training, financial counseling, other financial tools.

7:39 p.m. Thursday: The crowd is watching a video about Natalie Berquist, a single mom featured in the series.

7:38 p.m. Thursday: Levere discusses earned income tax credit. There are different levels of poverty. You won’t be successful unless you meet people where they are. Building financial security includes savings, investments, protections and learning. The most effective anti-poverty l policy is the earned income tax credit, which goes to working families – despite working full-time jobs, they don’t have a living wage. It has moved untold people out of poverty. Opportunity Texas is a collaboration that focuses on tax time to get people to save money from tax refund. Effort in various states to do similar state-level earned income tax credit. While lots of jobs are being created in Texas, many are low-paying.

7:30 p.m. Thursday: James: Children are aware of parents’ struggles. Asset poverty and the anxiety that comes with that affects children. Income poverty, we’ve seen, really affects children. If a child have hope, they have reason to read at grade level. If they don’t have hope, all sorts of things happen including not being able to read at grade level. Income is a huge part of how a family is able to live.

Norman: She’s explaining Subprime credit scores. If you pay bills on time, you have a good credit score. If you’re constantly late on bills, your score goes down. It’s your demonstration of how you manage your credit. It’s important to manage your bills and credit to maintain a good credit score.

Levere: A significant number of people don’t have bank accounts. A credit score is the password into the economy. Bank account is the first tool you can use to help you work in that economy. There’s a huge movement around the country to create marketing and collaborative arrangements with financial institutions to create fairly priced accounts. If you don’t have a savings account, how can you begin to save?

7:23 p.m. Thursday: The audience is watching a video featuring the Dory family of White Settlement. Meet the family here.

7:20 p.m. Thursday: KERA’s Krys Boyd is talking with three leading experts: Andrea Levere, president, Corporation for Enterprise Development; Alfreda Norman, vice president and community development officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; and Larry James, president & CEO, CitySquare.

Levere: You can’t just sell your house and car today to get resources. What are liquid resources you can get out now [in a crisis]. … When we think about what makes a healthy community, it’s all about thinking ahead.

Levere: Changes in economy have reinforced that building human capital is a priority. (Not just having a house.) Thinking about saving very early – setting up savings accounts for children, as young as Kindergarten. Habits learned early can be very enduring.

7:12 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27: Brent Christopher, president and CEO of the Communities Foundation of Texas, is welcoming the crowd to tonight’s event. The group asked the Corporation for Enterprise Development to look at Dallas-Fort Worth and get an accurate picture of the region’s financial health. “The snapshot that CFED took was a wake-up call,” he said. About 30 percent of North Texans don’t have enough of a safety net to stay above the poverty line for three months. Mary Anne Alhadeff, KERA’s president and CEO, talks about the importance of the project and the response the station has received. Many have contacted the station wanting to help the families featured in the KERA series – and some have said they need help themselves. “The ability to point people to resources has been an important part of One Crisis Away,” she said.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.