Community Bulletin: Celebrating Financial Capability Month 2019

From the Editor

Dear Community Partners and Friends,

April is Financial Capability Month! The official name changed from Financial Literacy Month to Financial Capability Month in 2012 to emphasize the importance of access to financial opportunities, like savings, credit, fair loans and protections from financial harm. The definition of financial capability combines the ability to act on our financial well-being with the opportunity to do so.

As we highlight the amazing work happening across our Community (e.g. this month’s spotlight on Houston Area Urban League and the United Way THRIVE Collaborative), we also reflect on how access to opportunity is still not equal for everyone in this country (as seen in the 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard's Racial Disparity Ranks), as well as the important work ahead of us.

If you’d like to find ways to get more involved today, here are three things you can do:

In partnership,

Fran Rosebush Baylor
Director of Field Engagement, Prosperity Now

Highlights

Houston Area Urban League and the United Way THRIVE Collaborative

Prosperity Now Community Champion Houston Area Urban League (HAUL) offers a wealth of financial capability services to its community, including youth development, affordable housing, workforce development and much more. But while these services offer what clients need, it is HAUL's participation in the United Way of Greater Houston THRIVE Collaborativeleveraging partnerships with 19 organizations across Houston—that helps it meet clients where they are.

Prosperity Now spoke to HAUL’s THRIVE Coordinator and Financial Coach, Carmela Walker, about this endeavor. The THRIVE program services around 50 plus clients a year and 10-15 people per cohort. From there, they drill down into their clients’ needs, from building assets, financial goals and employment. Utilizing expertise from other THRIVE members and in-house expertson topics such as budgeting, savings, affordable homeownership, small business development, workforce development, mental wellness and medical debtopens the pathway toward financial stability.

After the three-week training, Carmela meets with clients 1-on-1 for more specialized strength-based coaching using tools to tackle their individualized needs. Once they leave the program, Carmela tracks clients once every 30 days for 90 days to support employment outcomes based on income, savings and client action items to determine programmatic impact. To date, HAUL’s clients who have been placed in construction jobs have experienced annual wage increases, earning more than $17.50 per hour in Upskill’s Houston construction job initiative to help rebuild the Houston community.

Carmela’s career led her from the nonprofit sector to public service work and eventually back to nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional, Carmela noticed that no matter how diligently her clients worked to improve their employment or financial situation, systemic issues such as the racial wealth divide prevented her clients from achieving their goals. That prompted her to attend graduate school and later work in the Texas legislature, where she tackled statutory issues and challenges such as criminal justice, healthcare, budget appropriations and program funding.

Now at HAUL, Carmela realizes both the power of seeing individual clients achieve their goals and the ability of policy to improve systems. According to Carmela:

“The micro affects the macro. If we don’t wrap our minds around a clear plan concerning resiliency and equity, then we will continue to have the racial discrepancies we still have. There are fewer things more gratifying in our work than clients reaching their milestones. Advocacy means being an impassioned liaison who is willing to support others as they take the next step toward balancing structural and vertical mobility. It is a key factor as we continue to genuinely communicate this narrative to clients and their families for the purposes of sustainability.”

Fair Housing Locally and Nationally

April is also National Fair Housing month and owning an affordable home can offer working families stability, security and a legacy to pass on to the next generation. With this in mind, recent legislation in New Orleansspearheaded by the advocacy efforts of Prosperity Now Community Champion, the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliancestands out as an example of how cities can promote equitable access to housing through inclusionary zoning. Read more

Does VITA Improve Access to Financial Capability Services at Tax Time?

As the sun sets on the first filing season affected by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, it is important to pay attention to how programs and resources help these households use the tax moment to strengthen their household financial capability and security. In a new report, we assess whether the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program acts as a gateway to financial capability services at tax time. Read more

John Oliver Addresses Manufactured Housing

John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, explained why manufactured homeowners need to be able to use resources within their communities to build their own housing parks by citing research from Doug Ryan, Senior Director of Affordable Housing at Prosperity Now. Watch the Full Segment here. Use Prosperity Now’s Manufactured Housing Toolkit to learn how you can spread awareness and advocate for affordable housing in your community. 

Resources from Across the Community

Getting Ready for Racial Equity Work: The Racial Equity Here Evaluation | Living Cities 
Based on the findings of the Racial Equity Here evaluation, Living Cities provides recommendations for local governments to approach policies and operations with a racial equity lens. 

2019 Savings Toolkit | Prosperity Now
Explore our resources to see how you can help advocate for the Rainy Day Savings Act and the Saving for the Future Act. Both policies propose leveraging current resources to strengthen the economic prosperity of low- to moderate-income families.

Improving Access to Child Care Would Fortify Women’s Foothold in the Economy | Center for American Progress
This report examines how limited access to affordable child care hinders working mothers’ potential to succeed in the workplace and lists policy recommendations for increased child care.

Start Small, Save Up | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a new campaign to provide tools and strategies to help clients realize their financial milestones.

Interested in Workplace Financial Wellness Programs? Start Here | Prosperity Now
A series of quick guides that explains the benefits of financial wellness programs at the workplace and how to implement them.

Opportunities and Events

Opportunities

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is accepting applications from individuals who are interested in serving on the Board’s Community Advisory Council (CAC). Learn more.

Prosperity Now invites you to share your well-wishes and memories for Prosperity Now’s President, Andrea Levere, as she prepares to step down in mid-2019. Share your kinds words.

Jobs

Content Specialist | Prosperity Now | Washington, DC 

Public Policy and Advocacy Senior Associate | Community Action Partnership | Washington, DC 

Training and Development Manager, Human Resources | LISC National Headquarters | New York, NY 

Senior Vice President, Community Engagement | United Way of Greater Atlanta | Atlanta, GA 

Project Manager of National Accounts | The Financial Clinic | New York, NY 

Events

Webinar: Taxpayer Opportunity Network 2019 Tax Season Debrief | Prosperity Now | May 2, 2019

2019 Federal Reserve Community Development Research Conferencece | Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago | Washington, DC | May 9-10, 2019

Webinar: Savings Network Series - Future of Federal & State Savings Policies | Prosperity Now | May 14, 2019

Emerge: Financial Health Forum | Center for Financial Services Innovation | Scottsdale, AZ | May 14-16, 2019

National Health & Human Services 2019 Summit | APHSA | Arlington, VA | May 19-22, 2019

Building the Workforce of the Future: Resilient People and Places | Brookings | Washington, DC, | May 21, 2019

FPP 11th  Annual 2019 Statewide Training Conference | Florida Prosperity Partnerships | Orlando, FL | May 31, 2019  

Webinar: Financial Coaching Bi-Monthly Peer Call: Fintech and Racial Equity in Financial Coaching | Prosperity Now | June 27, 2019

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

Save the Date: Midwest Asset Building Conference | Detroit, MI | November 13-14. The planning team is currently accepting speaker and session proposals here.

Policy Updates

Refund to Rainy Day Savings Program

On April 8, 2019, bill S.1018 was introduced in the U.S. Senate and the House. The bipartisan bill helps tax filers set aside a portion of their refund as emergency savings for later in the year. Urge your senators and representatives to co-sponsor the Refund to Rainy Day Savings Act!

Savings for the Future Act

Introduced in the U.S. Senate and the House, the Savings for the Future Act would require employers to contribute a minimum of 50 cents an hour to a retirement plan, or through payroll. This policy would make savings a requirement in the workplace.

Working Families Tax Relief Act 

On April 9, 2019, 44 U.S. Senators introduced the Working Families Tax Relief Act. The bill aims to expand tax credits for families with dependent children, and individuals without dependents.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

Maryland: The Maryland General Assembly approved a $200,000 grant in the FY2020 budget for Prosperity Now Community Champion, the CASH Campaign of Maryland. The funds will expand the organization’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) outreach, free tax preparation and financial capability services. However, it does not stop there. CASH and its partners are in the midst of advocating for bill HB1411, which would require Maryland to provide an annual grant of $200,000 to support CASH Campaign’s efforts in outreach, education and tax preparation services. The bill has passed the House and awaits its ruling from the Senate.

New Mexico: Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed legislation to increase the state’s EITC from 10%-17% of the federal EITC. This is expected to increase the income of over 200,000 workers in New Mexico.

Update on Arkansas EITC Bill

In our last update, we shared details on Arkansas SB 571, a bill that would have created a new state EITC funded through taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products alongside other tax reforms. After being passed with strong support in the state Senate, the bill was expected to face more opposition in the House, where it was ultimately amended to remove the EITC language, ending the road for an Arkansas EITC in this session.

With the support and advocacy of TON members and our partners in Arkansas led by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the effort to enact a state EITC progressed farther than is ever before! The leader of the Senate, the bill's primary sponsor, gave a thoughtful speech on behalf of the bill from the Senate floor. These are wins that we should all be proud of, and we thank Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families for taking the lead in this campaign and to all of our TON members in Arkansas who contacted their senators and representatives to ask for their support of this bill. We’ll absolutely reach out should any new opportunities arise, and we look forward to moving an Arkansas state EITC further ahead in the next session!

Asset Limits

California: SB 268, a bill to eliminate asset limits in California's TANF program known as CalWORKs, received a hearing on April 9 in the Senate Human Services Committee, where Senators voted to move the bill ahead. The bill has now been re-referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. We’ll keep you updated on next steps and how you can continue to lend your voices in support of this bill.

Consumer Protections

Illinois: The state's House of Representatives is considering a bill to cap interest rates on title loans at 36%. This will decrease the current interest rates of 300% or more. 

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