Taking the First Step: Six Ways to Start Building Financial Security and Opportunity at the Local Level

Traditionally, efforts by municipal governments to shore up residents’ economic security have focused on increasing residents’ income through job creation and job training strategies. However, in recent years, many cities have begun to focus on parlaying that increased income into savings and durable assets. An increasing number of local leaders understand these needs and are committed to developing new solutions. Yet, the nationwide adoption of these ideas cannot happen without the engagement of many more cities. To explore options available to cities large and small for engaging in asset-building strategies, Prosperity Now and National League of Cities published Taking the First Step: Six Ways to Start Building Financial Security and Opportunity at the Local Level, a report funded by Living Cities. Taking the First Step suggests that local innovators have a tremendous opportunity to learn and borrow from other cities and adopt cutting-edge techniques that build financial security. “From the tiny municipality of Itta Bena, Mississippi (population 2,208) to major metropolises like Houston,” the report suggests, local leaders must “seize the opportunity and work together to apply innovative approaches in their localities.” These approaches – “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to ease of buy-in from local leaders – are grouped into the six categories. According to the guide, cities should: 1. Raise awareness about available services and consumer protections. 2. Increase access to financial education through provider networks. 3. Connect residents to safe and affordable financial products. 4. Mitigate foreclosures by coordinating services and leveraging resources. 5. Prevent predatory lending through local ordinances. 6. Model a strong role for employers through benefits structures and human resources policies. For each of these six strategies, Taking the First Step provides a how-to guide, along with success stories from cities that have already effectively tested these strategies. Together, these features make the report ideal for practitioners and advocates alike.

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