Community Bulletin: Celebrating Two Years of the Prosperity Now Community!

From the Guest Editor

Dear Community Partners and Friends,

When Prosperity Now launched this Community two years ago this month, I’m not sure we could’ve expected quite how highly engaged this national peer learning network would be—growing by the thousands with peers sharing expertise on programs, policies and strategies that aim to improve financial stability in your communities. In this short time, our Community grew to 24,000 members with 2,500+ people choosing to join each of our seven issue area Networks or Federal Policy Campaigns. Just this year, the Taxpayer Opportunity Network and I’m HOME Network each surpassed 4,000 members each!

We are so grateful for your partnership, which is why this month we are highlighting some of the amazing things happening within our Community, Networks and Campaigns. And, to top it all off, we are excited to announce that the Taxpayer Opportunity Network successfully advocated for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) permanence in the federal Taxpayer First Act after 50 years of the program’s existence!   

After seeing what has happened after just two years of this Community, we know things will not slow down now. Later this summer, we will officially launch the Health and Wealth Network, so stay tuned for more information. And this Summer we’re launching an Advocacy Summer Camp, so volunteer to be a camp counselor or camper here. In the meantime, make sure you join in the fun by signing up for one of our Networks or Campaigns here

And if you have any items you’d like to see featured in future Community Bulletins, share them with us at Community@prosperitynow.org

In partnership,

Dara Duratinsky
Senior Program Manager, Field Engagement, Prosperity Now

Highlights

Affordable Homeownership Network and I’M HOME Spotlight: Montana’s Family Promise

Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley (FPYV) is on a mission to end homelessness in Montana with a community of 26 faith-based congregations and over 1400 volunteers. This strong foundation of support helps Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley provide essential services for homeless families such as shelter, food, and diaper assistance to parents of infants. But it is their Transitional Housing Program, and Partners in Housing Program, that provides interventions to build financial security. Prosperity Now spoke with FPYV’s Development Coordinator, Felicia Burge, to learn more.  

Families in the emergency shelter program have the opportunity to apply for the Transitional Housing program. Family Promise acknowledges that families experiencing homelessness need more time to overcome barriers, many of whom are not only two parents, but also single mothers, single fathers and grandparents. With this in mind, families enrolled in the program are given low rent apartments for one year to build positive rental history and improve their credit score. In addition, families must attend the budget training sessions, which Felicia describes as realistic and individualized to meet the family’s needs but still leaves enough room to reasonably enjoy activities such as seeing a movie or going out to dinner.

The Partnership in Housing Program aims to lift families from homelessness to homeownership. The program begins by providing training sessions on budgeting and goal setting so that families can start saving for their future homes one day at a time. As the training sessions progress, Family Promise searches for affordable manufactured homes for families to purchase. Families tend to purchase homes within 18 to 24 months in the program and in the last 3 years, 6 families bought homes.

In 2018, Prosperity Now joined forces with Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley, including two other affiliates in the Family Promise network to provide technical assistance to place transitioning homeless families into manufactured homes through enhanced financial capability programs and services. Felicia is proof of the success and impact of this program; Felicia and her family were in the program five years ago and is one of their very first homeowners. She now pays it forward by assisting families in breaking the cycle of poverty through the programs that awarded her the same opportunity.

To learn more about Affordable Homeownership and Manufactured Housing programs and policies across the country, including efforts to build credit through rent reporting, join the Affordable Homeownership and I’M HOME Networks.

Financial Coaching Network: Two Years and Counting of Peer Learning!

When the Financial Coaching Network launched two years ago, we sought to get to know our members, the areas you wanted to focus on most and how you wanted to connect with each other. Racial equity and inclusion in service delivery, applicable resources for program design and hands on tools for financial coaches topped the list of areas our members wanted to learn about and discuss with each other. Regular peer calls where practitioners working on financial coaching could talk to each other were a requested vehicle for learning and sharing, so we launched a bi-monthly series of virtual events with field leaders facilitating and sharing on the calls and lots of time for discussion. If you want to join in on the bi-monthly calls series that over 600 other practitioners have signed up for—you can do so here! And check out some of our popular past virtual events recordings on and the Financial Coaching Program Design Guide.

The Savings Network Celebrates New Mexico IDAs!

During the April Savings Network call (listen to the recording here), we highlighted the future of federal and state savings policy, including the success that recently happened in New Mexico. In April, New Mexico passed a bill that will create a state-funded Individual Development Account (IDA) program. Central to this bill being passed was Prosperity Works, a nonprofit advocating to remove systemic poverty and connect New Mexicans to opportunities for economic prosperity. We talked to Michael Barrio, the Director of Advocacy at Prosperity Works about this years-long effort, which began long before the federal Assets for Independence Initiative was excluded from the federal budget in 2017, but soon picked up steam this year knowing that IDA programs would not receive match dollars beyond 2019. 

Prosperity Works tapped into its extensive network of partners they have built throughout the state, including community and business leaders, publicly elected officials at the state and local level and organizational champions such as WESST, New Mexico Voices for Children, Lutheran Advocacy New Mexico, the New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty, Prosperity Now Community Champion Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico (CAASNM) and many more to mobilize in support of this bill. Michael credits the positive outcomes of IDAs over the past 15 years as the reason why this bill passed in the legislature. Since IDAs were first implemented in New Mexico in 2004, the program has enabled 319 families to purchase housing, funded 600 new and expanded locally owned business, led to $8.3 million in savings deposits in New Mexico financial institutions, and infused $7.6 million into local communities. Because of this, the program has had bipartisan support from the beginning. Prosperity Now Community Steering Committee member, Rodolfo Acosta-Pérez, the Director of Family Empowerment at CAASNM said “…the passage of this legislation sends a message of action, collaboration, and optimism because it shows how community-based organizations, financial institutions, and elected officials can work together to foster economic development. Furthermore, this legislation will help keep an evidence-based approach to economic development in New Mexico.” 

The policy will continue the upward work of the IDA program in New Mexico by combining matched dollar savings accounts with comprehensive financial capability training and coaching, working together to help New Mexicans build credit and assets and achieve financial security. Michael and his Prosperity Works colleagues understand that though this program is only the beginning of moving the needle to address poverty. “In order for us to truly address poverty and inequality,” says Michael, “we have to ask ourselves, our communities, our leaders and stakeholders, what can we do within our own purviews of power to address the attitudes and behaviors that guide our systems and public policy and contribute to the inequity we see every day?” If you are interested in staying updated on state and federal savings policy and the future of matched savings, join the Savings Network here!

Resources from Across the Community

CSA Survey of Private and Public Funding | Asset Funders Network 
Asset Funders Network released this brief with findings of their nationwide CSA survey. The report presents insights from the CSA field, various avenues for funding and its uses.

From Paychecks to Prosperity | Prosperity Now
P
rosperity Now’s Youth Financial Capability Fund (YFCF), in partnership with the Citi Foundation, has identified 11 key insights across five categories to assist youth development agencies in their work to embed youth financial capability programs into their existing workforce programs.

Racial Wealth Gap Infographic | Asset Building Policy Network
This infographic compares the stark differences between the racial income gap, the racial wealth gap, and the importance of differentiating the two. 

Matched Savings For Downpayment Assistance | Prosperity Now
This report reviews existing research to explore how down payments are a barrier to homeownership and how matched savings programs like individual development accounts (IDAs) can help.

Changing the Odds (2019): Progress and Promise in Atlanta | The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Annie E. Casey explores potential policies and local initiatives that would address systemic barriers facing communities of color in Atlanta, GA.

Helping Families Save to Withstand Emergencies | Prosperity Now
This brief describes promising policy solutions that would create opportunities for families to build emergency savings.

Building Entrepreneurship Ecosystems in Communities of Color | Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
This guide presents various ways that local developers can use ecosystem building to support entrepreneurs of color in their community and promote racial wealth equity.

Making Sense of the Complex Solutions to Help People Build Their Savings | Prosperity Now
Prosperity Now released a series of briefs exploring how to better design and deliver savings products, services and programs. Join the
Savings Network and its listserv for future discussions about this series

Opportunities and Events

Opportunities 

Take Our Survey: Here’s your chance to make sure Prosperity Now is focusing on what you want and need. Please complete our annual Community Survey by Wednesday, July 3, 2019. This survey will help us better understand who is in the Community, what your priorities are and how you’ve used our resources.

Now Open: The USDA is accepting applications for the Housing Preservation Grant which will fund the repair or rehabilitation of homes owned by low to very-low income rural citizens. Applications are accepted through a Notice of Solicitation in the Federal Register and the deadline ends July 8th. Learn more about qualifying organizations here.

Jobs

Financial Access Educator | Capital One | Chicago, IL

Financial Access Educator | Capital One | Los Angeles, CA

Events

Webinar: Financial Coaching Bi-Monthly Peer Call: Supporting Financial Coaches |Prosperity Now June 27, 2019

Webinar: 2019 Savings Network Webinar Series | Prosperity Now | July 9 2019

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

Webinar: Camp Prosperity Advocacy Summer Camp Series | July 23 2019

Rural Rise Summit | Rural Rise | Pine Bluff, AR | September 16–19, 2019

Common Cents Conference 2019 | Common Cents Conference | Fairfax, VA | September 17–18, 2019

Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference | Center for Community Progress | Atlanta, GA | October 2-4, 2019

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

Homes Within Reach Conference | Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania | Harrisburg, PA | November 18 – 29, 2019

Policy Updates

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance 

Bi-partisan bill, HR 1957, which makes the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program permanent, and passed the Senate. The bill also amends various practices of the IRS to prioritize the needs of taxpayers first. For instance, low-income individuals will be exempt from IRS private debt collection programs, IRS Independent Office of Appeals and an extensive customer service strategy will be established.

VITA Permanence was championed extensively by the Prosperity Now Community and a warm congratulations to all the VITA champions who called, emailed, and visited their members of congress to advocate for this program.

Manufactured Housing

Colorado passed House Bill 1309, which protects mobile homeowners by extending the time period between nonpayment of rent and an eviction notice. It will also extend the amount of time a homeowner must vacate the property. The bill allows the Department of Local Affairs’ Division of Housing to receive complaints from mobile homeowners and serve as a mediator between homeowners and park owners. Lastly, the bill puts decision making power into the hands of the communities by allowing counties and municipalities to create their own property regulations for mobile home parks.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D), introduced HR 2832 into the U.S. House that would protect manufactured homeowners by creating incentives for housing park investors to sell the park to the homeowners. The bill would create a 75% tax credit on the sale of a mobile park only if it is sold to the park residents. As long as parks are owned by private investors, owners of manufactured homes are at risk of being displaced if investors decide to sell the park. Read about Prosperity Now’s perspective on this bill here.

Earned Income Tax Credit

Minnesota passed HF 5, which is part of a significant 2020 tax reform and is set to increase their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), known as the Working Family Tax Credit (WFC) and allocate a $30 million budget towards the expansion. The new regulation will begin to cover families with three or more dependent children and increase the credit’s income threshold. The regulation will also increase the credit value for qualifying individuals without dependent children.

Consumer Protections

Nevada signed a bill into law that will improve payday lending practices by requiring the State to create a database, which will be private and only accessible to authorized personnel, that stores certain information related to an individual’s payday loans, titles loans, and/or high interest loans. Through the database, payday loan regulations will be enforced and prohibit lenders from providing loans to individuals who do not qualify for loans. This practice will in turn benefit individuals stuck on the debt treadmill.

 

Related Content