Working Bridges


United Way leads the Working Bridges Employer Collaborative. Originally started as a project of the former United Way of Northwest Vermont, we are now scaling this effort throughout our 5-county service area and looking for employers within Washington, Orleans, Caledonia, Essex and Orange counties to participate. The concept is simple: the network of employers work together to effectively develop and test innovative HR practices using the workplace as a platform for services designed to help workers minimize work disruptions, decrease absenteeism, improve financial stability and ultimately increase retention and advancement.

WATCH: From an Employer’s Perspective: Rhino Foods Income Advance Loan Program, part of Working Bridges

This initiative has received national acclaim for its proven success. The Income Advance Loan component is being studied by Filene’s Research Institute for its potential to be offered nationwide as an alternative to predatory payday lending practices.


We understand that barriers such as childcare, reliable transportation and acute need for emergency financial assistance get in the way of continuous employment and derail good employees. To tackle this issue, a group of forward-thinking employers, United Way of Northwest Vermont and other community partners joined forces and founded Working Bridges, a public-private, multi-sector employer collaborative. Green Mountain United Way took over the administration of the Working Bridges program at Weidmann Manufacturing in St. Johnsbury in 2016 and officially adopted Working Bridges collaboration into our work 2017 with the help of a grant from FINRA.

Together, we seek business solutions for job retention and decreased absenteeism and use the workplace as a platform for social services. Our approach to financial stability focuses on Relationships, Resources and Retention. Through shared resources, employers are minimizing employment barriers for their low-to-moderate wage workers and maximizing the supports employees need to be successful and improve their lives.


  • Employee Loan/Savings Program (Income Advance Loan) is a partnership between employers and financial institutions to help employees meet emergency needs, and begin saving and building credit. 
  • Resource Coordinators, who are shared by employers, provide on-site resource assistance to employees so that they get the help they need without disrupting work.
  • On-site Classes for employees in financial literacy or other educational opportunities that a particular group of employees might benefit from (for example, in Chittenden County, Working Bridges has brought GED classes and ESL classes to the workplace).
  • Mobil Volunteer Tax Preparation Program that provides employees with tax assistance and financial coaching at the workplace.
  • Education/Training for employers about economic class in the workplace. We use the Bridges Out of Poverty curriculum and concepts.
  • A Business Collaborative Group which happens when multiple employers come together to address challenging issues that they all see in their workforce. Employers have tackled issues affecting employee stability including transportation, income supports, and affordable housing. Together, we will design, test, and share innovative practices and refine policies to improve the lives of employees.


In 2015 the FINRA Foundation and United Way Worldwide published a comprehensive profile of Working Bridges that highlights the ways this initiative uses cross-sector strategies to engage our community in using the workplace as a platform for cultivating financial stability.

Potential benefits that Working Bridges has seen demonstrated at worksites include improved employee retention, decreases in lost-time, and improvement in loan repayment rates.


The Income Advance Loan was created to meet emergency financial needs of employees. A true social innovation, it creates a partnership between employees, employers and local financial institutions that not only provides a responsible lending alternative to help employees meet emergency needs, but also allows employees to begin saving and build credit.

Employee loans are a hand up, not a handout. These loans support job retention and encourage financial stability. A key feature of the loan program is that it loans are paid through direct deposit each paycheck and the deposits continue when the loan is repaid, starting a savings account, a small steps to a secure financial future. This benefit provides employers with structure and education to aid in their employees’ financial stability and turn a cash crisis into a savings plan.

The Income Advance Loan component is being studied by Filene’s Research Institute for its potential to be offered nationwide as an alternative to predatory payday lending practices.


Discuss how Working Bridges can benefit your employees and improve your business:

Tawnya Kristen
Executive Director
(802) 613-3989 or 
Carrie Stahler
Director of Community Engagement
(802) 613-3989 or