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A Grade of C

| May 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Montana received the grade of C in the assets and opportunity scorecard produced periodically by the Corporation for Economic Development, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., that works to expand economic opportunity for all Americans.

CFED considers education, homeownership and business development as building blocks toward individual and family financial security.

The report card produced by CFED measures the ability of a family to build assets that can be used for future investment in sending their kids to college and surviving unexpected financial bumps in the road.

Overall Montana is said to rank in the bottom 10 states in asset building measures.

A breakdown of the report card for Big Sky shows a D in financial security, an A in business development, an A in homeownership, an F in healthcare and a B in education.

The healthcare issue is access to health insurance provided by employers and health insurance for children.

On the plus side, Montana ranks number one in small business ownership.

The state's strengths are considered small business ownership, microeconomic enterprise, subprime loans, reading proficiency, degrees by income, private loans to businesses and Head Start coverage.

The weaknesses are uninsured low-income children, degrees by race, net worth of households, household asset equality by gender, households with zero net worth, asset poverty and employer-provided insurance.

CFED looks at state policies in each report card area. Those state policies toward financial security and business development were considered substandard while policies toward homeownership, healthcare and education were considered standard.

So how to we compare to the neighbors?

According to CFED, we're better off than Idaho, who received a D. The Gem State had low grades in financial security, education, healthcare and homeownership. We lag behind the Dakotas, Wyoming and Washington, which all were given Bs.

To remedy Montana's weaknesses, CFED recommends lifting asset limits for public assistance - which includes income levels for qualifying for special homeownership loans. And the organization recommends raising the minimum wage above the level of $5.15.

Just something to chew on. - Roger Morris