Community Bulletin: Boost Your Advocacy with Our New Data

From the Guest Editor

Dear Community Partners and Friends,

On January 29, there is a little-known holiday referred to as Thomas Paine Day or Freethinkers Day. This holiday promotes the appreciation of freethought. In 1775, Paine was among the first to call for an end to slavery and the establishment of human rights around the world. He inspired many to strive for political, economic and social advancement.

On Freethinkers Day, many of us in the grassroots advocacy field, especially in Louisiana, celebrated the release of the Prosperity Now 2019 Scorecard. My organization, The Middleburg Institute, uses the Scorecard extensively for what we call data storytelling: using data to craft stories that shape our vision and connect people to policymakers. We have found data-driven storytelling, supported by the Scorecard, to be a powerful way to build lasting engagement with our audience.

Last year, Richard Eisenberg of Next Avenue wrote: “In his State of the Union address, President Trump said ‘there has never been a better time to start living the American Dream.’ But the new 2018 Prosperity Now Scorecard and its accompanying report say that isn’t so for low-income Americans.” Examples like these show how using data from the Prosperity Now Scorecard makes storytelling more engaging and credible.

Sending you well wishes,

Joyce D. James
President, The Middleburg Institute
Prosperity Now Community Steering Committee Member

Editor's note: If you have resources, updates or stories you’d like to see featured in future Community Bulletins, share them with us at Community@prosperitynow.org.

Highlights

The 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard Finds That Millions in the US Face Economic Uncertainty 

The government shutdown illustrated the disconnect between the narrative of a booming economy and the day-to-day financial lives of most Americans. When people with federal or federally-contracted jobs—mostly stable jobs with benefits—had to go without pay for several weeks, some resorted to selling belongings and turning to food banks. This level of financial vulnerability is all too common in the United States, particularly for people of color who were by and large left out of the economic recovery from the last recession. The data from the 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard shows that 40 percent of American households are just one emergency away from a financial disaster. 

A report of key findings from the 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard highlights several measures of financial health and digs deeper into racial disparities, including: 

  • Forty percent of American households are liquid asset poor, lacking a basic level of savings. 
  • 13.2 percent of American households fell behind on their bills, including 25 percent of Black households. 
  • Almost half of Americans have subprime credit. 
  • Institutional racism and baked-in discrimination in our economy have created a racial wealth gap that far outpaces income inequality. At the median, Black households earn 61 cents and Latino households earn 76 cents for every dollar earned by White households. 
  • Black households own only six cents and Latino households own 13 cents for every dollar of White household wealth. 

The national report, Vulnerability in the Face of Economic Uncertainty, goes deeper into these key findings, racial disparities and more and can help economic justice advocates and practitioners change the false narrative of a booming economy. The report also highlights several federal policy solutions in Financial Security, Consumer Protections, Affordable Homeownership and Right-Side Up Tax Policy that prioritize the most vulnerable and fight systemic racial inequality. Prosperity Now will focus on these policies in 2019, so make sure you are signed up for our Campaigns and Advocacy Center to take action on these key reforms. 

New State-Level Scorecard Analysis Highlights Racial Wealth Disparities

In a new state report this year, Prosperity Now takes a deeper dive into our state-level data, emphasizing racial wealth equity in our updated rankings of financial well-being for each state. Many states saw their rankings drop compared to last year after racial equity was more closely taken into account. Here are more key findings among the states.

  • No matter the state, people of color are not experiencing the touted economic upswing.
  • Some states perform worse this year because they are failing people of color.
  • In some cases, states perform better because, compared to other states, their racial disparity is relatively low.
  • Again, no matter how you compare states to one another, we must focus on everyone’s economic success.

This report, in conjunction with our Municipal Policy Blueprint, provide policy recommendations that are moveable, manageable and meaningful ways to begin the process of addressing and correcting racial disparities outlined in the Scorecard.

Understanding the Scorecard's New Features

The newly released 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard brings additions and changes to outcome data from its 2018 iteration, such as a Racial Disparity Ranking and a new outcome measure to track households that fell behind on their bills. To best utilize the 2019 Scorecard for your mobilization efforts, it’s important to know the changes to our ranking methodology, which we explain here.

As Prosperity Now has increasingly focused on the racial wealth divide over the past several years, we are doing more to highlight the role that racial economic inequality has on an individual’s ability to achieve prosperity in any given state. We have developed the Racial Disparity Rank, which is determined by calculating the percent difference in outcomes for White and non-White households for each measure. These percent differences are then averaged and ranked. This new rank changes our final Scorecard state rankings, which is now a blend between the Outcome Rank and the Racial Disparity Rank.

The 2019 Scorecard adds one new outcome measure, Fell Behind on Bills, measuring the percentage of households that fell behind on their bills in the past 12 months. We also expanded the measures that we disaggregate by race, and incorporated some previously unincorporated measures into the final Scorecard ranking. On the policy side, to focus more on policies that we think are particularly impactful toward addressing the challenges faced by communities of color, we have decided to narrow the number of policy measures that we assess to 28 measures, from what was previously 53. We plan to update the local (metro area, county, city) data in the spring of 2019, so stay tuned!.

You can find more information about Scorecard methodology here. We are also here to answer any questions you might have about the Scorecard. Just email Scorecard@prosperitynow.org.

Resources from Across the Community

Your Money, Your Goals Toolkit, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
This updated toolkit, which includes 43 flexible tools and handouts, is a valuable resource for financial empowerment practitioners to use while meeting with clients.

Starting Strong: Credit Building for Youth Transitioning from Foster Care, Prosperity Now
This report shares insights from the 11-month technical assistance and provides recommendations for organizations serving foster youth, a population particularly vulnerable to being disadvantaged in the marketplace if they do not have the ability to build credit.

Toolkit: Getting started with measuring financial well-being, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
This toolkit helps practitioners use the CFPB’s Financial Well-Being Scale effectively by including instructions, best practices, benchmarks, and case studies of organizations that have used the Scale.

2019 Scorecard Resource Page, Prosperity Now
Use this resource page to access all materials related to the 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard, including both the national and state briefs, blog posts, our social media toolkit, webinar recordings and more.

2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard Reports, Prosperity Now
Use this tool to create custom reports and download profiles summarizing all the data measures for your state or local area and the strengths and weaknesses of your state’s policies.

Watch: The Shutdown and VITA—What’s Next?, Prosperity Now’s Federal Policy Team
These two short videos explain what happened to funding for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at the end of 2018 and the plan moving forward.

Opportunities & Events

Opportunities

Nominate a Prosperity Now Community Steering Committee Member! Do you know someone who can help provide direction and leadership to the Prosperity Now Community? Vote for them here by February 15. Learn more about the Prosperity Now Community Steering Committee and its members here.

Technical Assistance and Learning Cohort Application: ForEveryoneHome: City Solutions for Housing Equity, Grounded Solutions Network

Job Opportunity: Advocacy Manager, Fahe, Berea, KY or Washington, D.C.

Job Opportunity: Program Associate, Field Engagement, Prosperity Now, Washington, D.C.

Events

2019 Financial Coaching InstituteOpportunity Alliance Nevada, Reno, NV, February 5-7, 2019 

Livestream: African American Financial Capability Initiative Innovation Brief Release Event, Prosperity Now, February 20, 2019

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's Duty to Serve the Manufactured Housing Market: An Update for 2019, Prosperity Now, February 26, 2019

Financial Coaching Network Bi-Monthly Peer Call: Fintech and Racial Equity in Financial Coaching, Prosperity Now, February 28, 2019

#DCSaves #DCAhorrayProspera Forum, Capital Area Asset Builders, Washington, D.C., March 1, 2019

2019 Just Economy ConferenceNational Community Reinvestment CoalitionWashington, D.C., March 11-13, 2019 

A|4 Financial Coaching Foundations WorkshopUniversity of WisconsinMilwaukee, WI, March 26-27, 2019 

EMERGECenter for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), Scottsdale, AZ, May 14-16, 2019

2019 Colorado Community Action Conference, Colorado Community Action Association, Colorado Springs, CO, July 16-18, 2019

Policy Updates

Financial Security in 2019: 5 Federal Policy Issues to Watch

With the start of a new year, we’re taking stock of the federal policy opportunities and challenges in 2019. Below, in no particular order, are some of the key issues and trends that need to be on every advocate’s radar.

  1. Preventing Rollback of the Payday Lending Rule
  2. A Historic Expansion of Free Tax Preparation
  3. Bold New Proposals to Narrow the Racial Wealth Divide
  4. Opportunities to Help Working Families Build Short-Term Savings
  5. Ensuring Sensible Housing Finance Reform

Read more

Introducing the Financial Security Campaign
The new Congress offers more opportunities to not only protect working families’ access to public benefits, but also to promote new and innovative policies that help them save for now, soon and later. To better suit our advocacy to this mission, we're renaming the Safety Net Campaign to the Financial Security Campaign, which more closely reflects our ideals and goals for working families. Under this campaign, we're working to protect safety net programs, establish Fair Shot Accounts, introduce emergency savings in the workplace, eliminate asset limits, enhance the Saver’s Credit and enact a nationwide Auto-IRA program.

Earned Income Tax Credit

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal proposes doubling the state’s spending on the Earned Income Tax Credit to $1 billion, which would expand the credit to hundreds of thousands of additional families. The governor also proposed spending $1.3 billion in one-time spending on affordable housing and $50 million in one-time spending on pilot programs for children’s savings accounts. Governor Newsom’s budget proposal will now go to the California State Legislature for approval.

Consumer Protections

Indiana Senate Bill 104 and House Bill 1098 would limit the annual interest rate on small dollar loans to 36 percent from its current 391 percent. Both bills were referred to their respective Committees.

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