Assets and Freedom
By Alexander Scarlis on 07/21/2014 @ 01:48 PM
Over the July 4 weekend, my wife and I sat in a movie theater waiting for the previews to begin. A song played on a loop while images of fireworks and the American flag danced across the screen. The chorus included “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” I struggled with that last part.
In theory, we should all enjoy the same legal and political rights. In practice, there are exceptions. Take, for example, the right to vote—one of the most fundamental rights of all citizens of a democratic republic. Conviction that suffrage should be universal motivated the ratification of the 15th and 19th amendments to the constitution, and was a central battle of the civil rights movement. And yet, convicted felons can’t vote in certain states, in some cases even after completing their sentence. Another exception: women, the poor and the elderly may find it more difficult to vote, and young minorities already found it more difficult thanks to voter ID laws in a majority of states (with more coming after the Supreme Court’s partial rollback of the 1965 Voting Rights Act).
I also find it difficult to reconcile the idea that we’re all free with the socio-economic reality of millions of Americans. Merriam-Webster defines freedom as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” If you face more “constraint in choice or action” than I do, then my freedom exceeds yours, which then raises the question of whether you are truly free. Relative freedom is surely as un-American as it gets.
As it turns out, the boundaries of our individual freedom are defined as early as the womb. Brain development is shaped most in life’s early years and the damage wrought by poverty’s toxic stress can permanently restrict a child’s freedom, from learning disabilities to behavioral problems.
The early barriers to true life-long freedom don’t end there. One of the first questions many new or soon-to-be parents ask themselves is how good are the local schools? How many parents have the freedom to then move to a higher quality (read: more expensive) school district, or move at all, given their financial resources? How many parents have the freedom to send their kids to college without overloading them with freedom-killing debt, let alone to their college of choice? How many parents have the freedom to burnish their kid’s resum—, I mean, college application, with violin class? Or math camp? Or private-tutor-enhanced SAT scores?
Even if you accept the poorly substantiated argument that some parents can only blame themselves because they don’t work hard enough (a low-wage, no-benefits job will only get you so far), what do you tell their kids? Odds are most of those kids will end up not much better off than their parents. There comes a time when society must use its collective might to end this cycle and give its less fortunate children a chance at real freedom. And if stable kids require stable relationships, then public policy cannot ignore their parents either.
CFED actively pushes asset-building policy proposals with these goals in mind. Children’s Savings Accounts improve both early childhood development and academic outcomes. A reformed tax code would help all families build wealth (and wealth is a freedom magnet). Manufactured housing offers low-income families a shot at what is still a bastion of the American Dream: the financial and emotional security of affordable homeownership and all the happy byproducts that come with it, from more stable neighborhoods to kids scoring higher on academic tests. You can find more freedom-friendly ideas here.
I don’t deny the possibility that limitations on an individual’s freedom of choice may be a consequence of that individual’s choices. Yet as a country that prides itself on freedom, we must realize the dangers inherent in assumptions of personal failure. If we’re wrong, we are relegating the falsely accused to a life none of us would wish for our own children. Barring a political uprising by the working poor, the responsibility to enact policies that benefit all families rests with the politically influential who are rarely low-income. Merriam-Webster also defines freedom as “liberation…from the power of another.”
Catalyst Forum Brings Together Senator Cory Booker and NFL Star Justin Tuck to Talk with NYC Leaders About CSAs
By Carl Rist on 07/18/2014 @ 10:25 AM
At an intimate event Monday, co-hosts Justin and Lauran Tuck and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker engaged an audience of New York City leaders in a conversation about children’s savings accounts (CSAs) and college access. Sponsored by the Admiral Center and the Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy, the conversation provided participants an opportunity to learn about the power of CSAs in building college aspirations, hear about the growth of CSA initiatives in the New York City area, and engage in a discussion about how to extend this opportunity to all students in the region through the 1:1 Fund.
The 1:1 Fund partners with local child savings programs to provide incentives that spur low-income families to save and plan for college, including several programs in the New York city area.
All-Pro defensive end, Justin Tuck, and his wife Lauran kicked off the conversation and talked about the importance of higher education and their support for CSAs through a generous donation to the 1:1 Fund to benefit young savers at the Children’s Aid Society in New York City.
The Tucks were followed by Angela Carson Hines and her daughter, Asia, who opened a CSA when Asia was a middle-school student at KIPP DC. Angela noted that when they started saving in their KIPP College Account, “my mind changed,” and that now everything the family does is about investing in their kids’ futures. I loved her quote about preparing financially for college: “We attack the money.”
I can’t think of a more inspiring collection of speakers to talk about CSAs. Thanks to Sherrie Deans and Evelyn Burnett from the Admiral Center for working so hard to organize the Forum and to Brandee McHale, Rosemary Byrnes and all of their colleagues at Citi for hosting the event.
Assets Learning Conference to Offer Special Training Workshop for Federal Agency Staff
By Sean Luechtefeld on 07/17/2014 @ 11:30 AM
Policy action that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of financially vulnerable Americans must come from all levels and all branches of government. From city hall to the statehouse and from Congress to federal agencies and the Oval Office, there are a range of tools at policymakers’ disposal that can help families become financially secure.
The Assets Learning Conference (ALC) has evolved over the years to become a major resource for agency staff and policymakers who want in-depth information about policy and program strategies that reduce wealth inequality and help low- and moderate-income families achieve long-term financial stability.
This year’s ALC, taking place September 17-19 in Washington, DC, will attract policymakers from all levels of government seeking to do more to help hard-working families achieve the American Dream.
New to the ALC this year is a special half-day training session for federal agency staff that will focus in-depth on the opportunities and benefits of integrating asset-building and financial empowerment strategies into federally funded programs. This special session on September 18 is designed to respond to demand from government staff eager to learn about how asset-building strategies can inform their work and improve their program outcomes. In numerous programs, agencies and offices, there are manageable and moveable ways to incorporate measures that can increase financial security. Hence, the training will emphasize programs doing innovative work to integrate asset building into social service delivery programs, while highlighting opportunities for government employees to create similar programs in their own offices.
The special session for federal government staff is just one way that CFED uses the ALC to connect lawmakers and administrators with practitioners and researchers seeking to make a difference in the lives of financially vulnerable Americans. This is in addition to the 60+ educational and interactive sessions, as well as a series of opportunities to network during the three-day conference. For more information about these and other opportunities, and to register for the ALC, visit www.assetsconference.org.
Changing Mindsets About Manufactured Housing
By Will Hansen on 07/16/2014 @ 11:28 AM
In my last post I focused on why I chose to work at CFED and my journey across the country to get to Washington. This post will focus on my work with the Homeownership team and how we're changing mindsets about manufactured housing.
The Homeownership team’s focus is to promote asset building for low-income individuals by helping them realize the American Dream of homeownership through manufactured homes.
At CFED, we are very careful with our choice of words in regards to manufactured housing: we don’t refer to trailer parks or single-wides because it perpetuates the stigma that manufactured homes are worse than site-built homes. Our goal is to help people realize that manufactured homes are a safe, affordable and quality source for homeownership.
As the intern, I assist the team by providing background data and policy research for any written publications we have. These written publications can include policy briefs, newsletters for our I’M HOME Network or information packets for upcoming conferences. Most recently I have been working on putting together research and presentation materials for an upcoming conference on manufactured housing in southwest Pennsylvania.
I have also taken on the responsibility to grow the size of the I’M HOME Network to transform manufactured housing finance, advocate for reforms in the manufactured housing policy arena and communicate about the value of manufactured housing as a source of affordable homeownership for millions of Americans. To achieve this goal it is crucial that our Network is diverse and includes members of the academic field, manufactured housing industry, community development and affordable housing partners.
By getting the right individuals in the Network, we can really improve the quality of information being disseminated to our partners. Getting the right people in the network is not as straight forward as it may seem. Unfortunately, there is not a list of every person who has written about or worked in the field. To find the best possible members, I spend a lot of my day reading articles and researching organizations to see if their message is one that would fit the expertise we need in the Network. It takes a lot of time and effort to cultivate such a network, but I believe that the best way to promote change is to let people know that there is a problem, and that there are people out there working to solve that problem.
I hope to continue working on the I’M HOME Network until I leave CFED at the end of the summer. My perception of manufactured housing has changed so much since working at CFED. I can only hope that by getting the right people involved with the Network and providing the facts that we are able to change public perception of manufactured housing in the same way my perception has changed.
Asset-Building News Roundup - July 11, 2014
By Sean Luechtefeld on 07/11/2014 @ 12:00 PM
For folks coming to DC for CFED's Assets Learning Conference, an adjacent opportunity is the Bipartisan Policy Center's 2014 Housing Summit on September 15 & 16. For more information, check out the Summit website.
On Wednesday, the United States Senate confirmed former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as Secretary for Housing & Urban Development. CFED issued a formal statement applauding Castro's confirmation; read it here.
Earlier this week, the Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund released a series of briefs documenting the impact of their Save to Win prize-linked savings program for tax year 2013. The state-by-state impact briefs, along with other Save to Win documents, can be downloaded here.
Earlier this week, the Assets & Opportunity Network announced that three organizations would be recipients of technical assistance thanks to the JPMorganChase-funded Technical Assistance Fund. The three organizations are Catalyst Miami, Louisville Metro Community Services and Revitalization, and Wayne Metro Community Action Agency.
The Northwest Area Foundation launched the Financial Inclusion Policy Action Initiative this week, which seeks to identify organizations who are working to learn about and advance policy issues that improve the financial lives of low- and moderate-income families in the Foundation's eight-state footprint. Eligibility is open to organizations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and the 75 sovereign Tribal Nations that share the same geography. For more information or to apply, download the RFP.
CFED is still in the market for a Senior State & Local Policy Manager, as well as a Senior Program Manager for our Savings & Financial Capability team. We're also looking for an IT Generalist. Each of these positions are located in our D.C. office. For more about these, visit our Careers page.
Does your organization have relevant content that you'd like to include in our weekly roundup? Email it to CFED and she'll be happy to add it in.
CFED Applauds Senate Confirmation of Castro for HUD Secretary
By Alexander Scarlis on 07/10/2014 @ 03:00 PM
Washington officially welcomed former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro yesterday when the Senate confirmed him as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Check out CFED’s press release offering Secretary Castro our own warm welcome. We’re all really looking forward to working with him as we continue our quest for economic opportunity and financial security for all!
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) applauds the Senate’s confirmation of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro as Secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Secretary Castro brings with him both hands-on knowledge of what works for urban communities and a dedication to helping all Americans reach their full potential. His demonstrated leadership on expanding educational and economic opportunities for thousands of San Antonians gives us great hope for what he will accomplish for all low- and moderate-income families in his new role as Secretary.
“We are excited to work with Secretary Castro to expand economic opportunity in America by promoting asset-building and manufactured housing in communities throughout the country.” said CFED president Andrea Levere. “The CFED Board was fortunate enough to convene in San Antonio earlier this year, and he graciously set aside time to meet with us amidst a flurry of activity in the City Council. Today we send him our heartfelt congratulations on another well-deserved milestone in his astounding career.”
CFED is a national nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that empowers low- and moderate-income households to build and preserve assets by advancing policies and programs that help them achieve the American Dream, including buying a home, pursuing higher education, starting a business and saving for the future.
The Assets & Opportunity Network Kicks Off Third Round of Technical Assistance Fund
By Fran Rosebush on 07/10/2014 @ 11:30 AM
This week, the Assets & Opportunity Network starts work with organizations participating in the third and final round of targeted technical assistance available this year through the JPMorgan Chase-funded Technical Assistance (TA) Fund. The TA Fund is designed to leverage expertise within the Network to help organizations address their critical issues, strengthen their work and explore new avenues to increase their impact. The TA Fund is designed to demonstrate how the Network can spread knowledge, share tools and assist organizations with achieving their goals.
More than 50 Lead Organizations in the JPMorgan Chase footprint were invited to apply. Three projects were selected for the third round:
- Catalyst Miami will receive assistance refining their hiring and training process for financial coaches, as well as beginning to develop a referral map for their financial coaching services.
- Louisville Metro Community Services and Revitalization will receive assistance with the development of an interactive client workbook around the importance of credit and credit issues.
- Wayne Metro Community Action Agency will receive assistance with the design of an implementation plan to integrate financial empowerment and financial coaching services throughout their agency.
In addition, the TA Fund is supporting a new peer learning series that will be open to all Network Lead Organizations. The three-part virtual peer learning series will focus on challenges and solutions with data collection and evaluation. At the end of the series, key lessons and insights from the series will be shared through a webinar for all Assets & Opportunity Network members.
The first round of projects with the Connecticut Asset Building Collaborative, Oregon IDA Initiative and the Women’s Opportunity Resource Center came to a close last month. The second round of projects with the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition, Alameda County Community Action Network, Maryland CASH Campaign, Center for Asset Building Opportunities and the Florida Prosperity Partnership are preparing to wrap up over the next few weeks. The third round of projects will run through August 30.
One way that we are planning to share lessons gleaned from the Technical Assistance Fund is through a weekly blog series. Starting next week and running through October 23, we will share blog posts written by TA providers and recipients from the individual TA Fund projects who will share lessons and insights from their TA Fund projects. Stay tuned!
Behind the Scenes: Recruitment @ CFED
By Macy Cheeks on 07/09/2014 @ 09:00 AM
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second post in a series from our Graduate Intern for Human Resources, Macy Cheeks. Today, Macy goes behind the scenes in the recruitment process, sharing the process we go through to bring the most amazing colleagues ever to CFED.
Wes Lin is our Human Resources Generalist. He’s been away for a couple weeks as he got married at the end of June (congrats, Wes!). In his absence, one of my main tasks has been to keep our recruitment efforts going. I quickly recognized that recruiting for an organization of CFED’s caliber would be a challenge. CFED is able to achieve and make significant strides in programs, research and policy advocacy because of the intelligent and dedicated staff. I thought to myself, “How do I recruit candidates that will add additional value to this organization?” Needless to say, a mini panic attack soon followed. However, Wes made sure that I was well prepared by providing me with a crash course in recruitment and a much needed pep talk! Days later, I leaped head first into this jigsaw puzzle called staffing at CFED (and my first recruit, Digital Media Manager Paul Day, starts today!).
Every day I sift through dozens of applications and cover letters on Newton, our applicant tracking software. When I come across a great candidate, I forward their resume and cover letter on to the hiring manager. The hiring manager will review the documents and if the candidate looks good, will recommend moving forward with a telephone screen. A phone screen serves as a tool to gauge the overall experience and interpersonal skills of a candidate. At first, conducting screens was the most nerve-racking part of my internship! Once I became comfortable I started to truly enjoy chatting with candidates about their background and professional interest.
If the phone screen goes well, I will schedule a phone interview and possibly an in-office interview with the hiring manager. Logistically, I found that the most challenging part of recruitment is coordinating interviews with staff. With calendars booked months in advance, attempting to find a free hour that works for both the candidate and CFED team members is tough.
I give the interview team time to debrief after the in-office interview, and if the candidate is a good match, I get to deliver the news. Notifying a candidate that they have been selected for a position at CFED has been the best part of my internship so far!
During these three weeks, I have gleaned some important lessons about staffing/recruitment at CFED:
- The employees are CFED’s biggest asset and are responsible for the everlasting success of CFED. It takes time to find the right individual who is sincerely passionate about the work that we do here. You can’t rush recruitment.
- From an applicant’s perspective, HR professionals are the face of the organization. Unwavering confidence and the ability to communicate well are crucial traits to have when attracting potential employees.
- The most rewarding part of HR is making job offers. Finding someone who will mesh well with the team and contribute to the bigger picture is a fabulous feeling, comparable to completing a very difficult jigsaw puzzle.
Interested in a career at CFED? Browse our openings!
The Key to Regaining American Opportunity and Fiscal Freedom
By Sean Luechtefeld on 07/08/2014 @ 09:30 AM
On Wednesday, June 25, CFED Founder and Board Chair Bob Friedman had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, titled “The Key to Regaining American Opportunity and Fiscal Freedom.” The discussion featured longtime CFED friends Eugene Steuerle, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and author of Dead Men Ruling: How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future, and Frank Yeary, Former Vice Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley and Co-founder and Chair of Level Money.
In Dead Men Ruling, Gene argues that with both tax cuts and entitlement spending on autopilot and more than claiming all additional growth dividends, there is no ability to make investments in the younger generation (the first generation in our history unlikely to do better than their parents) and all other changing needs going forward unless both the Left and the Right free the future. Frank Yeary followed by underscoring that we are investing in aging baby boomers to the detriment of younger Americans, and describes his efforts to organize "an AARP for young people" based on a financial planning app, LevelMoney, designed to give millennials a measure of clarity and control over their finances.
More information about the event can be found here. In the coming days, video from the event will be uploaded as well, so check back when you’ve got a few extra minutes; it’s worth the watch.
Steurele’s book, Dead Men Ruling, is available for purchase on Amazon.
Removing Barriers to Building Wealth
By Charles Tilley on 07/07/2014 @ 12:00 PM
After a little over a month working with CFED, I can safely say that policy surrounding financial security is seldom straightforward. Be it conflicting regulatory statutes or abstruse language in state program manuals, there is normally an element of challenge in fully understanding a given policy. However, the chance to investigate so many different issue areas in preparation for CFED’s annual Assets & Opportunity Scorecard has provided me with a much deeper understanding of the asset-building field.
Asset limits have stood out prominently in my mind as a policy area which seldom enters the mainstream political debate or media dialogue, but one which deserves careful consideration. Individual states are given leeway in how to structure federal assistance programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program), leading to considerable variation in eligibility requirements and program design from one state to another. In addition to income requirements, though, some states include resource limits—or asset tests—in their programs’ eligibility criteria. States are given discretion to set asset limits for these federal assistance programs, or to forego asset tests entirely.
Where these lines are drawn, however, can generate significant financial responses from program participants. Depending on the structure of eligibility standards, possession of a vehicle, burial fund or Individual Development Account (IDA) could push a household above the resource limit. Thus, not only is the asset limit itself important, but states’ decisions regarding which resources are excluded in asset calculations also have a tremendous bearing on families’ ability to build wealth.
By their very nature, resource limits can encourage a “spending down” of assets in order to maintain program eligibility. However, the ultimate goal of federal assistance programs is to move people towards self-sufficiency. The potential disconnect here is clear.
Another aspect of these tests is the creation of an “effective asset limit.” That is, even if a resource limit is lifted or eliminated for one or even two programs, a more restrictive limit in a third serves as the effective limit when a family seeks access to all three programs. Since families often participate in more than one federal support program, the most restrictive limit can become the default if a family chooses to “spend down” to secure eligibility for that program. Below is an example:
In this scenario, the state’s TANF limit supersedes the SNAP and LIHEAP limits when applying for all three programs. While this hypothetical state has eliminated its SNAP asset test, the TANF limit will restrict families applying to both programs and could incent “spending down” to meet eligibility requirements even though such behavior has no effect on SNAP eligibility. For this reason, harmonizing asset limits across programs can be a powerful tool.
The ultimate takeaway is that many policies and programs interact in ways which may not be readily apparent during the design and implementation phases. However, it is important for advocates (like CFED, the Assets & Opportunity Network and other partners) to shed a light on these policy intricacies to help effectively leverage existing programmatic resources and advance a legislative platform that fosters financial security and promotes asset building. For a more comprehensive overview of state-by-state asset limits, check out last year’s relevant Scorecard pages.
Lessons from History on “Integrated Service Delivery”: A Primer
By Anne Guthrie on 07/03/2014 @ 09:30 AM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog post is the second in a series from Anne Guthrie, Graduate Intern for Savings & Financial Security. It's a great read for anyone wanting a quick but comprehensive overview of the history of integrated service delivery.
“Integrated service delivery” is one of the most popular topics in the asset-development field. What was once a jargon-laden term confined to public administrative journals is now widely used in describing a particular asset-building model that has gone to scale over the last five years. This model was first piloted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation when it launched its Centers for Working Families (CWF) in 2004. The CWF model integrates employment, income supports and financial services to address the multiple and complex needs low-income families have in reaching long-term financial stability.
A record number of nonprofit organizations have embraced the CWF approach. There are now Financial Opportunity Centers, Spark Point Centers, Prosperity Centers, Financial Empowerment Centers and others—each may have a different name and variations on the model, but all embrace the core strategy of integrating workforce and asset-based services. Just last year, the Working Families Success Network was formed to build the capacity for what is now known as the “Integrated Service Delivery” (ISD) model. This network collectively invests and delivers the ISD model in over 155 locations in more than 30 cities in 12 states around the country.
With excitement surrounding the ISD model, I found it interesting that “integrated service delivery” is not a new concept. It has been recognized since the beginning of settlement houses in the early 1900s, where government and nonprofit organizations offered autonomous programs that enabled a family’s ability to receive all the supports necessary to escape poverty. A prime example is Jane Addams’ Hull House, which offered housing, health, employment, child care and household money management activities under one roof.
Of course, you can see the roots of integration at the policy level starting with the War on Poverty in the 1960s, where neighborhood centers coordinated a range of services that targeted specific low-income neighborhoods. However, it was not until 1972 that the term “integrated service delivery” was born thanks to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s (HEW) Service Integration Targets of Opportunity (SITO) projects and Partnership Grants Program. At this time, HEW estimated that that 85% of clients needed more than one service, but only 20% who were referred to other resources were able to connect.1 Here’s another mind-blowing fact: when a mother visited the welfare office, her needs required the response of 15 separate public and nonprofit organizations.2
This first wave of integration aimed at consolidating major departments to offer integrated programs under one umbrella. However, many services remained fragmented, and the administrative integration failed to translate into an increased number of families enrolled in more than one service.3 In 1984, Congress initiated a new program, the Services Integration Pilot Projects, and the National Center for Service Integration was established. This second wave of integration efforts focused more on the operational mechanics in designing service flows and training staff to enroll clients in multiple services. This philosophy eventually led to the “One-Stop Centers” in the late 1990s that consolidated separately funded programs to provide a full range of services to job seekers under one roof.4
The service integration movement resulted in cross-agency planning, increased caseworker communication, a wider referral network, linkages to community colleges and the convenience of services located in one center. However, multiple studies found that the majority of departments in “one-stops” still had a ways to go in being truly integrated. While departments were consolidated and services were under one roof, the majority of programs remained confined by their individual funding streams with separate goals and performance standards. Service integration also takes a considerable amount of time and effort to maintain. Without strong leadership behind the model, caseworkers passively refer to one another, and clients remain confused in a sea of disjointed programs. Thus, programs were better coordinated, but not all were integrated to ensure clients were active and supported in more than one service.5 6
This next wave of integrated service delivery through the Working Families Success Network and other organizations operating the ISD model will continue to build upon this history and move the needle towards understanding true integration. Not only will the ISD model continue to help the field understand the factors the lead to successful integration, but it has broadened the concept to include the integration of asset-building and financial coaching services. Up until this point, the history of integrated services has primarily concentrated on income-based services (e.g., employment, education, training, income supports). This shows that it is not only about integration, but integrating the right services, and that including a coach, or someone by a family’s side, may be crucial in helping low-income families navigate multiple services and reach financial stability.
1 Waldfogel, J. (1997). The New Wage of Service Integration. Social Service Review, 71(3), 463-484.
2 Agranoff, R. (1991). Human Services Integration: Past and Present Challenges in Public Administration. 51(6), 533-542.
3 Voydanoff, P. (1995). A Family Perspective on Services Integration. Family Relations, 44(1), 63-68.
4 Agranoff, R. (1991). Human Services Integration: Past and Present Challenges in Public Administration. 51(6), 533-542.
5 Ragan, M. (2003). Building Better Human Service System: Integrated Services for Income Support and Related Programs. Albany, NY: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.
6 Pindus, N., et al. (2000). Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
50 Years After Civil Rights Act, Many Households of Color Still Struggle to Get Ahead
By Alicia Atkinson on 07/02/2014 @ 02:00 PM
“We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment…not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson, Signing of the Civil Rigts Act, 1964
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination in public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It is a time to reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go. Yes, there are no longer blatantly posted signs reading “whites only;” yes, there is marginally better access to opportunity. Yet, fifty years later, discrimination has taken on a more invisible but still debilitating form.
Despite our progress, the fact remains that a disproportionate percentage of households of color are in poverty and an even higher percentage are in liquid asset poverty (approximately 60.6%). This means they are less likely to weather a financial storm, such as a job loss or other sudden financial emergencies, never mind being able to invest in their or their families’ future. Research also finds that households of color face barriers to financial security that many white households do not. These barriers have historic roots that we cannot overlook as we try to reverse these toxic trends.
New research from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the National Urban League (NUL) and the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD) reveals that households of color are missing out on key saving opportunities, leaving them further and further behind. The researchers conducted a survey with 5,000 individuals to learn how the financial market is currently serving communities of color, what these communities’ overall perceptions and attitudes toward banking and financial services are, and how technology is used in banking transactions. The majority of participants were of color, with 44% of participants of Hispanic origin, followed by Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) (27%) and those of African heritage (22%).
Included in the report’s major findings:
- Twenty percent of participants were unbanked and conducting their financial transactions outside the mainstream banking system. (Read more about the dangers of alternative financial services in CFED’s policy brief “Predatory Lending Takes Advantage of Financial Insecurity.”)
- Despite an increase in mobile banking, people are still looking for local access and personal relationships from their banking. Customer service was the most significant factor when respondents were asked what they were looking for in banking.
- Savings strategies were short-term and limited in their ability to ensure long-term wealth-building. Overall, less than one in six respondents saved through some form of employer-sponsored retirement account.
On top of barriers to accessing safe and affordable financial services, households of color must also face a mortgage lending industry that is not color-blind. Earlier this year, research from Zillow Inc., with contributions from NUL, found that there were significant differences across racial and ethnic groups in the success of mortgage applications. Specifically, an application from a black applicant is 2.4 times more likely to be denied compared to an application from a white applicant. This pattern contributes to the significantly lower homeownership rates for black families compared to white households (46% and 72%, respectively).
Many want to believe the injustice is over, yet we see over and over again how these factors compound and leave households of color with significantly lower amounts of wealth compared to white households. Specifically, the average African-American and Latino household still owns only six and seven cents, respectively, for every dollar in wealth held by the typical white family. At CFED, we know that income alone is not enough to succeed in the American economy. Having wealth and owning assets like a house or car can improve families’ lives by providing a stable place to live and reliable transportation to get to work. This extreme disparity in wealth has far-reaching consequences that lead to a state of overall financial instability for communities of color and a lack of economic mobility for their children.
The good news is that many politicians and organizations have made expanding economic opportunity their mission. Whether it is through investments in homeownership, college education or small businesses, racial and ethnic wealth disparities must be erased. We have a lot to celebrate on this anniversary, but as we move forward we know that we are no longer up against outspoken people or posted signs. We face a quieter, more insidious discrimination that is going to take initiatives from all sectors to send to the history books.
The Power of Children's Savings
By Chris Bernal on 07/02/2014 @ 11:30 AM
Today's blog post features our first-ever comic strip, drawn by Stephanie Halligan, ex-CFEDer and saver extraordinaire. As a financial empowerment consultant, Stephanie runs her own website, which covers topics like paying off debt and creating financial freedom, drawing from her own experience of having paid off over $35,000 in student loan debt in under four years.
Stephanie joined us at the 2014 Children’s Savings Conference in April, from which she had this to share:
"One of the most powerful moments during the Conference was hearing from the parents and students who were using Children's Savings Accounts to save for college. You could tell that the accounts and the match made a huge difference in their efforts to save for college. But the most powerful part was the incredible sense of pride and hope I felt from each family. For these families, the Children's Savings Accounts are much more than just a savings vehicle: they are a promise for a better future."
You can find more of Stephanie's comics and blog posts at www.empowereddollar.com.
To view more highlights from the Conference, access the video recordings of each plenary session available on our Conference page. Then, share your favorite moment with us on Twitter using hashtag #CSAconference!
Assets for Independence and Subsidized Housing: Partners with A Common Goal
By Marquan Jackson, Guest Contributor and Russ Olwell, Guest Contributor on 07/01/2014 @ 12:30 PM
Assets for Independence programs are a powerful tool to encourage earnings, savings and self-sufficiency among asset-poor families. However, resources are limited for these programs, and much time and funding can be spent recruiting and maintaining contact with potential participants.
While AFI and other asset-building programs are expanding across the nation, the world of subsidized housing is in the middle of a radical shift, promising to make residents more economically self-sufficient. Through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, many traditional Public Housing Authorities are changing from landlords to managers of project-based section 8 complexes. In the next few years, 60,000 units of public housing will be completely rebuilt or renovated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These complexes will no longer be traditional public housing units, but managed by private companies, overseen by the housing commissions. The aim of the program is to renovate this housing into attractive, but temporary, housing for families in need of assistance.
So while AFI programs are often in search of potential participants, public housing authorities nationwide are in search of tools to help their residents make a transition from public assistance to work, and from subsidized housing to owning their own home.
This makes the partnership of subsidized housing and AFI programs particularly timely. Residents in subsidized housing are already at the income levels required by AFI eligibility, are often housed in a compact area, and are ready to take advantage of the opportunities that asset building programs offer in terms of home ownership, higher education and small business development.
At the Hamilton Crossing Family Empowerment program, we received an AFI grant this spring, with the goal of enrolling 34 families at our complex into an asset- building program. We partnered with local businesses, nonprofits and government to develop both the educational components needed, as well as to raise the local match required. At our program, 57% of our residents put saving for a house at the top of what they want to learn more about.
However, the task of recruiting and qualifying participants has been simplified by our status as a project based section 8 program, and the proximity of residents to a community room and computer lab on site promises to make recruitment and training much more manageable for a program our size.
We hope to expand this partnership to include other Ypsilanti Housing Commission properties in the next year, as these units have an even lower income that our own residents. This will help encourage residents to pursue earning more income, to further their education, and to think about the possibilities of homeownership or starting a small business.
As the YHC enters the RAD program this year, AFI offers real rewards to earned income, and encourages participants to become more self-sufficient through raising their own income and investing in the savings program.
Marquan Jackson is Director of the Family Empowerment Program at Hamilton Crossing, Ypsilanti, Michigan. Russ Olwell is Director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Communities, Eastern Michigan University. Their work at Hamilton Crossing is funded by the Kresge Foundation.
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Inside CFED’s Government Affairs Team
By Alexander Scarlis on 07/01/2014 @ 10:00 AM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of posts by Alexander Scarlis, Graduate Intern at CFED. Today, Alex goes behind the scenes of what it's like to work on CFED's Government Affairs Team.
My last post focused on finding an internship in the asset-building field. Today I’ll take a closer look at what it’s like to be the Graduate Student Intern for the Government Affairs (GA) team, what they do and why they do it well.
I encourage interested students to read the posts of my fellow interns on other CFED teams to help figure out where you fit in the asset-building field. CFED pretty much does it all: advocacy, policy and program development, research, “grasstops” organizing, not to mention the crucial functions of any well-run organization such as communications, human resources, IT, development, operations and finance.
GA focuses on advocacy, policy analysis and policy development. It’s a great place to be if you like to get your hands in different asset policy areas, hit the streets every once in a while and read Politico. The GA team is the political face of CFED in Washington, DC. That means not only suiting up to wow highly intelligent (and overworked) Congressional staffers with the magic of asset-building, but also coming in as a trusted expert in the field prepared to counter the skeptics. At CFED, GA also serves as advisor to the Assets & Opportunity Network, which includes state and local asset-building coalitions across the country on how to most effectively advocate at the federal level.
My primary contribution to this workhorse of a team is to their countless written publications, including fact sheets, policy briefs and reports. I read and write a ton, doing background research and submitting my findings in the form of publication drafts or internal memos. This is where a policy analysis curriculum comes in handy because it gives you the tools to translate the dense academic literature, federal regulations and various research reports you’ll inevitably encounter into digestible prose.
I also cover congressional hearings (online, which makes typing notes much easier), think-tank panels (in person, still bring your laptop) and external conference calls so GA stays abreast of the never-ending flow of asset-related policy information coursing through the capital. And of course, I’ve donned a suit to observe the team in action on the Hill, from intimate lobbying sessions with legislative staff to a presentation before the Senate Economic Mobility Caucus on Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs).
I consider my role as intern to help others be more productive at what they do and in the process get well versed in how they do it (and, where possible, do it too).
So how do they do it? How did a GA report released a month ago on higher education tax spending end up being cited in the first few minutes of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) opening statement at a hearing last week? How did the GA Director get to speak about CSAs along with U.S. House of Representatives and Treasury Department officials at a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Aspen Institute?
Simple: painstakingly cultivating relationships across all levels of government, from federal agencies to the White House, using carefully crafted, in-depth policy analysis pieces grounded in rigorous research. The GA team is prolific, publishing everything from op-eds to policy proposals to blog posts almost every week as it builds CFED’s status as a thought leader on asset-building policy. GA also engages national partners and potential partners to ensure a united front when crafting messages for government leaders on the importance of asset building and eradicating poverty.
Equally important, GA is a tightknit group that communicates constantly with each other, has clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each team member, and actively fosters a culture of support among staff. For example, everyone edits each other’s work prior to forwarding publications to the Communications team for the final once-over.
Finally, inter-team relations at CFED are especially vital for GA given its mandate to advance CFED’s entire agenda to federal policymakers. GA collaborates regularly with the Savings & Financial Security, Entrepreneurship, Affordable Homeownership, Applied Research, and State & Local Policy teams, thereby tapping into the wealth of policy and program expertise in this building and in our California and North Carolina offices.
In a nutshell, GA is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Be a great writer and an even better speaker. Know your stuff.
Sound like fun? It is.
Creating Wealth Opportunities through Resident Ownership of Manufactured Home Communities
By Katherine Lucas McKay and Alicia Atkinson on 06/30/2014 @ 01:00 PM
Manufactured housing is an affordable and often overlooked homeownership option for millions of low- and moderate-income families. The median household income of families that own manufactured homes is $26,000; this is just over half of the national median income of $50,054. Nearly two-thirds of manufactured homes are affordable to low-income families, versus just 1 in 4 site-built homes.
The key to unleashing the wealth-building potential of manufactured homes is helping families own the land underneath their homes. Of the seven million occupied manufactured homes in the United States, nearly three million are located in 50,000 land-lease communities that are owned by a third party.
Owners of land-leased homes not only make a monthly home loan payment, but also pay monthly rent for the land on which their home is sited. This is a risky situation for homeowners because they lack full control over what is usually a family’s largest financial, social and emotional asset—their home.
The challenges faced by manufactured home owners, as well as the opportunities offered by Resident Owned Communities (ROCs), are discussed in our new Federal Policy Brief, “Creating Wealth Opportunities through Resident Ownership of Manufactured Home Communities.”
ROCs help owners of manufactured homes regain security and build wealth. ROC residents own their homes and have a stake in the land by holding shares in an association that cooperatively owns and manages the infrastructure, maintenance and development needs of the community, much like an apartment co-op model. Research has documented that homes in ROCs sell faster and command a higher price per square foot compared to homes in similar commercially owned manufactured home communities.
ROCS give manufactured housing the chance to realize its full potential as a source of affordable homeownership and wealth development, but the model requires community owners’ support. Community owners have strong incentives to sell to larger investors or real estate developers, but few incentives to sell to their residents. Public policy can change this.
Many states have taken action to level the playing field for owners of manufactured homes. Oregon, Washington and Montana, for example, all offer tax incentives to encourage sales to the homeowners. However, federal policy is trailing on this important issue. We recommend that policymakers:
- Create a tax credit for community owners who sell to ROCs or nonprofits that will preserve long-term affordability.
- Enable ROCs to access Federal Housing Agency (FHA) multifamily finance programs.
- Create a secondary market for high-quality chattel loans.
Policymakers have an opportunity to free millions of families from the fear of excessive, unaffordable rent increases, as well as evictions that force them to either pay thousands of dollars to move their homes or simply abandon them. These current conditions do nothing to support financial security among low- and moderate-income families.
For more information about how policymakers can make a difference, read our newest policy brief. For more information about manufactured housing in general, check our Innovations in Manufactured Homes (I'M HOME) program page.
Asset-Building News Roundup - June 27, 2014
By Sean Luechtefeld on 06/27/2014 @ 09:30 PM
Today is the last day to register for the 2014 Assets Learning Conference before the rate increases $100. To register or to learn more, visit www.assetsconference.org.
On Thursday, July 31, New Jersey Citizen Action will host a train-the-trainer session on foreclosure prevention in Newark. If you're in Northern New Jersey/New York, you can register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
CNBC's Nightly Business Report featured a story about liquid asset poverty and the number of American households living paycheck-to-paycheck. View the program here; the segment starts at 16:12.
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced the award of $74 million in grants to 37 community service organizations to provide employment, training and support services to successfully re-integrate formerly incarcerated adults and youth involved in the juvenile justice system into their communities. Grantees are expected to provide a range of services that include case management, mentoring, education and training that leads to industry-recognized credentials. Click here for more information.
On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the tax code and student debt. In the hearing, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, raised up children's savings as a viable solution to our nation's growing student debt problem. Read our analysis of the hearing here.
United Way of Houston's THRIVE initiative, a Lead Organization in the Assets & Opportunity Network, was featured in a Houston Public Media story about a new workforce development initiative. The initiative was praised for its innovative approach in bringing together key players from various sectors. To learn more, click here.
CFED is still in the market for a State & Local Policy Manager and a Senior State & Local Policy Manager, as well as a Senior Program Manager for our Savings & Financial Security team and an IT Generalist. Each of these positions are located in our D.C. office. For more about these, visit our Careers page.
Does your organization have relevant content that you'd like to include in our weekly roundup? Email it to CFED and she'll be happy to add it in.
Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Internship, Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Intern
By Macy Cheeks on 06/27/2014 @ 03:00 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: Macy's blog post is the last of our introductions to our staff of summer interns. Not to worry; this isn't the last you'll hear from these six incredible young professionals. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to learn more about how their work at CFED is coming along!
After spending two exhausting semesters in tornado alley, I have to say that it feels so good to be back in the District! Hailing from Woodbridge, VA, I spent most of my childhood admiring the commotion of DC. I graduated from Howard University in 2012 where I received a Bachelor’s in Psychology. After spending a year working, binge-watching Netflix and downright freaking out over the GRE, I decided to pursue my Master’s in Industrial Organizational (I/O) Psychology. I/O Psychology isn’t as confusing as it sounds. Simply put, I/O is the study of human behavior related to work. We solve people-related business problems through the scientific study of individuals within the workplace using psychological principles, theory and research. Currently, I attend Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, and you can only imagine how many Dorothy and Toto jokes I hear on a daily basis.
I am so grateful to catch my first glimpse of the Human Resources (HR) field as CFED’s graduate HR Intern! Because it is so important that HR professionals make meaningful connections with their organization’s mission, I wanted to select an internship that would provide me with the opportunity to contribute to a larger cause. CFED’s work to ensure low- and moderate-income families achieve the American Dream is innovative and relevant—so it was effortless to become invested in the human capital behind the mission!
I’ve only been at CFED for a month and I can attest that this is NOT your run-of-the-mill internship. Forget filing paperwork and fetching Starbucks, I am waist-deep in recruitment and federal compliance. I will also lead the development of CFED’s Affirmative Action plan, assist in the collection of mid-year reviews and participate in talent management activities.
I am looking forward to updating the blog as my summer at CFED progresses!
Why CFED? Why Not?
By Valerie Marshall on 06/26/2014 @ 11:15 AM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth of six introductions we're making this week to help you get to know our wonderful staff of interns who are spending their summers at CFED. Today we're introducing Valerie Marshall, who is supporting our Applied Research team for a few months.
It was a standard question that even a less-seasoned job applicant would have expected at some point during the interview process: “Why would you like to work for this organization?” However, rather than struggling to find the ‘right’ words to answer the question, or providing a typical, formulaic response, I couldn’t help but think, “why wouldn’t I want to intern at CFED?” As a graduate student with a long-standing interest in poverty alleviation eager to learn more about the asset-development field and its connection to policy, CFED seemed like a natural fit. Not to mention, having the opportunity to intern at its headquarters in Washington, DC, would mean spending the summer in a city that I was previously only familiar with through television and daydreams.
My journey to CFED began as a research assistant interviewing low-income adolescents and homeless families living in Boston, Massachusetts, about their experiences in substance abuse, mental health and trauma-informed case management programs. With a natural inclination toward social justice, I pursued a master’s degree in applied sociology to uncover the socioeconomic dynamics underlining economic inequality. Advancing my formal education strengthened my research and analyses skills and helped confirm that public policy could be used as an effective vehicle in creating social change. As a result, I decided to apply to Ph.D. programs in social policy and recently completed my first year as a doctoral student at the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis University with a concentration in children, youth and families.
As an Applied Research Intern at CFED, I look forward to contributing to an array of ongoing projects, including financial literacy programs for youth and providing technical assistance for program evaluations. This work not only connects directly to my schoolwork and research interests, but it reminds me of why I chose to enter social policy research—to help create policies that reduce and eliminate disparities in wealth and foster intergenerational economic mobility among low- to middle-income families. I am excited to begin this journey with CFED and gain hands-on experience with work that I hope to one day emulate. Looking forward to a great summer at CFED!
Senate Finance Committee: A Powerful Force in the Movement for Universal Children’s Savings Accounts
By Alexander Scarlis and Ezra Levin on 06/25/2014 @ 06:00 PM
Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) reached another milestone yesterday on the path to the White House Rose Garden. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) demonstrated once again his leadership on the issue. Sen. Wyden is part of an ideologically diverse cadre of Senators leading legislative efforts on CSAs, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).
Yesterday’s hearing centered on the complexity of the tax code and its role in reducing student debt. College savings featured prominently. Amber Lee, an Oregonian high school graduate, testified in response to Chairman Wyden that a matched savings account in her name from childhood would have been “very beneficial” as she tries to scrape together enough dollars to enter Portland State University. Chairman Wyden noted “research evidence that indicates that just starting a child savings account really contributes to young people and families getting ahead.”
In the course of making the argument for a large-scale, bipartisan federal CSA program, Chairman Wyden cited “a recent paper from the non-profit Corporation for Enterprise Development [which] showed that the government’s tax spending on higher education is greater than the entire discretionary budgets of nine separate federal agencies.” CFED released this report, Upside Down: Higher Education Tax Spending, a few weeks before the Finance Committee hearing.
We are thrilled that Chairman Wyden chose to highlight CFED’s analysis of the Upside Down nature of higher education tax spending. And, more importantly, we are grateful to have his support and leadership in pushing for a universal CSA program that will empower all families to invest in the talents and aspirations of their children.
Just last Friday, CFED joined the Pew Financial Security and Mobility Project and the New America Foundation in presenting to the bipartisan Senate Economic Mobility Caucus on CSAs. CFED gave a detailed overview of the state of the field, describing the multiplying efforts on the ground to bring CSAs to more families. CFED’s presentation is available for view here.
Friday’s briefing came on the heels of CFED’s 2nd National Conference on CSAs in late April that brought together a host of academics, practitioners, policymakers, and philanthropists to discuss advancing the field. Attendees included CSA trailblazers such as the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment, asset-building pioneers like Washington University professor Michael Sherraden, and experts from the Aspen Institute and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Along with our invaluable partners on the ground and inside the beltway, CFED continues to build momentum in Congress as we march toward the day that all newborns in America arrive in this world with a fighting chance at financial security and a college education.
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