Recap: EITC Awareness Day
By Kim Pate on 01/30/2012 @ 04:30 PM
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the nation's most effective anti-poverty programs. The EITC is a refundable tax credit primarily for individuals and families who have low or moderate incomes. Greater tax credit is given to those who also have qualifying children. EITC can be a major financial boost for working people, particularly those suffering in a recovering economy. But, many hard-hit families do not even know that this vital credit exists. In fact, millions of workers will qualify for the EITC for the first time this year.
Because roughly one in five taxpayers who qualify for EITC doesn’t claim it, the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) organized EITC Awareness Day for last Friday, January 27. This national grassroots effort spotlighted the transformative power of the tax credit. NCTC believes that with the right tools, 100% of EITC-eligible individuals will claim the tax credit and boost their own financial security.
In conjunction with EITC Awareness Day, CFED joined about a dozen national partners to host a policy briefing on Capitol Hill. Held on Thursday, the briefing brought together several key speakers who recognize the importance of tax time in helping low- and moderate-income families save. One statistic that really stuck out to me during the briefing was that in 2010, the EITC kept 6.6 million people out of poverty, half of whom are children. According to the IRS, last year over 26 million workers received nearly $59 billion from EITC refunds – which helped with paying the rent, buying groceries, covering utility bills, and handling other pressing needs.
Given how successful the EITC has been in helping keep families out of poverty since its inception in 1975, I can only imagine how many more families would benefit were the program to be expanded and if all eligible families took advantage of this important tax credit.
National Release of the 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard on Tuesday
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/27/2012 @ 10:00 AM
CFED will release the 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard in a national webinar on January 31 at noon EST (11 a.m. CST / 10 a.m. MST / 9 a.m. PST). The webinar, The 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard: How Financially Secure are Families?, will highlight key national and state findings, including the latest asset poverty rates and other measures of financial security and opportunity. Register today to find out how your state fares in helping its residents achieve financial security.
By any measure, poverty in the United States is increasing. In 2011, the country saw the poverty rate rise to 15.1%, the highest level in nearly two decades. However, the official poverty rate released annually by the Census Bureau highlights just one aspect of household finances, namely the percentage of people with insufficient income to cover their day-to-day expenses. It does not account for the resources a family has to meet emergencies or longer-term needs. The Scorecard will offer critical new data on the growing number of Americans who are “asset poor,” meaning they lack the savings or other assets to cover basic expenses for just three months if a layoff or other emergency leads to loss of income. The latest findings will show significant increases in “asset poverty” since the release of the previous Assets & Opportunity Scorecard in 2009.
The webinar will feature three speakers:
- Andrea Levere, President, CFED
- Jennifer Brooks, Director of State & Local Policy, CFED
- Kasey Wiedrich, Senior Program Manager, Applied Research, CFED
The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans’ financial security today and their opportunities to create a more prosperous future. The Scorecard explores how well residents are faring in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and assesses policies that are helping residents build and protect assets along five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education. The 2012 Scorecard assesses states across 100 outcome and policy measures in these five areas to determine the ability of residents to achieve financial security.
What’s Your Financial Security Score?
By Stephanie Halligan on 01/26/2012 @ 09:30 AM
Financial Security Index helps individuals determine how to improve household financial management
The Center for Financial Security (CFS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently launched its Financial Security Index, which uses a self-reporting survey to measure a person’s relative financial security. Users are asked a series of questions across three categories: knowledge, behavior and attitudes.
The Index is designed to help respondents identify their financial management strengths, along with areas where they may be able to improve. Respondents receive an individualized score and can see how their score breaks down across the three categories. Respondents can also enter some personal information (no personally identifiable information is collected) to see how their scores compare to others like them and revisit the tool to compare scores overtime.
The Index is a quick, concise way for individuals to get a “snap-shot” of their financial health and knowledge. This tool could also serve as a simple baseline assessment for participants in programs that need to track an individual’s financial security and financial capability.
Go ahead and take the quiz yourself! Are you financially secure?
For more information on the Index and other money tools, visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison Your Money website.
OpportunityTexas Savings Bond
By Lauren Williams on 01/25/2012 @ 11:15 AM
City of Austin Triples its Investment in the OpportunityTexas Savings Bond Project at Foundation Communities’ Tax Centers
Foundation Communities has been a creative, high-performing Self-Employment Tax Initiative local partner since 2008, when they first participated in the SETI Demonstration. In 2011 alone, Foundation Communities’ Community Tax Centers helped over 18,000 filers recover $29.8 million in refunds into the local economy; nearly 1,800 of those filers were self-employed taxpayers. Today, Foundation Communities remains closely engaged with SETI as one of sixteen pilot sites participating in the Schedule C VITA Pilot and as contributors of countless materials to the SETI Resource Bank.
As longtime partners, we’re excited to share news of their continued success: in January, the City of Austin announced that it would triple the $10,000 OpportunityTexas investment in Foundation Communities’ work to promote savings through their Savings Bond Incentive Project by providing an additional $20,000 investment to increase the number of families that save at tax time. OpportunityTexas is a joint project of the Center for Public Policy Priorities and RAISE Texas working to expand economic opportunity through education and asset building. This Savings Bond Incentive initiative employs a variety of incentives to increase the number of tax center clients allocating a portion of their refund to the purchase of a savings bond. Incentives ranged from $10 and $20 supermarket gift cards to tote bags to $50 savings bonds and varied from day to day so that Foundation Communities and OpportunityTexas could monitor differences in take-up and identify which incentives were most effective.
Before the 2011 tax season, Austin City Councilmember Bill Spelman said that “the City of Austin wants to see more saving in our community and to learn more about what motivates people to save a portion of their tax refund.” So, in 2011, the City funded a $10,000 matching challenge grant as a first step toward that goal. In its first year, 243 clients purchased a total of $40,950 in savings bonds, ranging in value from $50 to $500, and 167 of those claimed one the of the incentives offered by the Savings Bond Incentive Pilot Project. For the 2012 tax season, they have expanded their outreach to motivate more savers in additional communities. For more information about last years’ Savings Bond Incentive Pilot Project and to see what they identified as best practices, check out the Foundation Communities final report here. Or, take a look at this broader report on savings promotion at both United Ways’ and Foundation Communities’ tax sites last year—Texas Saves at Tax Time 2011: Best Practices to Operating a Tax-Time Savings Project.
Interested in promoting savings at your own tax site this year? Take a look at the SETI Resource Bank to see how other SETI partners have worked to promote savings at tax time. Better yet, check out this awesome Financial Education Guide for VITA Programs created by CFED’s Savings and Financial Security Team to help taxpayers make tough decisions about spending and saving for the future.
Provide Tax Benefits for Entrepreneurs
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/24/2012 @ 04:30 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration invites its partners in government, business, education, and human services to explore and discuss new ways to govern, invest and manage funds, and deliver services through its Workforce Innovation Forum. CFED's Bob Friedman and Bill Schweke wrote a blog post for the Forum on how the federal tax code should be leveraged to promote self-employment as a sustainable vehicle for job creation. Check it out and share your thoughts through the Forum!
These days, job creation seems to be the topic of conversation nearly everywhere we go. Everyone has ideas – some good, some bad – for how best to battle the unemployment crisis facing our nation.
Less prominent in conversations about how to sustain America’s economic future is the topic of business creation. To identify a truly sustainable job creation strategy, we need to keep in mind three principles:
- New and young businesses are the true job creators, accounting for nearly all net jobs created since the beginning of ‘the Great Recession.
- The federal tax code is the gateway to reaching entrepreneurs, and that code should be used to help, not hinder, the entrepreneurs who create jobs.
- Families need assistance in saving, since most small businesses are financed not through loans, but through savings.
Given these principles, CFED advocates recognition of the importance of leveraging the federal tax code to propel the self-employed to sustainability and job creation. Each year, more than 20 million self-employed businesses file a Schedule C tax return, 2 million of them for the first time. We should recognize the job creation potential of new businesses and the self-employed by making the tax system self-employment friendly. This includes using free tax preparation sites to help low-income entrepreneurs file Schedule C returns and capture benefits due, reducing the taxation of new businesses, and encouraging the savings that enable business start-up and growth.
Such an approach to business growth and job creation would not only entail minimal costs, but could be covered by local, state or foundation funding. Based on earlier programs, the cost per filer is at most a couple hundred dollars in tax preparation expenses (often covered by volunteer labor). Even without new Federal or state policy, local VITA and tax preparation sites can provide tax prep and help new firms claim existing credits. Federal and state employment training funds can and should be used to support self-employment training and support programs.
New business job creation is down to its lowest level in 30 years – 2.2 million new jobs per year. To get it up toward its 30 year highs of 3.6 million will require several changes: recognition of where new jobs come from – new businesses started by entrepreneurs of all incomes, including middle and low-income people; reduction of payroll taxes on new businesses; making the Saver’s Credit refundable and usable for business start-up; extension of Schedule C tax prep; reduction and elimination of asset penalties.
What other strategies might we undertake to promote new job creation via small businesses?
This Friday is EITC Awareness Day!
By Lauren Williams on 01/23/2012 @ 09:00 AM
Join NCTC & CFED for an EITC Policy Briefing on Capitol Hill this Thursday from 10 – 11:30 am EST
To commemorate Friday's EITC Awareness Day, our partners at the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) are excited to host you and your colleagues this Thursday for “Promoting the Security of America’s Working Families: A Review of the EITC’s Value and Discussion of 2012 Policy Implications.” The briefing, co-hosted by CFED and other partners, will take place in the Cannon House Office Building (First & Independence SW, Washington, DC) in Room 121.
Thursday’s discussion will explore how the EITC and similar tax credits encourage the work of low-income entrepreneurs and provide a boost to local communities. The event will also feature a new report highlighting the success of EITC, which draws on recent research and provides policy recommendations to ensure the strength of EITC for 2012 and beyond.
Speakers for this event will include Jana Barresi (Manager of Federal Governmental Relations, Walmart), Jackie Lynn Coleman (Executive Director, NCTC), Sara Johnson (Director, Baltimore CASH Campaign), Verlinda Paul (Director, IRS EITC Program) and David Rothstein (Research Fellow, New America Foundation).
The event is free, but you must RSVP. To do so, contact Gail Parson (firstname.lastname@example.org; 312.346.6282 x297) or Jennifer Thall (email@example.com; 312.346.6282 x270). We hope to see you there!
Predictions for the Next Celebrity-Endorsed Prepaid Cards
By Ethan Geiling on 01/20/2012 @ 10:00 AM
Suze Orman, the financial advice guru, has been in the news recently for offering a branded prepaid card: The Approved Card.
Suze is not the only celebrity to endorse a prepaid card. Russell Simmons has the Rush Card and the Kardashian sisters briefly offered a Kardashian Kard, which was loaded with so many fees that it came under investigation and was quickly taken off the market.
Prepaid cards are not an inherently predatory product, and can actually be a great option for un- and underbanked consumers who are using alternative financial services, like expensive check cashing and payday loans. Prepaid cards are usually a little more expensive than a basic checking account. But underserved consumers often prefer prepaid cards to bank accounts because the fees on prepaid cards are more transparent, you can’t overdraft, and the cards are more accessible and convenient (you can often buy and load them in CVS, 7-11, and other retail locations). Some prepaid cards, like the Mango Card, even offer a linked high-yield savings account.
As far as prepaid cards go, Suze Orman’s card is relatively cheap. It costs $3 to purchase the card and there is a $3 monthly fee. Point-of-sale transactions at any retailer that accepts MasterCard are free. Perhaps the most unique feature of Orman’s card is that it will collect information about consumers’ spending habits and report it to TransUnion, one of the big three credit bureaus, although it’s not clear if and how much this data will affect credit scores. This is still a big innovation since many underserved consumers are often locked out of the mainstream credit system. See this great article from the blog Get Rich Slowly for more details about the credit aspects of the card.
All this recent media around celebrity-endorsed cards got me speculating about the next set of high-profile prepaid cards. Without further ado, here are my predictions for the next prepaid cards to hit the market:
“Swagger” – The Blue Ivy/Beyoncé Knowles/Jay-Z Family Prepaid Card
The world has been swooning since the birth of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new baby, Blue Ivy. With Jay-Z’s genes in the mix, it’s not clear how good-looking the baby will be when she grows up. Regardless, the entertainment world agrees that Blue Ivy will definitely have “swagger.”
The fine print: This prepaid card is targeted at high net worth children ages zero to two years old. It has a minimum balance requirement of $1 million and can only be used to purchase baby items priced over $10,000 (think diamond-encrusted baby bottles, gold-plated cribs, and ruby baby microphones).
“Gridlock” – The U.S. Congress Prepaid Card
Congress is quickly gaining a reputation for not getting anything done. But that doesn't mean they aren't going to offer a branded prepaid card to American consumers, most likely with a number of restrictions.
The fine print: Cardholders must get approval from Congress on any purchase over $25 – a process that takes between 10 and 36 weeks. The card also comes equipped with a fully-functional camera, in case you want to take any pictures, then text them to friends or post them on Twitter.
“Adultery” – The Herman Cain Prepaid Card
Even though Herman Cain dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination race, he has said he still intends to be involved in politics. Maybe this is a sign that a prepaid card is in his future?
The fine print: This card has great remittance features for cardholders interested in sending cash to “special friends” across the country. It also has no maximum balance limits, meaning it can be used to pay pricey lawyer fees and settlements on harassment cases. The card’s tagline is “Every kiss begins with Cain.”
Exciting Professional Opportunity in Dallas/Fort Worth Area
By Susan Hoff, Guest Contributor on 01/19/2012 @ 10:30 AM
United Way Metropolitan Dallas Seeks Director of Financial Stability/Asset Building
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is seeking a dynamic professional to lead a community organizing and planning effort to develop a comprehensive community plan to address family financial stability and asset development. Work will include analyzing existing resources in Dallas and around the country, developing a plan for strengthening and scaling successful programs, and identifying effective programs in other communities and developing a plan to import them. The successful candidate will have expertise and a proven track record in community organizing and planning, excellent verbal and written communication and facilitation skills, and strong working knowledge of financial stability and asset building programs and services.
This position is comes with a competitive salary and benefits package. Interested applicants should forward their resume and cover letter to Susan Hoff, Senior Vice President for Community Impact, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why Communities of Color Should Care about Social Security Reform
By Sean Luechtefeld on 01/18/2012 @ 10:30 AM
The folks at Insight Center for Community Economic Development will host a webinar on Tuesday, January 31 at 1 pm EST titled “Why Communities of Color Should Care about Social Security Reform.” This webinar looks like it will be incredibly helpful for those working to help aging Americans, those with disabilities and the dependent survivors of those who die young.
According to the webinar announcement, this hour-long discussion will explore how Social Security reform has unique implications for African-American, Native American, Asian American and Latino communities. Furthermore, panelists will examine how the current political climate influences Social Security reform possibilities and provide recommendations for strengthening Social Security in a targeted, equitable way.
Assets and Child Development in Rural America
By Kirsten Kainz, Guest Contributor and Carl Rist on 01/17/2012 @ 01:00 PM
Last month's announcement of the latest Race to the Top grantees – this time a group of nine states that won awards under the first-ever Early Learning Challenge – points out the critical role that states play in early childhood development. In carrying out this role, state leaders and early childhood advocates should be aware of a new study that investigates the relationships among income, material hardship, assets and child outcomes for children living in rural communities in the U.S.
Using data from the Family Life Project (FLP), a prospective longitudinal study of child development in a rural section of the United States, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sought to explore whether liquid (savings, investments), and non-liquid (home ownership, car ownership) assets would be associated with very young children’s cognitive and social development above and beyond variation in outcomes that could be explained by income poverty and hardship.
The researchers found that material hardship and non-liquid assets explain unique variation in very young children’s social and cognitive development beyond the effects of poverty. Moreover, the researchers concluded that models that estimate the relation between poverty and child outcomes without including measures of hardship and assets could be “underspecified.” In other words, if we want to understand the optimal development of young people, assets must be part of the equation.
The research is in press and will be available in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Family and Economic Issues. Look for the article soon, and then use the Comments below to share your thoughts.
Kirsten Kainz is Deputy Director at the SERP Institute (Strategic Education Research Partnership). Carl Rist is CFED's Vice President for Programs.
New Resource: 2012 Tax Credit Outreach Community Tool Kit
By Lauren Williams on 01/13/2012 @ 03:30 PM
Out friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) are pleased to announce the availability of the 2012 Tax Credit Outreach Campaign Kit, which highlights some of the work being done as part of our Self-Employment Tax Initiative (SETI). This resource is intended to provide community groups, social service agencies and employers with the materials and information needed to conduct community outreach efforts promoting the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Throughout the United States, millions of people are working hard to make life better for themselves and their families. With the jobs they hold, and the current difficult economic circumstances, many of them simply cannot earn enough to achieve their goals. However, this year eligible families can get as much as $5,751 from the EITC, and even more if they also qualify for the CTC. Claiming the credits can put an eligible worker on the path to securing better housing, pursuing higher education, obtaining dependable transportation, covering out-of-pocket health care costs, or paying for quality child care. In 2010, 27 million eligible families and individuals claimed EICs worth $59.7 billion, yet millions of dollars still went unclaimed. Outreach efforts are needed to inform eligible workers about the tax credits and how to get free tax filing assistance.
In addition to exploring six key elements of an effective Outreach Campaign, the Kit contains full-color posters, flyers, fact sheets, a full stock of outreach strategies and examples of where they are being used successfully, and a guide to finding even more information on the CBPP Tax Credit Outreach Campaign website.
You can request a free copy of the Kit at www.eitcoutreach.org/eitc-mailing-kit. If you have questions about the Kit or about CFED’s SETI strategies for helping entrepreneurs at tax time, leave a comment below.
An Overview of Asset-Building Research
By Ethan Geiling on 01/12/2012 @ 01:00 PM
Assets are tangible and intangible economic resources – a home, savings in a bank account, a college education – that can produce value for their owner. “Asset building” as a strategy to help families escape poverty emerged in the early 1990s, inspired by researcher Michael Sherraden’s assets-based approach to poverty alleviation articulated in Assets and the Poor. If you haven’t already, take a look at CFED founder Bob Friedman’s recent blog post about Michael Sherraden and Assets and the Poor.
The essential insight from Sharraden’s work was that assets can matter economically, socially and psychologically in ways that income alone does not. More recent research has reinforced this insight: that income –by itself – is necessary, but not sufficient, to allow families to escape poverty, achieve financial stability and move up the economic ladder.
CFED’s Policy & Research team created a short fact sheet that provides an overview of research on assets and their effect on financial stability and economic opportunity. Many research studies have shown that:
- Assets create a financial buffer to weather emergencies
- Assets can promote success in the labor market
- Assets can promote long-term thinking, planning and psychological well-being
- Assets can promote economic mobility for single mothers
- Assets can enhance the well-being and life chances of children
- Assets can increase the likelihood of going to and succeeding in college
The asset-building field is constantly expanding. To keep up to date on everything that’s happening, CFED posts the latest research papers and reports in our Assets Research Library. Resources are organized across four topics: Savings & Financial Security, Affordable Housing & Homeownership, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.
Some examples of recent additions to the Assets Research Library:
- Financially Fragile Households: Evidence and Implications (The George Washington University School of Business, Princeton University, Harvard Business School, March 2011) This paper examined households’ financial fragility by looking at their capacity to come up with $2,000 in 30 days. Almost half of Americans report that they are incapable of coming-up with the funds necessary to deal with an ordinary financial shock.
- Private Transfers, Race, and Wealth (The Urban Institute, August 2011) This study examined how private transfers – including financial support received and given from extended families and friends, as well as large gifts and inheritances – explains racial and ethnic disparities in wealth. African Americans and Hispanics receive less in private transfers than non-Hispanic whites.
- Accounting for the Role of Habit in Regular Saving (The Ohio State University, May 2011) This study explored the relationship between savings habit development and IDA programs. The study found that habit strength increased over time during participation in an IDA program, and savings habits reduced the stress of financially difficult situations.
The Biggest State Policy Changes of 2011
By Ethan Geiling on 01/11/2012 @ 10:45 AM
2011 was an eventful state policy year, to say the least! As states struggled with budget deficits, advocates worked to defend policies and programs from cuts. In addition, however, there were also a number of significant victories. Below are highlights of some of the most significant state policy changes of 2011.
- State Earned Income Tax Credit: One of the most exciting 2011 policy changes happened in Connecticut, where advocates successfully passed a fully-refundable state EITC at 30% of the federal credit (see page 6 of our Assets & Opportunity Scorecard Resource Guide to read the story behind this change). Illinois doubled its state EITC from 5% of the federal credit to 10%. Unfortunately, Michigan reduced its EITC from 20% to 6% of the federal credit. Wisconsin also reduced its EITC for families with two or more children.
- Asset Limits in Public Benefit Programs: The biggest and most highly-publicized asset limit change happened in Michigan; the state unfortunately reinstated the asset test in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), limiting assistance to people with less than $5,000 in liquid assets and $15,000 in vehicle value. On the positive side, Nebraska raised its SNAP asset limits to $25,000 in liquid assets with all non-liquid assets excluded. Unfortunately, Michigan may have started a nasty trend that is continuing into 2012. Pennsylvania recently announced that it plans to reinstate the asset test in SNAP, and Colorado legislators are considering reinstating the Medicaid asset test.
- State Individual Development Account Programs: Alabama created a state IDA program, although the program didn’t receive funding. A handful of states — including Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Texas — introduced legislation to create state IDA programs or to restore funding that had been previously slashed. Unfortunately, both Minnesota and Louisiana have eliminated state IDA funding for fiscal year 2012. In Minnesota, this cut meant the loss of approximately $250,000, and in Louisiana, it meant the loss of $1.3 million in state IDA funding.
- Financial Education: Massachusetts launched a statewide Office of Financial Education to coordinate and enhance financial education delivery across the state (see page 6 of our Assets & Opportunity Scorecard Resource Guide for the story behind financial education in Massachusetts).
- 529 College Savings Plans: West Virginia launched a robust matching grant program featuring up to a $500 annual match for low-income families. North Dakota implemented a $100 matching grant incentive for newborns. However, on the downside Minnesota completely eliminated its matching plan. Three states minimized major barriers to saving by adjusting their plans’ minimum deposit and fee rules. Both Alabama and Rhode Island removed minimum deposit requirements from their plans. Indiana introduced a no-fee savings plan to benefit low-income residents.
- Job Quality Standards: Eight states raised the minimum wage for workers beginning in 2012: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. These increases range from 28 to 37 cents per hour. Washington is the first state to set its minimum wage about $9 per hour.
- Prize-Linked Savings: Although it’s a relatively new policy, prize-linked savings saw considerable action in 2011 (see our State Stroke-of-a-Pen guide for more information about prize-linked savings). Washington, Nebraska and North Carolina passed legislation in 2011 that allows certain financial institutions to offer prize-linked savings programs. Four other states – Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi and New Mexico introduced legislation to allow PLS programs in 2011, but the bills did not pass.
Can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2012!
Growing the Next Generation of Leaders in Microfinance
By Lauren Stebbins on 01/10/2012 @ 10:00 AM
The Campus Microfinance Alliance (CMA), an alliance of 12 university and college campus-based microfinance institutions, has created a pipeline program to develop young leaders in the field of microfinance field. CMA’s new internship program Lend for America helps proven young leaders start campus-based microfinance institutions (MFIs) that create new businesses and new jobs.
After a competitive application process, extraordinary young leaders will take part in an intensive 9-week summer program and receive year-round support that will prepare them to launch their own community organizations. Participants first gain experience working over the summer with one of three leading campus MFIs – Capital Good Fund, Community Empowerment Fund and The Intersect Fund. Their work will include hands-on experience with designing and delivering financial products and building mentor relationships with student peers. Specifically, participants will work full-time toward learning objectives, such as how to fundraise the first $1,500, build a management information system, recruit student staff, and build credibility in the local community. Lend for America participants will also conduct site visits to established MFIs for a deeper look into the operations of larger scale microfinance organizations.
“Our mission is to empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs to build strong businesses and communities through innovative microfinance,” says Vanessa Carter, Director of CMA. “We offer resources and tools to students to create nonprofit organizations in the communities outside their university. These are student-powered organizations that offer equitable financial products to local community members such as microloans, savings accounts, and training and coaching services.”
The 2012 summer program will kick off with a launch training co-hosted by the Aspen Institute. This three-day meeting is an opportunity for students to meet each other and complete a crash course in U.S. microfinance. Prior to the launch, selected students are required to read the Alliance Start Up Kit, a free online resource with a robust curriculum and resources to start an MFI. All travel expenses are covered and students receive a stipend of $2,500 for the summer.
Early selection applications are due January 30 and regular selection applications are due February 28. For more information, join the virtual information session on Friday, January 20 at 2:00 pm EST. The information session provides an opportunity to ask questions about the program and hear from students who have started Campus MFIs. Click here to sign up for the session.
Lend for America is administered in partnership with FIELD (Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination) at the Aspen Institute and is financially supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
ALC 2012: Ideas Into Action
By Sean Luechtefeld on 01/09/2012 @ 11:30 AM
As you may have seen in Thursday’s newsletter, plans are beginning to take shape for the 2012 Assets Learning Conference (ALC). Drawing on the success of the 2010 ALC, we’re hoping to bring you the best Conference experience yet!
First, let’s talk logistics. The 2012 ALC will take place once again at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel here in our nation’s capital. The dates for the Conference are September 19-21 and the Conference website, along with information on how to register, will be available soon.
Now, let’s chat about what you’d like see at the ALC this year. The Conference theme, Ideas Into Action, is designed to get at the heart of the ALC’s mission – to advance innovative yet proven products, services, systems and policies that make financial security a reality for millions of Americans. With this in mind, what topics would you like to discuss with us in September? What features would you bring to the ALC if you were in charge of planning it? If you’ve been in the past, what elements of the Conference could be made even better in 2012?
We’re hoping that this will be our most engaging event yet, but we don’t want to wait until September for that engagement to take shape. So, use the Comments below and start a discussion about your ideal ALC!
Aaaand We’re Back!
By Sean Luechtefeld on 01/06/2012 @ 10:45 AM
Happy New Year!
You may have noticed that things have been quiet around The Inclusive Economy. Last week, our offices were closed so we could rest up for what we hope will be CFED’s best year yet. This week, we’ve been getting back into the swing of things, and next week, we’re going full throttle.
As you reset your routines, I hope you’ll consider adding blogging for The Inclusive Economy to your to-do list. It’s a great way to get informed about what’s going on in the field, provide a valuable service to others in the community and get visibility for yourself or for your organization. If you’re interested, shoot us an email.
In the coming days, you can look forward to a recap of some important state policy changes that took place over the course of 2011; the release of our newest resource, “Why Assets Matter;” and the latest about CFED’s 2012 Assets Learning Conference. In the meantime, here’s what you may have missed while you were (hopefully) over-indulging during the holiday season:
- A guest post from Innovative Idea Champion Patricia Johnson on youth job creation
- My commentary on Pew’s new study connecting family wealth and educational attainment
- Jenn Brooks’s analysis on prize-linked savings as a ‘stroke-of-a-pen’ policy opportunity
- An announcement from Lauren Williams about CFED’s new financial education guide for VITA programs
- And, just for fun, Ethan Geiling’s release of unbanked data for the North Pole :)
Check out those blog posts now. Then, use the Comments below to let us know what you want to see discussed on The Inclusive Economy in 2012!
Upcoming Webinar: Innovations in Paying Down Debt
By Sean Luechtefeld on 01/05/2012 @ 08:00 AM
My colleague, Lauren Stebbins, sent me this announcement about a webinar she is planning with our friends at NeighborWorks America. Use the RSVP image below to register for the January 17 event today!
Please join us from 1 -2 pm EST on January 17 for a discussion of the Borrow Less Tomorrow (BoLT) Program, a behavioral approach to helping low- and middle-income individuals and families pay down expensive debt. Using principles of behavioral economics, the BoLT Program helps consumers devise a repayment schedule and incorporates the use of peer support and reminders so that consumers both successfully pay down their debt and improve their credit scores. Developed by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), the BoLT Program has been implemented through several organizations including Encore Capital Group. Presenters will discuss the implementation and results of the program.
- Jonathan Zinman, Associate Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College
- Christopher Trepel, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Scientific Officer, Encore Capital Group
- Brian Enneking, Vice President, Consumer Marketing, Encore Capital Group
This webinar will be moderated by Genevieve Melford, Director of Research, CFED. Presentations will be followed by a Q&A session.
Click here to register now!
Did you know you can listen through your computer? Connect your speakers or a headset to your computer.
For more information, contact Lauren Stebbins.
About NeighborWorks America
NeighborWorks America creates opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities by providing access to homeownership and to safe and affordable rental housing. In the last five years, NeighborWorks organizations have generated $20 billion in reinvestment in these communities. NeighborWorks America is the nation’s leading trainer of community development and affordable housing professionals.
Newly-selected Steering Committee Will Help Shape the Direction of the Assets & Opportunity Network
By Jennifer Brooks on 01/02/2012 @ 01:45 PM
CFED is pleased to announce that 12 leaders in the asset-building field have been selected to serve two-year terms on the permanent Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee (NSC). This Steering Committee provides leaders in the assets field an opportunity to help shape the direction of a national movement-oriented network and a channel for voicing their needs, experiences and concerns. The NSC will provide ongoing advice on the structure, offerings and overall direction of the Assets & Opportunity Network.
The Interim NSC, which met throughout 2011 to shape the overall structure for the Network, identified six dimensions where “balance” among committee members was important.
- Level of experience—experienced leaders and newer entrants to the field
- Geography—regions of the country, as well as urban versus rural
- Population focus—focus on specific populations and focus on broader constituencies
- Statewide and local focus for advocacy and organizing
- Expertise in specific policy or programmatic areas
- Leverage—participation in other national networks
The process the Interim Committee developed aimed to be fair, transparent and result in a diverse and well-balanced NSC. It included nominations and voting by all Lead State and Lead Local Organizations, and a supplementary process whereby CFED identified gaps in diversity and filled a limited number of seats.
All Network Lead State and Lead Local Organizations were eligible to nominate themselves or others as candidates. Nineteen individuals indicated their interest in helping guide the direction of the Network and threw their hats in the ring.
Each Lead Organization was given one vote, which they could cast for their top 10 choices. To address the concern that some candidates would not be known to their peers, descriptions of candidates experience were shared with the ballot.
CFED tallied the votes and assessed the group for diversity. The top eight vote-getters were automatically selected as members. CFED identified four others to achieve balance.
The result is a 12-member Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee that reflects the diversity of experience, expertise and focus of the assets field.
Congratulations to the permanent Network Steering Committee members!
1. Christina Barsky (Rural Dynamics, Inc., Montana)
2. Brent Dillabaugh (Hawai`i Alliance for Community Based Economic Development)
3. Tamika S. Edwards (Southern Good Faith Fund, Arkansas)
4. Lisa Forti (Urban Strategies Council / Alameda County Community Asset Network, California)
5. Lucy Gorham (MDC, North Carolina)
6. Margaret Miley (The Midas Collaborative, Massachusetts)
7. Lucy Mullany (Illinois Asset Building Group)
8. Victor Ramirez (Center for Asset Building Opportunities/Citi Community Development, Los Angeles, California)
9. Kate Richey (Oklahoma Policy Institute)
10. David Rothstein (Policy Matters Ohio)
11. Diana Stone (Seattle-King County Asset Building Collaborative, Washington)
12. Kaye Schmitz (Florida Prosperity Partnership)
CFED Unveils North Pole Unbanked Rate
By Ethan Geiling on 12/24/2011 @ 10:00 AM
When people picture the North Pole, they think about elves, Santa Claus, reindeer and toy workshops. What they don’t think about is access to convenient, appropriately-priced financial products that help families save, build assets and climb the economic ladder. We want to change that.
And so, in one of the most anticipated moves of the year, CFED released the unbanked and underbanked rates for the North Pole yesterday.
The data show that 5.5% of households in North Pole, Alaska are unbanked and 17.0% of households are underbanked. Unbanked households do not have a checking or savings account, while underbanked households may have an account but primarily rely on alternative financial services. These numbers compare favorably to the national findings from the 2009 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households.
Although there is a tremendous amount of work being done across the country to help families access safe and affordable financial services, people often forget small, rural places like the North Pole. And unlike the North Pole, many of those small, rural areas – like Holmes County, MS – have some of the highest unbanked rates in the country. In fact, all of the top 100 unbanked cities/towns in the country have less than 4,000 households.
We don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that this new data will completely change how people think about financial access in the North Pole, and it’s absolutely just the beginning.
Building on the powerful momentum of this new data, CFED plans to introduce a groundbreaking new financial product next year. CFED Vice President Ida Rademacher said, “I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ll say this: elf savings accounts.”
Happy holidays from all of us at CFED!
New Financial Education Guide for VITA Programs
By Lauren Williams on 12/23/2011 @ 11:00 AM
Spend Some, Save Some: Making the Most of Your Tax Refund
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs. The EITC reduces the tax burden on workers, supplements wages, helps low-income families build assets and reduces income inequality. Annually, the EITC helps 6.6 million Americans move out of poverty; half of these are children. In 2010, over 26 million workers received nearly $59 billion in EITC. The average credit was $2,100, but can be as much as $5,751, depending on the worker’s income, marital status and whether they have children.
Awareness is critical. Only four out of every five eligible taxpayers claim and receive the EITC. Ideally, all eligible taxpayers would claim their EITC. The IRS, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and countless other nonprofit and community-based organizations have mounted campaigns to make sure that eligible taxpayers know they can claim this credit.
Making sure that affordable tax assistance is available to these families is equally important. The IRS, numerous foundations and community organizations also support programs that provide free tax assistance to low- and moderate-income families. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, for instance, offer a valuable service to working Americans by helping them keep more of their hard earned money, especially if they quality for the EITC.
An important element of many successful EITC campaigns is connecting workers to asset-building opportunities. Financial education, asset-building tools, safe financial products, credit repair resources, and more can help families use their returns to build assets.
To that end, CFED has partnered with Bank of the West to create a new Financial Education Guide for taxpayers receiving assistance at VITA programs. This, free, easy-to-read guide (available in English and Spanish) walks clients through some important things to consider when they receive their refunds to helps them make the most of the money they expect to receive. This guide and the included Savings Plan Worksheet can help taxpayers:
- Recognize the value of using the tax moment to contribute to their short- and long-term savings goals
- Make decisions about how to use their refunds for spending on “must-haves,” saving for the future and spend on “nice-to-haves”
- Get connected to resources like U.S. Savings Bonds, College Savings Accounts, additional tax credits like the Saver’s Credit, Individual Development Account programs and Bank On campaigns
Click here to download the Financial Education Guide to print and share with taxpayers at your VITA sites!
Currently reading page 26 of 53.