Hawaii Becomes the Seventh State to Eliminate TANF Asset Test
By Ethan Geiling on 04/26/2013 @ 10:00 AM
Last week, Hawai`i Governor Abercrombie signed HB 868 into law, eliminating the asset test in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, making Hawai`i the seventh state to do so.
This victory was not easily won. It took years of hard work by assets advocates, service providers, researchers, and policymakers across the state. The idea of lifting asset limits came from a 2008 Hawai`i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development (HACBED) report, co-authored by CFED, which laid out a policy roadmap for helping families build economic security. The report argued that asset limits are counterproductive and force Hawai`i’s most vulnerable families to sacrifice longer-term savings in exchange for short-term assistance from public benefit programs.
Soon after the policy roadmap was released, policymakers created a state task force to explore strategies to help Hawai`i families climb the economic ladder. The task force, which was staffed by HACBED, took on three issues: asset limits, financial education and children’s savings accounts. The final recommendations from the task force spurred state policymakers to take action. Advocates worked with policymakers to introduce asset limit bills in 2011 and 2012. Although these bills didn’t pass immediately, they helped policymakers further understand the issues with asset limits. Ultimately, the legislature asked the State Department of Human Services to conduct a study examining the potential impact of eliminating the TANF asset test. The study recommended eliminating the asset test, which provided the final push the legislature needed to take the 2013 legislation across the finish line.
Organizations that submitted testimony in support of the legislation, included:
- Patricia McManaman, Director, Department of Human Services
- Auli’i George, Office of Hawaiian Affairs
- Mila Kaahanui, Executive Director, Office of Community Services
- Brent Kakesako, Hawai'i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development
- Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women
- Jeanne Y. Ohta, Co-Chair, Women’s Caucus Democratic Party of Hawaii
- Teresa Bill, Univ. Hawai’i Bridge to Hope Coordinator
- Laurie A. Temple, American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii
- Trisha Kajimura, Social Policy Director, Catholic Charities Hawaii
- Laura Smith and Scott Fuji, Goodwill Industries of Hawaii, Inc
- Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice
- Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
- Ann Freed, Hawaii Women’s Coalition
- Betty Sestak, AAUW-Windward
- Robert Scott Wall, Community Alliance for Mental Health
Hawaii is the seventh state to eliminate the asset test in TANF. The other six states to eliminate the test are Colorado (2011), Maryland (2010), Alabama (2009), Louisiana (2009), Virginia (2003), Ohio (1997). Click here to learn more about asset limits in public benefit programs.
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CFPB Releases New Payday Research
Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a new white paper examining payday and deposit advance loans. The paper found that most borrowers are not using payday loans for short-term needs (as the payday industry often claims), but instead are repeatedly rolling over loans and taking out additional loans. As a result, borrowers often become stuck in an expensive and financially disastrous cycle of debt. The CFPB found that nearly half of payday borrowers have more than 10 loans a year, while 14 percent undertook 20 or more transactions annually.
This study is more comprehensive than almost any other study ever conducted, since the CFPB was able to acquire data on millions of borrowers directly from banks and small dollar lenders.
In a press release, CFPB Directory Richard Cordray explained: “This comprehensive study shows that payday and deposit advance loans put many consumers at risk of turning what is supposed to be a short-term, emergency loan into a long-term, expensive debt burden. For too many consumers, payday and deposit advance loans are debt traps that cause them to be living their lives off money borrowed at huge interest rates.”
The paper indicates that the Bureau is very concerned with current industry practices. The Bureau plans to conduct additional research and analysis, looking at online payday lending, the effectiveness of state restrictions on payday lending, and consumers’ motivations for borrowing. The report concludes that consumers need additional protections in this market and that the Bureau intends to use its authority to implement new protections once its research is complete. Even though, by law, the CFPB cannot set rate interest rate caps (the gold standard policy), there is much the Bureau still can do to protect consumers.
The Bureau’s interest in investigating payday borrowers’ experiences provides an important opportunity for asset builders to bring attention to the financial instability that results when predatory loans lead consumers into cycles of debt. This opportunity comes as asset-building advocates have worked for years to implement better consumer protections at the state and local levels. In fact, Twenty-five states currently have pending legislation addressing predatory small dollar lending. And the Assets & Opportunity Network recently released a 2013 Network Federal Policy Agenda, outlining the key policy issues that are most important to Network members. The number one issue on the agenda is educating the CFPB on predatory small dollar lending and other consumer issues. A few weeks ago, Network members weighed in with their recommendations on how the CFPB could curb predatory lending, which will become the basis for a statement and comments to the CFPB in the coming weeks.
Click here to read the full CFPB paper. Other key findings from the report are below.
Key Findings: Payday and Deposit Advance Loans Can Become Debt Traps for Consumers
The report found many consumers repeatedly roll over their payday and deposit advance loans or take out additional loans; often a short time after the previous one was repaid. This means that a sizable share of consumers end up in cycles of repeated borrowing and incur significant costs over time. The study also confirmed that these loans are quite expensive and not suitable for sustained use. Specifically, the study found limited underwriting and the single payment structure of the loans may contribute to trapping consumers in debt.
Loose Lending: Lenders often do not take a borrower’s ability to repay into consideration when making a loan. Instead, they may rely on ensuring they are one of the first in line to be repaid from a borrower’s income. For the consumer, this means there may not be sufficient funds after paying off the loan for expenses such as for their rent or groceries – leading them to return to the bank or payday lender for more money.
- Payday: Eligibility to qualify for a payday loan usually requires proper identification, proof of income, and a personal checking account. No collateral is held for the loan, although the borrower does provide the lender with a personal check or authorization to debit her checking account for repayment. Credit score and financial obligations are generally not taken in to account.
- Deposit Advance: Depository institutions have various eligibility rules for their customers, who generally already have checking accounts with them. The borrower authorizes the bank to claim repayment as soon as the next qualifying electronic deposit is received. Typically, though, a customer’s ability to repay the loan outside of other debts and ordinary living expenses is not taken into account.
Risky Loan Structures: The risk posed by the loose underwriting is compounded by some of the features of payday and deposit advance loans, particularly the rapid repayment structure. Paying back a lump sum when a consumer’s next paycheck or other deposit arrives can be difficult for an already cash-strapped consumer, leading them to take out another loan.
- Payday: Payday loans typically must be repaid in full when the borrower’s next paycheck or other income is due. The report finds the median loan term to be just 14 days.
- Deposit Advance: There is not a fixed due date with a deposit advance. Instead, the bank will repay itself from the next qualifying electronic deposit into the borrower’s account. The report finds that deposit advance “episodes,” which may include multiple advances, have a median duration of 12 days.
High Costs: Both payday loans and deposit advances are designed for short-term use and can have very high costs. These high costs can add up – on top of the already existing loans that a consumer is taking on.
- Payday: Fees for storefront payday loans generally range from $10-$20 per $100 borrowed. For the typical loan of $350, for example, the median $15 fee per $100 would mean that the borrower must come up with more than $400 in just two weeks. A loan outstanding for two weeks with a $15 fee per $100 has an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 391 percent.
- Deposit Advance: Fees generally are about $10 per $100 borrowed. For a deposit advance with a $10 fee per $100 borrowed on a 12-day loan, for example, the APR would be 304 percent.
Sustained Use: The loose underwriting, the rapid repayment requirement, and the high costs all may contribute to turning a short-term loan into a very expensive, long-term loan. For consumers, it is unclear whether they fully appreciate the risk that they may end up using these products much longer than the original term. Or, that they may end up paying fees that equal or exceed the amount they borrowed, leading them into a revolving door of debt.
- Payday: For payday borrowers, nearly half have more than 10 transactions a year, while 14 percent undertook 20 or more transactions annually. Payday borrowers are indebted a median of 55 percent (or 199 days) of the year. For the majority of payday borrowers, new loans are most frequently taken on the same day a previous loan is closed, or shortly thereafter.
- Deposit Advance: More than half of all users borrow more than $3,000 per year while 14 percent borrow more than $9,000 per year. These borrowers typically have an outstanding balance at least 9 months of the year and typically are indebted more than 40 percent of the year. And while these products are sometimes described as a way to avoid the high cost of overdraft fees, 65 percent of deposit advance users incur such fees. The heaviest deposit advance borrowers accrue the most overdraft fees.
Five Lessons for Piloting Integrated Service Delivery
By Kori Hattemer on 04/18/2013 @ 12:00 PM
Integrated service delivery is a promising model for creating pathways to financial security. FEGS Health & Human Services in New York City and Solid Ground in Seattle are two of the innovative organizations exploring strategies for integrating financial empowerment services into their existing social service delivery. These organizations have launched pilots to test their integration plans, which have produced key takeaways for other organizations interested in this type of work.
FEGS has integrated a conversation about savings and referral to the NYC OFE Financial Empowerment Centers and SafeStart Account into the post-employment retention counseling their clients receive after they are placed in new jobs. Solid Ground, a Community Action Agency, is training their housing case managers to provide financial coaching to clients. Below are five findings from the pilot experiences of FEGS and Solid Ground.
- Get staff buy-in early, as it is critical to the success and expansion of integration pilot projects. Solid Ground used a small pilot to create support for financial coaching among their staff, from leadership to frontline case managers. They also organized a lunchtime learning opportunity for staff and drafted a one-pager to introduce the new project to staff members. FEGS also sought support and input from frontline staff and program managers, taking their challenges and concerns into consideration as they made adjustments to the pilot project.
- Define desired outcomes early in the process, and identify and track evaluation metrics to help measure progress. Taking time at the outset to ask and answer the question, “What will success look like?” is essential to understanding whether and how an intervention is making a difference, and what indicators should be tracked in order to make that determination. Measuring outcomes during the pilot phase provides important evidence and insight that will be key to expanding integration efforts in the future. Concrete outcome measurements also will help create support for the program to internal and external stakeholders.
- Make the connection between financial empowerment outcomes and programmatic outcomes. Financial empowerment metrics might include measures such as amount of money saved, improved credit scores, reduced debt and improved budgeting techniques, just to name a few—and all of these can be linked to social service outcomes. For example, clients in FEGS’ post-employment counseling program may struggle to retain a job if the car they use to get to work breaks down and they do not have an emergency fund to pay for repairs. Addressing this financial barrier can actually improve FEGS’ programmatic outcomes (e.g., the number of employees who are able to retain new jobs for at least six months).
- Provide financial coaching to staff. Staff members are more likely to deliver financial empowerment services and refer clients to other resources if they have a deeper understanding of the services that are available. In addition, frontline social service agency staff members—who themselves may be struggling to make ends meet—sometimes feel uncomfortable talking with clients about budgeting and money if they do not feel confident managing their own finances.
- Equip staff appropriately to deliver the pilot program. Staff members need tools (e.g., scripts, worksheets and tip sheets) and training when delivering a new program of this nature. Both Solid Ground and FEGS asked frontline staff members what tools and information they would need to deliver the pilot and found that staff had a wide range of needs, which tended to vary according to staff experience and expectations.
See this recently published brief for more information about these organizations’ innovative integration work and the lessons they have learned so far.
These organizations participated in an Intensive Learning Cluster convened by CFED and supported by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Click here for more information about this Intensive Learning Cluster.
New Trend Data: Create Your Own Custom Graphs and Reports
By Lebaron Sims on 04/10/2013 @ 12:30 PM
Among the more exciting innovations of this year’s Assets & Opportunity Scorecard release is the new Custom Reports and Graphics center, which lets visitors create and download their own handouts and comparative charts using the Scorecard’s 69 outcome and 33 policy measures. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a brief description of what you’ll find:
State Profile Report: The classic report you might be familiar with from previous Scorecards has been given an update. New graphics on the first page highlight your state’s asset poverty rate and six additional outcomes of your choosing, while the rest of the report details your state’s performance on all 69 outcome and 33 policy measures. It’s the full Scorecard experience, in an easy-to-use four-pager.
State Policy Profile: How does your state perform on the Scorecard’s 12 policy priority measures? Find out with this simple one-pager that breaks down what policies your state has passed, and where there’s room for improvement. Helpful graphics make it easy to find state strengths and weaknesses, while the customizable menu lets you to choose whichever policy priorities you’d like to highlight, allowing for anything from a general “State of the State” report to a targeted “Education Policy” profile.
Custom Data Report: Wonder how your state compares to others in specific Scorecard outcome measures? Head to the Custom Data Report, where you’ll be able to create a one-pager listing your state’s national rank and performance alongside four others (and the United States) for up to seven outcome measures. The one-pager includes bar graphs that visualize the between-state difference, while the brief outcome definitions help advocates better make the case for their policy or research proposals.
Custom Data Charts: Want to compare states across one particular outcome measure, but need a presentation graphic, not a report? Check out the State Comparison Data Chart, which lets you compare your state to four others (and the United States) in any of the 69 Scorecard outcome measures. Or, if you want to see how your state compares nationally, try the National Comparison Data Chart, which shows your state’s performance in relation to all 51 states and the national average. Paste either of the files into your reports and presentations, or onto your website, to help make the case for your state’s asset-building policies.
Asset Poverty Snapshot: Need to talk asset poverty in your state, but don’t have a graphic to back you up? The Asset Poverty Snapshot tool lets you quickly and easily download a graphic comparing your state’s income poverty, asset poverty, and liquid asset poverty rates. This tool also creates an embeddable graphic, for use in any media.
While we introduced each of the above as part of the 2013 Scorecard release, as of this past week, advocates have a new tool in their arsenal:
Trend Data Charts: Track your state’s movement over time in all sixteen Scorecard outcome trend measures, from foreclosure to uninsured rate, asset poverty to microenterprise ownership. Select any available measure, then compare your state’s performance with up to three others (and the United States). Just like with the other custom graphics, you can embed your Trend Data Chart into any report, presentation tool, or website.
With these new reporting instruments, telling a story with the Scorecard has never been easier. Head to the Custom Reports and Graphics hub now, and create visuals for your next presentation or report. (Or, you know, just for fun. We don’t judge.)
Video: How Your Voice Shaped the #CFEDscorecard Conversation
By Veronica Weis on 04/04/2013 @ 11:00 AM
The release of the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard received unprecedented mainstream media coverage and visibility online. We truly could not have done it without the support of our partners, funders and most importantly, you. You helped start the conversation about how financial security in America is in danger. Check out the video below to see all of our shared successes during the release and don't forget to continue the conversation with us by commenting and sharing. Thank YOU!
State Policymaker Champions Asset Agenda
By Nancy Brown, Guest Contributor and Jennifer Brooks on 03/15/2013 @ 10:00 AM
Nevada has the dubious distinction of ranking dead last overall in the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard. Both in terms of how families are faring and the strength of our policies, we have a long way to go.
To our advantage, however, we have a policymaker who is using her perch as state treasurer to take on the tough issues that stand in the way of financial security and opportunity. Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall gave a keynote address at the Assets & Opportunity Summit, which the Financial Stability Partnership of Northern Nevada hosted on February 28 in Sparks, NV. In those remarks, the Treasurer spoke both of our victories and what else must be done.
- Building on the Silver State Matching Grant Program, which since 2010 has provided matching grant dollars to deposits made by qualifying Nevada families in a 529 account, Treasurer Marshall announced a new initiative to open college savings accounts for every kindergartener in 13 of Nevada’s rural counties. The initiative will serve between 2,500 and 2,800 kindergarteners.
- The Treasurer recognizes that as important as having money in the bank is, equally important is having the skills to effectively manage your finances and navigate an increasingly complex financial market. That’s why she advocated for legislation, which the governor signed, that requires personal finance be taught to all high school students.
- Treasurer Marshall also wants to do more to ensure that lenders can’t take advantage of consumers by charging sky-high interest rates to consumers. She wants to replicate Pennsylvania’s Better Choice program, which is a partnership between that Pennsylvania Treasurer and the credit union association to provide lower-cost alternatives to predatory payday loans.
- She is also passionate about removing the harmful savings cap in Nevada’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF). The Treasurer reached out to Governor Sandoval last fall and requested that he eliminate the TANF asset test. The response was an incremental step forward: the state will exclude college savings from counting against the limit and the human services department is committed to working toward removal of the savings cap.
In a state like Nevada—which even before the recession—has been plagued by periods of boom and bust, Treasurer Marshall’s leadership is a critical arrow in our quiver to make sure Nevada’s policies support family economic security and families’ ability to save for the future.
2013 Action to Eliminate Asset Limits
By Ethan Geiling on 03/12/2013 @ 04:30 PM
Many public benefit programs— like cash welfare, Medicaid and food assistance—limit eligibility to those with few or no assets. Yet, these asset limits force low-income families to “spend down” personal reserves in order to get any government help. These reserves are precisely the kind of personal safety net that can keep families from falling deeper into poverty and help them move to financial security and opportunity.
Inconsistencies in the treatment of assets also mean confusion and a patchwork of complex rules with no overarching logic. And most importantly, asset tests send a signal that the poor should not save.
Many advocates across the country are pushing policymakers to take action on asset limits. In 2013, we’ve already seen significant (and almost all positive!) movement in ten states:
- Hawaii: Advocates in Hawaii have been pushing asset limit reform for many years with mixed success. However, last year, Hawaii enacted legislation requiring the Department of Human Services to study the impact of eliminating asset tests (read the report). This year, the Hawaii legislature introduced SB 1099 and HB 868 to eliminate asset limits in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The current TANF asset limit is $5,000.
- Nevada: The Department of Health and Human Services, at the urging of the State Treasurer Kate Marshall, recently announced that it will exclude 529s from the TANF asset test. The Department has also committed to re-evaluating the state’s asset limit policies, and may ultimately decide to completely eliminate the TANF asset test in the coming months.
- Massachusetts: The Midas Collaborative is working with State Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Linda Dorcena Forry to pass legislation that would increase the TANF asset limit (read a blog post).
- Nebraska: Voices for Children Nebraska is pushing legislation that would align asset limits in the TANF and child care subsidy programs with the SNAP asset limit, which was raised to $25,000 in liquid resources in 2011 (see a presentation about Nebraska asset limit reform from the 2012 Assets Learning Conference).
- Illinois: The Illinois Asset Building Group has helped introduce two bills (SB2319 / HB2262) that would remove the asset test in TANF. See these fact sheets for more information.
- Minnesota: Last year the Minnesota legislature required its Department of Human Services to study the impact of eliminating asset tests (read the report). The report concludes that if the state truly wants to support “greater stability and longer-term self-sufficiency …, current asset limit requirements [should] be eliminated completely…”
- California: Advocates in California are advancing legislation to exclude vehicles from the TANF asset test.
- Oregon: Oregon has introduced a bill to exclude modest retirement savings for IDA Initiative participants (check out Neighborhood Partnership’s summary here).
- Arkansas: Southern Bancorp Community Partners just released a new policy report examining state asset limits. Advocates plan to aggressively pursue asset limit eliminating this session.
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma is the only state where we’ve seen negative action so far. A bill is moving through the legislature (HB2017) that would reinstate the SNAP asset test at $5,000.
Since 1996, there has been a huge push to tackle this issue. Twenty-four states have eliminated Medicaid asset limits entirely, and all remaining states will be required to eliminate the Medicaid asset test by 2014 as part of the health care overhaul. Six states have eliminated TANF asset limits and 36 states have eliminated SNAP asset limits.
Two states have substantially increased the asset limits in their Medicaid or TANF programs, and 36 states have excluded important categories of assets from these limits in one or both programs.
Check out our Scorecard Resource Guide for more information about what states have done, research showing the effects of asset limit elimination, and case studies from states that have successfully eliminated their asset tests.
Nevada Announces Groundbreaking New Children’s Savings Initiative
Last week, Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall announced a new initiative to open a college savings account for every incoming kindergartener in 13 of Nevada’s rural counties. The initiative will serve between 2,500 and 2,800 kindergarteners. Treasurer Marshall made the announcement at the Financial Stability Partnership of Northern Nevada’s statewide Assets & Opportunity Summit, held on February 28 in Sparks, Nevada.
The savings accounts will be seeded with a $50 initial deposit that can be used to pay for postsecondary education expenses at any U.S. Dept. of Education approved educational institution. Funding for the $50 deposits will come from program manager fees; no state taxpayer dollars will be used. An omnibus account will be administered by Upromise, the Nevada College Plans Programs program manager. This groundbreaking initiative builds on a previous innovative education program introduced by Treasurer Marshall. In 2010, the state of Nevada created the Silver State Matching Grant Program, which provides matching grant dollars to deposits made by qualifying Nevada families in a 529 account.
The Nevada initiative is part of a growing national movement to help low-income children save for college and learn how to manage their finances. The City and County of San Francisco paved the way for large-scale children’s savings programs when it launched the Kindergarten to College program in 2010, providing a $50 deposit to public school kindergarteners. In late 2012, Cuyahoga County in Ohio announced a similar initiative to open a college savings account for every incoming kindergartener in the county. Similar pilot programs are underway in Mississippi and Colorado.
Replication of these programs demonstrates the growing recognition by local and state governments that even a small amount of savings can have a dramatic impact on long-term expectations, particularly for low-income children who may otherwise grow up believing college is out of reach. Research shows that students with a college savings account are seven times more likely to attend college, regardless of how much money is in the account. This research reinforces what CFED has often said about savings accounts: they are hope in concrete form.
"One Misstep Away from Financial Disaster"
By Hannah Emple on 02/07/2013 @ 09:00 AM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post originally appeared on The Ladder and can be read here.
Today is a big day for the asset building community. Our friends at CFED have released their newly updated 2013 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard which evaluates household financial security across the U.S. and grades states on how well or poorly they support asset development and promote opportunity.
As has been true in recent years, the key finding is that huge swaths of the population are living in a precarious state of "asset poverty." As our Justin King told the Huffington Post: “These are households and individuals that are living paycheck-to-paycheck. And without savings, you’re one misstep away from financial disaster.” As Jillian Berman for HuffPo explains, people are "coping with stagnating wages and rising prices. This group is also navigating a banking system that subsidizes wealth-building programs -- like homeownership and retirement accounts -- that are geared towards the wealthy but don't offer the same boost to poor and middle-class savers." That gap exacerbates disparities in financial security over time - people with assets are able to leverage what they already have to support long term goals, while the rest are left scrambling to meet basic needs, unable to effectively plan and save for the future.
NPR also produced a strong piece using the Scorecard as a launching point, click here to read or listen, then navigate over to the Scorecard to explore the data yourself. CFED is also hosting a webinar today at 1pm to introduce the Scorecard findings. Use the scorecard to get information about how people in your state are faring and be sure to check out the action on Twitter with the hashtag #CFEDScorecard.
Recording of 2013 Scorecard Release Webinar
By Ethan Geiling on 01/31/2013 @ 09:00 AM
Yesterday, CFED released the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, revealing that despite strong signs of economic recovery, millions of Americans are still living on the brink of financial disaster. The percentage of households in liquid asset poverty edged slightly upwards this year to 43.9%.
During the national release webinar, experts from CFED and the Assets & Opportunity Network discussed the state of financial security and opportunity in America.
Andrea Levere, president of CFED, introduced the webinar by explaining how the Scorecard has helped to to broaden the perspective of policymakers and opinion leaders to focus on helping people improve their long-term chances of economic mobility through savings and building assets in ways that complement essential safety-net programs.
Jennifer Brooks, Director of State & Local Policy at CFED, discussed the main findings from the Scorecard. For the second year in a row, nearly half (44%) of households—equivalent to 132.1 million people—lack the savings to cover basic expenses for three months if unemployment, a medical emergency or other crisis leads to a loss of stable income.
Kasey Wiedrich, Senior Applied Research Program Manager at CFED, presented key data measures in the Scorecard, including liquid asset poverty, employers offering health insurance, affordability of homes, and student loan default rate.
Jennifer Brooks talked about strength of state policies across the country and variation in the extent to which states have adopted these policies. New York has the strongest policies, while Mississippi has the weakest.
Stephanie Bowman, Executive Director of the Washington Asset Building Coalition, discussed her Coalition’s efforts to build a constituency to influence state policy.
David Rothstein, a member of the Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee, also weighed in, explaining how the Network is building a constituency to support financial security and opportunity policies.
Finally, Jeremie Greer, Director of Government Affairs at CFED, gave a sense of the climate in Washington and what’s on the “to do” list for Congress and the Administration this year.
Join the #CFEDscorecard Conversation
By Veronica Weis on 01/29/2013 @ 10:30 AM
Tomorrow is the release of the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard and we couldn't be more excited! The updated Scorecard website will go live at midnight tonight with the latest data, reports and more. For those interested in a live summary of the findings from our CFED experts, it's not too late to register for the release webinar from 1:00-2:00 PM EST. Still want to follow the conversation but can't join us for the webinar? We'll be live tweeting all day, blogging the highlights and updating our Storify page.
Follow us on Twitter
Our organization's account, @CFEDNews, will be busy updating the Twitterverse with news of the Scorecard release. From 1:00-2:00 PM EST, we'll be live tweeting the webinar. If you have a question or comment to contribute, please send us a tweet and include the hashtags #CFEDscorecard and #assetpoverty.
Like us on Facebook
You can also follow along on our Facebook page. We plan to post graphics and other surprises. If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to post on our wall or send in a direct message.
Read our blog
The Inclusive Economy will also feature highlights from the report tomorrow so be sure to drop by here for more Scorecard news.
Discover our Storify
This year, we've created a Scorecard release Storify page to compile the best of social media. It's already up and running to capture buzz before the release tomorrow. Be sure to check it out and let us know what you think!
Next Week: National Release of the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard
By Sean Luechtefeld on 01/23/2013 @ 10:00 AM
Wednesday, January 30 - 1 pm EST / Noon CST / 11 am MST / 10 am PST
Register today for the webinar release of the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard to find out how your state fares in helping its residents achieve financial security. The 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is a comprehensive look at how Americans are faring in terms of financial security and opportunity.
Key highlights from this year's Scorecard release include:
- State-by-state trends in asset poverty.
- Data on 69 outcome measures across five issue areas, including Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education.
- Data on more than 30 policy measures that states can adopt to help families succeed.
- Responses by the Assets & Opportunity Network on their work to improve outcomes for families.
Speakers on the release webinar include:
- Andrea Levere, President, CFED
- Jennifer Brooks, Director, State & Local Policy, CFED
- Kasey Wiedrich, Senior Program Manager, Applied Research, CFED
The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is an important resource that advocates can use to help frame their 2013 agendas. Participation in the release webinar is free, but advanced registration is required. Click here to sign up.
Other Upcoming Events
- EITC Briefing on Capitol Hill (hosted by the National Community Tax Coalition)
Tomorrow, January 24 | 10 - 11 am EST
385 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC
- Finding 'Ready Savers': Innovative Recruitment Strategies to Increase Program Completion
Friday, January 25 | 3:30 - 4:30 pm EST
The Assets & Opportunity Network Welcomes 13 New Lead Organizations
By Jennifer Medina on 01/02/2013 @ 09:30 AM
The Assets & Opportunity Network is excited to announce that 13 new Lead State, Local, and Tribal Organizations will be joining the A&O Network. With these new additions, a total of 35 states and 39 local areas (including two Lead Tribal Organizations) are now represented by Lead Organizations.
The Lead Organizations bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences to the A&O Leadership. Among them, there are organizations that have advocated for payday lending legislation in their states, built broad-based coalitions to promote financial security and self-sufficiency, and administered Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites and IDA projects to help low-income families maximize their earnings. The new Lead Organizations include coalitions, community action associations, policy think tanks, consumer credit counseling agencies, and other nonprofit institutions. We were impressed with the accomplishments and experience of these new organizations and are confident they will be a strong addition to our growing network.
New Lead State Organizations:
- Maine - PENQUIS
- Nevada - Financial Guidance Center
- Rhode Island - Economic Progress Institute
- Colorado - Colorado Community Action Association
New Lead Local Organizations:
- Lansing, MI - Asset Independence Coalition
- New York City, NY - The Financial Clinic
- Hamilton, OH - Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families (SELF)
- Portland, OR - Innovative Changes
- Charlotte, NC - Crisis Assistance Ministry
- Las Cruces, NM - Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico
- Montgomery County, PA - Montgomery County Asset Building Coalition
- Montgomery County, MD – Coalition for the Advancement of Financial Education (CAFE)
New Lead Tribal Organization:
- Oklahoma Tribal - Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition
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CFED Selects Integrated Service Delivery Learning Cluster Participants
By Kori Hattemer on 12/03/2012 @ 09:45 AM
CFED is bringing together five organizations in an Intensive Learning Cluster to help them improve the financial security of the low-income households they serve. Thanks to support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, CFED is helping these social service delivery organizations integrate financial inclusion and asset-building strategies using an Integrated Service Delivery (ISD) model.
Innovative practitioners and charitable foundations have developed the ISD model to improve outcomes for the people they serve by bundling services. Research has shown the effectiveness of this approach but revealed a shortage of organizations successfully integrating financial empowerment services. During the Intensive Learning Cluster, CFED is working with the member organizations to help families access financial information; connect to safe, affordable financial products and services; build savings and wealth; and protect themselves in the financial marketplace – all while offering this alongside the other services they provide.
Each of the five organizations participating in the Intensive Learning Cluster brings a unique perspective and comes from a particular place on the service delivery spectrum.
- El Buen Samaritano is a multi-sectoral organization that serves 12,000 disadvantaged Latinos in the Central Texas Latino community per year.
- FEGS Health and Human Services is a large, nonprofit workforce development agency that serves 100,000 people in the New York City area per year.
- Pacific Clinics is a behavioral health provider that serves 15,000 low-income and homeless people at 50 sites across southern California per year.
- Solid Ground is a multi-sectoral Community Action Agency that serves 57,000 low-income people in the Seattle, Washington area each year.
- The Family Initiatives Section of the Texas Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division serves 1.3 million children and families throughout the state of Texas.
The specific issues facing each organization vary, but a number of challenges are common among multiple Learning Cluster members, including:
- Assessing client needs with a tool that is not cumbersome to administer and that will help them determine the appropriate services for their consumers
- Connecting to the existing field of financial empowerment experts and implementers, both nationally and within their communities
- Identifying available and appropriate financial empowerment services, despite having limited knowledge of and experience with this type of service delivery
- Determining the appropriate financial education for diverse clients and service settings from among the multitude of available curricula and delivery options
- Choosing whether to offer services in-house or to refer to external partners, according to organizational capacity and community relationships
- Setting up a data collection and evaluation system that measures the anticipated outcomes of financial empowerment strategies and fits within existing data management systems
- Recruiting participants from the community who are ready for and interested in financial empowerment services
- Managing organizational change while planning and implementing both large and small systematic and programmatic changes, including obtaining buy-in from administrators, managers and front-line staff, and training staff to take on new job responsibilities
CFED is excited to be learning alongside these integration pioneers and will report on their progress toward addressing these challenges along the way. Please see this recently published brief for more information about the Intensive Learning Cluster.
Assets & Opportunity Network Tells CFPB What Effective Financial Education Looks Like
By Jennifer Brooks on 11/09/2012 @ 02:00 PM
In one of its first collective actions, the Assets & Opportunity Network sent comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on what works and what doesn’t to build financial capability.
The comment letter, which you can read here, identifies two pressing challenges to making financial education effective. First, it argues, there is behavioral resistance; many people who need financial education the most are not open to receiving it. Second, there is no agreed-upon definition of “financial capability,” nor is there a clear and coherent means of assessing the effectiveness of financial education programs.
Addressing each of these gaps will need to be central to CFPB’s efforts to build financial capability. As the Network argues in the Letter, “if our ultimate goal is to raise the general financial capability of American households, we will need to reach beyond the households who are already receptive to new information and behavior change. Behavioral resistance to financial education must be understood, confronted and overcome. If we fail in this endeavor, households who don’t get the benefit of financial education will only fall further behind in their own financial security, while at the same time posing a ‘systemic risk’ to the nation’s overall financial health.”
CFED and the 60 Assets & Opportunity Network organizations applaud the CFPB’s efforts to bolster financial capability and invite you to read the Comment Letter and learn more about some of the challenges facing this important endeavor.
The Following Organizations Signed Onto This Letter:
- AAA Fair Credit Foundation
- AHEAD, Inc.
- Bilbrew Consulting Services, LLC
- Center for Asset Building Opportunities (CABO)
- Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, Inc.
- Catholic Charities of Maine
- CHANGE, Inc,
- Chautauqua Opportunities Inc.
- ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions
- Coalition for the Advancement of Financial Education, Montgomery, Maryland
- Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
- Community Action Board of Montgomery County, Maryland
- Community Action Partnership of Utah
- Delta Citizens Alliance
- Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund
- Florida Prosperity Partnership
- Glory Temple Ministries, Inc.
- Haven Neighborhood Services
- Hawaii Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development
- Innovative Changes
- KaizenRhino Solutions International
- Keiser Consulting, LLC
- Kemetic Business Consultants (KBC)
- Lower Columbia Community Action Council
- Lucy Gorham (A&O Network Steering Committee Member)
- Maryland CASH Campaign
- Midas Collaborative
- Mission Asset Fund
- Mutual Housing California
- National Community Tax Coalition
- Neighborhood Partnerships
- New York State Community Action Association
- Oklahoma Policy Institute
- Opportunity Fund
- Our Daily Bread, Inc.
- Partners for Prosperity
- Pathfinder Community Connections
- Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network
- Pine Hills Community Development Corporation
- RAISE Texas
- Real$ense Prosperity Campaign
- Rural Dynamics, Inc.
- Sage Financial Solutions
- Southern Bancorp Community Partners
- Step Up Savannah
- Suncoast Community Capital
- Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families (SELF)
- Tacoma Housing Authority
- The Coalition for Debtor Education
- Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative
- Turtle Mountain CDFI
- United Way of Greater Houston
- United Way of Northeast Florida
- United Way of the Costal Bend
- Urban Enterprise Association of Richmond
- Woodstock Institute
- Yakima County Asset Building Coalition
- YWCA Delaware
Building Pathways to Opportunity through Individual Development Accounts
By Alison McIntosh, Guest Contributor on 10/31/2012 @ 01:30 PM
Oregon is home to one of the largest IDA Initiatives in the county. Funded by a state tax credit, the program is currently serving over 2,800 Oregonians as they learn financial skills and save for the purchase of an asset such as a home, a micro-enterprise, or an education.
The Oregon IDA Initiative is a proven approach which provides access to financial education and matching funds to help Oregonians achieve their dream of owning a home, starting a small business, or continuing their education. This successful collaborative effort provides the skills and funds to help rebuild Oregon’s middle class, and, in the process, rebuild Oregon. Building financial stability and resilience is a first step.
On Wednesday, October 31, the Oregon IDA Initiative released the 2011 Year End Evaluation Report . The report again indicates positive, long term changes to financial habits of IDA Participants, plus demonstrates the benefits of assets such as a home, an education, or a small business.
Conducted by the Portland State University’s Regional Research Institute, the evaluation report includes data on IDA accounts opened between January 2008 and December 2011, including data on over 1,100 graduates.
- Participants reported major changes in financial behaviors and confidence as a result of the education and encouragement they received. Most notably, there were large increases in the percentage that used a budget to monitor spending, regularly made deposits to a savings account and had an emergency fund.
- Many participants reported maintaining important financial practices even 12 months after they completed their IDA experience. For example, 55% were still using a budget, in contrast to only 30% who said they used a budget prior to opening their IDA account, and 52% still had an emergency fund to tide them over during difficult times.
- Beyond the immediate results of newly acquired assets for individual participants, the goals of the Oregon IDA Initiative are to build financial resilience that impacts family and community over the long term. Many participants indicated longer term benefits of their participation in the Oregon IDA Initiative, and some noted how their participation has had ripple effects – benefiting their children, other family members, their friends, coworkers and community.
- IDA participants who were not able to complete their savings goals often cited aspects of the program they found helpful, such as learning to budget.
The full evaluation report can be viewed here. Also available is a recent news story about the evaluation report, including an interview with a program graduate.
The Oregon IDA Initiative is managed by Neighborhood Partnerships, an Assets & Opportunity Lead State Organization in Oregon.
Election Preview: Statehouses in the Balance
By Stefan Hankin, Guest Contributor on 10/24/2012 @ 01:00 PM
While the race for the White House and control of Congress have dominated the national headlines, equally important for the political landscape next year is the make-up of the nation’s statehouses and legislatures, which are also at stake this election.
In general, the state political map currently looks more red than blue or purple. Whether this state of affairs continues depends on whether a few big trends to watch for continue.
Republicans currently enjoy ‘single-party control’ in more states.
There are currently 34 states that are under single party control – meaning that the State House and Senate, as well as the Governor’s office, are all controlled by either Republicans or Democrats. Of these single party-controlled states, 21 are held by Republicans and 13 are held by Democrats. Nebraska is unique in that its legislature is unicameral and non-partisan. The remaining 15 states currently have some combination of Democratic/Republican control.
According to current projections by Ballotpedia, it is almost certain that five of these states will remain divided following the 2012 election cycle. The remaining undecided states are currently too close to accurately predict an outcome. In addition, there are two states, Washington and Arkansas, which are currently controlled at all three levels by Democrats that may shift into the split category in November. We will have to wait three weeks or so until the election outcomes have been determined to have a full picture of the landscape.
Among the 42 states holding races for state Senate, 20 are projected to stay or come under solid Republican control, while eight are solidly Democratic.
At the State Senate level, 42 states are holding elections this year. As can be seen on the map below, we can classify these states as solidly or leaning Democratic/Republican, or as toss-ups. Recent projections indicate that 20 of the 42 contested states fall into the solidly Republican category, eight into the solidly Democratic category, five lean Republican, three lean Democratic and only six are classified as true toss-ups: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Arkansas and Maine. Of these six toss up states, four of the State Senates in these states are currently held by Democrats and two are held by Republicans.
At the State House level, 19 states are projected to remain in Republican hands, while 10 are solidly Democratic.
Moving to the State House level, the same 42 states are holding elections this year. Projections currently show that 19 states are solidly Republican, 10 are solidly Democratic, six Lean Republican and two Lean Democratic, with the five remaining states (Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Arkansas and Maine) classified as toss-ups. The State House elections being held in New Mexico are particularly interesting this year because Democrats currently control the House but current projections show that Republicans are likely to retake control. Of the states currently classified as toss ups, three have Republican-controlled Houses and one has a Democratically-controlled House. Oregon, the last toss-up state, is currently evenly split at the State House level.
Governors’ mansions are more likely to remain Democratic, among the seats up for election.
Finally, looking at the 12 gubernatorial seats being contested this year, the vast majority (9) are currently occupied by Democrats. According to Charlie Cook’s projections, six of these Democratically-held Governor’s positions are realistically in play for November: Missouri, West Virginia, Washington, New Hampshire, Montana and North Carolina. Of these states, three are firmly in the toss-up category with polls showing races that are within the margin of error. North Carolina may be the most realistic opportunity for Republicans to flip a seat, however, with Cook currently classifying this Democratically held seat as a Lean Republican race for 2012.
Stefan Hankin is President of Washington-based polling firm, Lincoln Park Strategies.
Matching the Promise
By Kori Hattemer on 10/19/2012 @ 11:30 AM
According to a recent study by EARN, 87% of parents believe that attaining a college degree is an important opportunity for their children, but 53% of them are very or extremely concerned about affording college. Other research indicates that among youth who expect to attend college, those who have a college savings account are four to six times more likely to actually attend. Yet many families who want to save for their children’s education may struggle to do so, especially low- and moderate-income families who are overwhelmed by competing financial needs and who may not have access to savings mechanisms.
More and more state and local governments are paying attention to this issue. Nationally, momentum is building in the public sector to incentivize and help families save for college. States and localities around the country are developing innovative college savings initiatives like the recently-announced Texas Match the Promise Foundation®, a state-sponsored nonprofit organization created by the legislature specifically to solicit and receive matching funds designated for higher education. The Texas Match the Promise Foundation will offer matching scholarships to up to 150 low- and moderate-income Texas students to help them save for college through the Texas Tuition Promise Fund®, Texas’ prepaid tuition plan that allows families to save for their children to attend college.
The Texas Match the Promise Foundation® is currently accepting applications from Texas residents who:
- Are in grades six to nine.
- Have a family income of $75,000 or less.
- Enroll or are already enrolled in the Texas Tuition Promise Fund®.
- Contribute a minimum of $100 to their Promise Fund.
- Submit an essay about the career they are interested in and why.
Up to 150 selected students will receive a Matching Scholarship of up to $500 to match the amount the family or individual has contributed to the Tuition Fund. The top five applicants will receive a one-time $2,000 Promise Scholarship. Students can re-apply for the Matching Scholarship in the future, but may only receive the Promise Scholarship once.
Initiatives like the Texas Match the Promise Foundation are expanding economic opportunity by empowering low- and moderate-income families to save money that will help their kids gain access to higher education and achieve a college degree. State policies have the potential to broaden the impact of matched savings accounts and provide more opportunities to low- and moderate-income families to invest in their kids’ futures. Fifteen states currently incent savings for some families through matching grant programs or tax credits, as outlined in CFED’s Assets & Opportunity Scorecard.
The public sector has an important role to play in encouraging savings for higher education – and a growing number of governments are capitalizing on this opportunity. We applaud the good work done in Texas and other states, and will continue to work with other state and local governments to develop similarly innovative policies and initiatives that help kids and families save for brighter futures.
Webinar on Latest Policy Developments
By Ethan Geiling on 10/18/2012 @ 02:00 PM
Earlier this week, CFED released new data on the strength of state policies that help families create financial security and opportunity. This Scorecard data captures recent policy changes that occurred in the 2012 state legislative session, or for which data became available after fall 2011.
On the day of the launch, we held a webinar exclusively for members of the Assets & Opportunity Network. During the webinar, Jennifer Brooks and I discussed the new data, including trends and policy highlights from the 2012 legislative session.
The chart below shows policy adoption nationally. As you can see, for more than half of the policies we look at in the Scorecard, over three-quarters of states have at least some policy on the books (orange bars), which is quite a notable achievement. However, when we look at how strong these policies are (blue bars), it’s clear there is substantial room for improvement. You can get more analysis like this by listening to a recording of the webinar.
During the webinar, pollster Stefan Hankin from Lincoln Park Strategies also provided commentary on the impact that gubernatorial and state house races will have on policy prospects for 2013. He talked about which states will switch control and what that means for how to advance a policy agenda. The map below shows the states with single party control post-election, and as you can see, most states will be republican-controlled.
Eliminating Asset Tests Session at ALC 2012
By Ethan Geiling on 10/02/2012 @ 05:00 PM
Of the 65 Concurrent Sessions at the ALC, one of the ones I was most looking forward to had to do with one of my favorite policy topics: asset tests in public benefit programs.
Asset limits are a problem because they force applicants and recipients to “spend down” personal reserves in order to get any government help. These reserves are precisely the kind of personal safety net that can keep families from falling deeper into poverty and help them move to financial security and opportunity. Inconsistencies in the treatment of assets mean confusion and a patchwork of complex rules with no overarching logic. And most importantly, asset tests send a signal that the poor should not save.
During the session, I provided an overview of the state of asset limits in the country. Rachel Black from the New America Foundation then discussed new research on the impact of eliminating asset tests. Finally, Aubrey Mancuso and Ross Yednock, two state advocates, shared their experiences advocating for asset limits change, including key messages and strategy tips for other advocates.
During the session, I also handed out a preview of CFED’s updated Scorecard Resource Guide on Asset Limits (which won’t officially be released until later this month). The Resource Guide shows what’s changed over the past year.
Currently reading page 1 of 4.