Community Bulletin: Highlighting Black History Month

From the Guest Editor

Dear Community Partners and Friends,

This month we are highlighting the policies, programs and accomplishments of our African American Community members and the work being done to close the racial wealth divide. As the celebration of Black History Month comes to an end, I want to remind our readers that WE (Black and Brown People) celebrate our rich heritage 365 days a year. Our celebrations are rooted in the culture of our food, the conversations around the table and the warmth of those we cherish.

Brick by Brick Consulting NC is committed to fostering conversations that create a peaceful serenity and reprieve from the chaos of racial inequities, microaggressions and racism, specifically for Women of Color who are leading organizations in predominately White spaces. Our inaugural conversation, "Our Own Table", hosted in a quaint coffee shop (Cam’s Coffee Creation) was on the topic of “Blackhaustion,” a term coined by Randi Bryant, a diversity and inclusion strategist.

Over a 90-minute lunch break, a small group of Black women tackled the concept of being tired, but not relenting in spaces where we are the minority. Every month we will tackle a different topic and welcome all who drop by.

Sending you well wishes,

Shenell McClurkin Thompson – MA, CEPF
Founder & CEO Brick by Brick Consulting NC, LLC
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



Organizational Spotlight: PathWays PA

To celebrate Black History Month, we're highlighting one of many organizations in our Community led by people of color and helping families achieve their own financial goals. One of those organizations is our Pennsylvania Community Champion, PathWays PA, led by Executive Director, Brenda Dawson, whose dedication to serving her community comes from her childhood living in a multi-generational household with her grandparents. 

Brenda and PathWays PA are particularly proud of the success of their Financial Path$ Program, which began after realizing their VITA clients needed additional financial counseling. The program takes a holistic, human-centered approach to financial counseling by taking into account the particular situation each client is in and their personalities and financial goals. The program offers services around career development, housing, savings, budgeting, debt and more to a largely working-class community. Other aspects of the program integral to its success include assessment testing, developing relationships with clients in other services, such as tax preparation and using tax returns to begin the discussion around savings, retirement planning and homeownership. Additionally, the program uses referrals for supportive services such as behavioral health counseling and other medical services. While the team at PathWays PA recruits clients to the Financial Path$ Program through strategic outreach at community meetings, Brenda credits the success of the program to the power of community and word of mouth. Those who have gone through the program recommend it to their peers. Clients tend to enter the program in despair but find themselves feeling a sense of hope by the time they’re done.

As for Brenda, her grandmother had a reputation of caring for and helping people in need in their neighborhood, particularly women and children, setting a tone for the rest of the family. As a young girl, Brenda collected March of Dimes donations and volunteered for other organizations, leading her to a career in social work. “I’m fortunate to be able to be here and encourage people in the face of dire situations to fight their way out of poverty and other challenges,” says Brenda, “I’m also fortunate to have incredible, committed and passionate staff, from those who work directly with clients to the executive team, who know they are light-bearers in the community.”

How Local Organizations Vet FinTech Products for Their Clients

Financial products delivered via technology, commonly known as FinTech, have gained interest in the financial capability and empowerment field as a way to complement services such as financial coaching. However, there are legitimate concerns about pricing, quality and safety for the clients we serve.

Two Prosperity Now Community members and CFSI Working Group Members, Catalyst Miami and Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners in New York City, have implemented processes to evaluate FinTech products and partners. These include testing functionality, interface and ease of use, especially for Catalyst Miami’s clients, for which immigrants are a large share. Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners developed formalized criteria to evaluate their FinTech partners, including accessibility, products that meet client needs and functionality and fees. You can read more about the work these organizations are doing to vet FinTech products here. You can also learn more about Prosperity Now’s work with Center for Financial Services Innovation to learn more about FinTech in the field here.

Bridging Economic Inequality Requires Bold Legislative Steps 

Earlier this month, President Trump's State of the Union touted the country’s “unprecedented economic boom”, citing a decline in unemployment and the passage of his 2017 tax overhaul. While those at the top continue to benefit greatly in today’s economy, the reality is working families - particularly Black families and families of color - are still falling behind. Unless we take significant steps to invest in communities of color early and often, we may never bridge the divide.

Last year, Senator Cory Booker introduced the American Opportunity Accounts Act, which would create a $1,000 seed account for every child born in the U.S. Until they turn 18, children from low- and moderate-income families will have their accounts boosted through direct deposits of additional, automatic yearly investments of up to $2,000. When the children become adults, they would be able to access these funds for specific asset building purposes, such as higher education, homeownership or entrepreneurship. For children who are part of our most financially vulnerable families, once interest is accounting for, the funds in their accounts could reach nearly $50,000. While this is a bold and unprecedented step towards narrowing the racial wealth gap, the case for it is clear.  

According to our 2019 Scorecard, nearly 30% of Black families and 21% of Latino families have no wealth. Even when Black and Latino families do have wealth, it vastly pales in comparison to the wealth owned by White households. The homeownership and higher education gap between White families and families of color also remains sizable, at nearly 34% and 16%, respectively. If we’re to solve the growing problem of economic inequality and an ever-growing racial wealth divide, then the new Congress must prioritize targeted investment for communities that need it the most. Help us as we work to re-introduce this bill and others like it this Congress by signing up for our Advocacy Center

Resources from Across the Community

The African American Financial Capability Initiative: An Implementation Blueprint, Prosperity Now
This Blueprint shares insights from a three-year initiative to build the capacity of organizations in the Northwest that work to improve and protect the economic security of African Americans.

Is New Really New? Financial Technology and Its Impact on Low-Income Families, Illinois Asset Building Group (IABG)
This report from Community Champion, IABG, identifies concerns related to fintech and offers solutions to address them.

Redesigning the Financial Roadmap for the LMI 50+ Segment, CFSI
CFSI examines the financial lives of low-income Americans over 50 and how practitioners and service providers can serve them.

Creating Entrepreneurship Pathways for Opportunity Youth: Early Experiences from the Youth Entrepreneurship Fund Grantees, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions
Aspen explores the ability for entrepreneurship to engage and create pathways for opportunity youth and shares promising practices aimed at this population.

Financial Coaching Network Bi-Monthly Peer Call Series: Slides & Recordings, Prosperity Now
Check out slides and recordings from the past few Financial Coaching Network calls, focused on using a racial equity lens in financial coaching services. Sign up for the Financial Coaching Network to join future calls.

On Shaky Ground: Stabilizing the Financial Security of Single Women, Asset Funders Network
At the end of last year, Asset Funders Network released a brief, a webinar and other resources that explore how the gender and racial wealth gaps impact women.

What’s Next for the EITC: Strengthening the Tax Code for Working Families, Prosperity Now and Tax Credits for Working Families
Check out resources and video from our February 7 briefing on Capitol Hill, featuring EITC champions Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman.

How Do You Weather a Short-Term Financial Crisis? New America Foundation
In this article, New America explains how policies and programs like Children’s Savings Accounts can help build wealth to weather financial shocks such as the recent government shutdown and income volatility.

Opportunities & Events


Sign up for America Saves Week, happening now, from February 25 to March 2, 2019. By signing up, you will have access to tools and resources that help organizations encourage effective savings strategies.

Save the Date: JPMorgan Chase’s Raising Opportunities in Neighborhoods (PRO Neighborhoods) CDFI Collaborative Competition opens March 4, 2019. This opportunity awards CDFIs that develop partnerships and invest in local solutions that address income and wealth inequality. For more information, read this 2018 progress report on the initiative.


Webinar: Financial Coaching Network Bi-Monthly Peer Call: Fintech and Racial Equity in Financial Coaching, Prosperity Now, February 28, 2019, 3:30-5 pm ET

#DCSaves #DCAhorrayProspera Forum, Capital Area Asset Builders, Washington, DC, March 1, 2019

2019 Just Economy ConferenceNational Community Reinvestment Coalition, Washington, DC, March 11-13, 2019 

Webinar: An Emergent Field: The State of Children’s Savings, Prosperity Now, March 14, 2-3 pm ET

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

Northwest Regional Prosperity Summit, Prosperity Now, Des Moines, IA, April 3, 2019

Northwest Regional Prosperity Summit, Prosperity Now, Boise, ID, April 23, 2019

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

FPP 11th Annual Statewide Training Conference, Florida Prosperity Partnership, Orlando, FL, May 28-31, 2019

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

Policy Updates

Individual Development Accounts

The New Mexico legislature is considering a bill that would allow an appropriation for Individual Development Accounts at $500,000. To learn more about efforts to advocate for this policy, check out Prosperity Works’ website.

Other State Bills We're Keeping an Eye On:

Several states have introduced bills to create new Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), expand existing ones or make them refundable, including:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Three states are considering bills to eliminate asset limits or savings penalties from TANF, SNAP and other benefit programs, including:

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • New York

Four states have introduced bills that would set up Children’s Savings Account Programs, including:

  • California
  • Kansas
  • New Mexico
  • Washington

We will share more information on these bills as they move in the coming months. In the meantime, if you are advocating for any of these bills or others that promote economic mobility, we want to know about it! Email us at

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