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Skinny Budget Starves Critical Programs

By Joanna Ain, Chad Bolt, Anju Chopra and Emanuel Nieves on 03/16/2017 @ 04:00 PM

Tags: Federal Policy, News

President Trump released his “skinny budget” earlier today – a document that is both a broad outline of his priorities and a troubling budget forecast for low- and moderate-income families trying to get ahead. It is not a budget that will help build an opportunity economy. It comes on the heels of an Affordable Care Act “repeal and replace” bill that turns tax credits to help Americans afford health insurance upside down and was scored by the Congressional Budget Office as causing 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance by 2026. It was accompanied by $33 billion in supplemental requests for the current fiscal year for additional funding for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, to start building a wall on our southern border.

Light on details, the FY18 budget includes a $54 billion increase for defense spending, offset by commensurate cuts for “non-defense discretionary spending,” or the part of the budget that funds housing, consumer protection, community development and some safety net programs. These cuts underscore just how devastating this budget would be for low- and moderate-income families. The budget also exacerbates the ever-growing gap between the wealth of white households and households of color, by cutting or completely eliminating programs that make targeted investments in communities of color.

It’s important to reiterate up front that Presidents’ Budgets are usually very different from what Congress eventually adopts. Congress has its own prerogatives and priorities that will be debated over the next few months, first in what are called “budget resolutions,” expected in early spring. The budget resolution sets overall spending levels to begin the appropriations process, which determines specific program-by-program funding levels. In recent years, the whole process did not conclude until December. Along the way, Congress will likely make significant changes to the President’s budget, although it’s not clear yet where or by how much.

Nevertheless, this is a very challenging point from which to start the budget process for advocates for low- and moderate-income families. While there are very few specifics in the budget, highlights (really low-lights) include:

Safety Net

The budget proposes cutting programs that support low-income households and make up the first rungs of the ladder of opportunity that lead to financial security. While there are no specifics on the Assets for Independence (AFI) program, the budget proposes an 18% cut for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – over $15 billion. These cuts include the elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which assists low-income families with energy costs, and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which supports families in poverty with services that include housing, employment and nutrition.

Though it does not appear that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is at risk for now, the budget does propose a cut of $200 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that provides nutritional and health supports to low-income women and their children.

Several independent agencies and commissions that support low-income communities are also being recommended for elimination, including the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which works to reduce our homeless population, the Legal Services Corporation, which funds free civil legal assistance for low-income households, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds the AmeriCorps program, mobilizing Americans to serve vulnerable populations.

Housing and Community Development

The President's budget slashes spending on programs that support affordable housing and homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) receives just $40.7 billion in discretionary funding, a $6.2 billion reduction from 2017 levels. Notably, the budget only identifies $4.1 billion in program reductions of the $6.2 billion that that it eliminates from HUD. This 13% cut to HUD puts critical, asset-building programs like the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program at risk of ending up on the chopping block.

A number of important programs that help make homeownership safer and more affordable for low-income families are also singled out in the budget for elimination. These include the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnership Program, Choice Neighborhoods, the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program and Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing. It also eliminates the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance program and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, which help families lower their energy bills.

NeighborWorks America, the Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission would also be eliminated under this budget. These are organizations that give an economic and social boost to distressed, primarily low-income communities by improving job opportunities, investing in business development, identifying community leaders, improving infrastructure and transportation and developing programs that contribute to community health and wellness.

Finally, the budget eliminates $210 million in funding for CDFI Fund grants, asserting that the 20-year old program supports a “now mature industry where private institutions have ready access to the capital needed to extend credit and provide financial services to underserved communities.” The Fund, which continues to see increased demand for grants, invests in low-income communities and administers the New Markets Tax Credit, which continues to help attract needed private sector investment in distressed communities.

Consumer Protections

In line with the rest of his budget, the president’s regulatory focus is light on details as he focuses only on his action to enact a government-wide regulatory freeze and his two executive orders to curb regulations and enforce his regulatory agenda. Overall, despite the president’s focus on reining in burdensome regulatory costs and unnecessary regulations that cost jobs, consumer choice and economic growth, his budget’s focus on this issue is limited to a total of three pages.

While this may seem like a victory, the next budget will likely not be light on details or friendly to various agencies working to protect families in the consumer financial market as well as in other aspects of life, such as housing and retirement. If anything, the president’s initial take to eliminate 62 agencies and programs—many of which have shown to be effective in providing much-needed resources and support to communities and families throughout the country—indicates where the next round of cuts will come.

Key among future possibilities are reductions and changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which in just six short years has done a lot on behalf of families everywhere. In fact, despite being labeled as inefficient, the six-year old investment taxpayers have made to the agency since it opened so far has yielded a return of $4 dollars for every $1 spent. Overall, that’s resulted in nearly $12 billion being returned back to about 30 million consumers. The Bureau has not only been efficient with its resources, it’s also been effective as well. Through its supervisory and regulatory powers, the CFPB has not only given a voice to consumers through its complaint system, it’s also established rules to protect consumers across a number of markets, including mortgage, credit card and payday lending markets.

If the president truly believes “the American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them, not against them—a system that is both effective and efficient”, then his budget should strengthen, not eliminate or weaken, agencies like the CFPB and others that are protecting families against unfair, deceptive and predatory financial practices.

Tax Time

The budget proposes a $500 million cut to the Department of the Treasury, a 4.4% decrease from last year. This includes cutting $239 million by “diverting resources from antiquated operations that are still reliant on paper-based review in the era of electronic tax filing.” There are no further details on this proposal at this time, and the budget doesn’t come close to specifics on the funding level for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grants.

More Left Out and More to Come

Notably, the budget released today leaves out a number of components that are normally included in a budget – even “skinny” ones released in the first year of an administration. A summary of policy changes, revenue and tax policy proposals, entitlement reform proposals, and economic assumptions were all not included. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney has said we can expect more details on these components, along with program-by-program specifics, in May.

A budget that builds an opportunity economy would have proposed strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit and integrating financial capability into Community Health Centers. It would have supported the CFPB and helped put affordable homeownership in reach for all Americans. And it would have included administrative actions to close the ever growing wealth gap between white households and households of color.

What can you do? If you haven’t already, sign up for one or more of our campaigns to stay on top of the latest developments and opportunities to defend and advocate for our priorities. The nuts and bolts of the budget process – including committee hearings and appropriations requests – often take place well below the headlines. Make sure you’ve signed up so we can let you know when these key opportunities for advocacy are coming up.

Upset about these cuts to programs you support? Contact your members of Congress and tell them you do not support these massive budget cuts. This is just the first of more bad news to come, but if we stick together and push back against policies and budgets that don’t reflect our priorities, we can lessen the impact – if not score outright victories for the opportunity economy.

2017 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard Policy Data Now Available

By Holden Weisman on 03/09/2017 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: Data and Research, Local Policy, News, Assets & Opportunity Initiative

As a preview of the upcoming 2017 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, we’re pleased to release a complete set of this year’s state policy data! The State-by-State Policy Profiles and the series of Policy Briefs contain the full set of policies on how far states have gone to build their residents’ financial well-being, as well as what states can do to put their residents on stronger financial footing. You can browse and download both sets of documents by visiting the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard website.

The State Policy Profiles outline the full slate of policies assessed in the Scorecard and identify what has been achieved and what opportunities still exist to enact policies that contribute to household financial security. After learning about how your state performs, you can dig deeper into any of the policies included by downloading the corresponding Policy Brief. If, for example, you’re interested in proposing legislation to remove asset limits in Tennessee, you can download the “Asset Limits in Public Benefits Programs” Policy Brief, which includes an overview of the policies, what the state can do to enact them, how CFED assesses the states on these policies within the Scorecard and what other states have done in this area.

We encourage you to use State Profiles and Policy Briefs to guide your 2017 state-level advocacy work. This might entail referencing the policy solutions presented in testimony relating to bills introduced in your legislature, or it might entail comparing how your state stacks up against your neighbors to identify policy alternatives to problems faced at home. There are a range of ways to use all of the tools, and if you are interested in exploring how you might leverage them, please send us an email.

The State Policy Profiles and the Policy Briefs are only some of the tools we will make available as part of the rollout of the 2017 Scorecard. Later this year, the policy data will be accompanied by the release of our 2017 outcome data, which paint a picture of how residents in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are faring when it comes to their household financial security. More information about the release of the 2017 Scorecard outcome data will be shared via email, so sign up to stay informed.

If you have any questions regarding the Scorecard or need additional data to support your advocacy work during the 2017 legislative season, please contact Holden Weisman, State & Local Policy Manager, at hweisman@cfed.org.

New Brief Highlights Opportunities for Expanding or Aligning Financial Capability Efforts

By Megan Bolado and Dominique Derbigny on 03/09/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: Financial Capability, News

Click to read "Paving the Way"

At CFED, we spend a lot of time on the road delivering technical assistance and bringing organizations together to help them maximize their impact in their communities. As part of our commitment to sharing knowledge and best practices, it is our pleasure to document the lessons we learn from our deep engagements with the many partners who make the work of boosting financial capability possible. A prime example is the Community Financial Empowerment Learning Partnership, an 18-month project that JPMorgan Chase & Co. generously supported. Today, we’re excited to share “Paving the Way: A Roadmap for Organizations Partnering to Deliver Financial Capability Services,” a brief which documents the phases of the financial capability integration lifecycle—discover, design, implement and converge—as experienced by the members of the Learning Partnership. These lessons provide powerful insights for organizations eager to integrate financial capability services into their existing work or to partner across their communities to help boost clients’ financial well-being.

The Community Financial Empowerment Learning Partnership concluded in September 2016. The Learning Partnership consisted of seven groups of community-based organizations seeking to improve their clients’ financial lives by expanding and aligning financial capability service delivery to more holistically support their communities. Participants in the Learning Partnership included:

  • Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa (Sonoma County, CA)
  • Clarifi, with partners City of Philadelphia and Energy Coordinating Agency
  • Financial Guidance Center (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Massachusetts Community Action Partnership
  • United Way of Miami-Dade, with partners Catalyst Miami, Branches and the City of Miami
  • Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency (Detroit, MI)
  • WiNGS, with partners New Friends, New Life and Metrocrest Services (Dallas, TX)

Over the course of the project, important learnings emerged about the process of planning for and delivering financial capability services in partnership with others and “Paving the Way” shares these lessons with the field. These lessons reaffirm for us that integrating services can be an iterative and resource-intensive process for organizations, especially when partnering across organizations and communities. However, applying the lessons and experiences of the organizations in the Learning Partnership may simplify the process and ultimately lead to improved impact on the financial capability of low- and moderate- individuals and families.

Download “Paving the Way” today and browse a range of other financial capability integration resources at cfed.org/integration.

CFED Collaborates with National Partners to Launch Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility

By Chad Bolt on 03/09/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: Federal Policy, News

The federal government spends $660 billion every year on wealth-building subsidies to help Americans save for college, homeownership and retirement. The problem? These wealth-building programs are upside down—meaning they help the already wealthy build more wealth, but help families at lower income levels very little. As one piece of our broader strategy to flip this upside-down tax code right-side up, CFED partnered with PolicyLink to launch the Tax Alliance for Economic Mobility last week, a coalition of national organizations committed to building a tax code that is more inclusive, progressive and equitable.

CFED’s investment in the Tax Alliance couldn’t be timelier. With Congress gearing up to make changes to tax policy in some way—whether in the form of broad tax reform or simply via tax cuts—making sure the tax code works for everyone has never been more important. The Tax Alliance is made up of nearly 40 national advocacy organizations, racial justice groups, think tanks and tax experts coming together to ensure that tax reform debates move in the direction of equity, not exclusion. Organized around four broad areas of tax policy—homeownership, higher education, retirement and tax credits for low-income workers—the Tax Alliance has four working groups that respond to legislative proposals and looming congressional threats to an equitable tax code. The Tax Alliance has published four principles documents describing each of these areas.

The work of the Tax Alliance is fueled by a diverse group of leaders, but our success also depends on you. We’re committed to leveraging the Tax Alliance to deliver the tools and resources you need to be an effective advocate for inclusive and equitable tax reform. On our new website, you’ll find a series of resources and publications that explain key issues and how you can engage. There, you can also connect with the member organizations, all of which are respected leaders inside the Beltway and nationally on issues that affect the financial well-being of the most economically vulnerable communities. And, if you sign up for updates, you can receive periodic updates about recent developments on the national tax reform stage, including our brand-new newsletter.

The members of the Tax Alliance span a broad range of interests and missions, but they are united for a tax code that is more inclusive, progressive and equitable. We hope you’ll unite with us as we work to make this vision a reality.

Tax Season Kickoff, EITC Day Highlight the Importance of Tax Time in Boosting Financial Well-Being

By Rebecca Thompson and Chad Bolt on 02/09/2017 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: News, Taxpayer Opportunity Network

For folks who understand the power of tax time as a pathway to financial health for millions of workers and their families, the past few weeks have been an exciting time. On January 23, we officially kicked of the 2017 filing season, and later that week, CFED and the Taxpayer Opportunity Network celebrated EITC Awareness Day. Then, just last week, we partnered with Tax Credits for Workers and Their Families and H&R Block to convene a Capitol Hill Policy Forum about creating opportunity and fighting inequality at tax time and beyond. Each of these events helped raise awareness and mobilize action to spread the word about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and other powerful tax-time financial capability-boosting programs.

With the start of the 2017 filing season, community tax programs and local and state governments joined in with the IRS to mark the 11th annual celebration of EITC Awareness Day on January 27. Throughout the month leading up to EITC Awareness Day, CFED and the Taxpayer Opportunity Network partnered with a range of allies to send a consistent message: protecting and expanding the EITC is critical to our shared mission of expanding economic opportunity. EITC Awareness Day also gave us the chance to recognize the important role that VITA programs play in connecting taxpayers to the EITC. Network members and other allies celebrated EITC Awareness Day by sharing social media messages, videos, shareable graphics, state-by-state data snapshots and more, which led to #EITCAwarenessDay trending nationwide on Twitter!

On February 2, CFED, Tax Credits for Workers and Their Families and H&R Block welcomed Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) to a packed room on Capitol Hill. The day kicked off with a keynote address from Senator Brown, who underscored his strong support for the VITA program and his tireless work to expand the EITC, such as his 2015 legislation to make permanent important improvements to the EITC. Later in the day, Representative Moore highlighted her work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect low-income families and people of color from predatory and discriminatory loans, as well as her fight to give everyone an opportunity to rise out of poverty. Both speakers emphasized that the political landscape will be a challenging one for advocates, but that we can still achieve meaningful victories by remaining steadfast in our commitment to showing the power of consumer protections and the social safety net.

As we look toward a busy and productive tax filing season, we encourage you to join the Taxpayer Opportunity Network. Joining is free and gives you access to a gold mine of resources, including webinars, publications, learning groups and more that help you tackle challenges from volunteer recruitment and retention to mastering TaxSlayer and everything in between. Learn more and join today!

What’s That We Hear? A Field of Advocates Ready to Make Financial Security a Reality for All

By Fran Rosebush Baylor and Leigh Tivol on 02/09/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: News

Ever have a gut feeling you need to talk to your friends? That’s how we felt after November’s election—that we needed to connect with our partners to hear how you’re doing and what you’re thinking about the changes on the horizon. So, that’s exactly what we did. We segmented the country into regions and enlisted the help of the Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee for a series of calls to get a pulse on our partners’ priorities and concerns, give people the opportunity to hear from one another on opportunities to work together, and learn more about how we can best support your efforts. As always, you showed up, ready to connect.

Last month, we brought about 400 practitioners, advocates and researchers together for eight “Virtual Regional Listening Sessions.” Through these sessions, we gathered data and feedback on national trends, regional priorities, emerging leaders and feedback on how to best work together moving forward. By the end of the sessions, we learned an enormous amount, and we’d like to share those takeaways with you.

Identifying National & Regional Trends

We learned that most people are concerned about the future of public and private funding for family financial security solutions. How will we help low-income families stay in their home? Save for college? File their taxes accurately and for free? Given that many of the social safety programs we value might make their way to the chopping block, there is a great deal of concern about how critical services will be delivered.

We also learned that there is an increased desire among nonprofit practitioners to engage more deeply in advocacy. There are a variety of ways CFED intends to offer more opportunities to engage more deeply in advocacy, but if you’re looking for an easy way to start, you can sign up to stay informed on key issues and share stories about the needs in your community.

On a related note, we learned that many advocacy groups are increasing their focus on state-level policy opportunities in the midst of federal uncertainty. Expanding tax credits for working families, reducing eligibility barriers to public benefit programs and strengthening consumer protections all sit atop these groups’ agendas.

Across every region, groups expressed a desire to connect more—people want to plug in, stay informed and ready themselves for action. Groups are also looking at the broader economic security picture and thinking about how to lock arms with folks in “adjacent” fields, such as environmental advocates, health care providers, criminal justice reform allies and more. One easy step for connecting with new partners: find your state’s Assets & Opportunity Network Leader.

At a national level, the listening sessions also made clear that three of CFED’s four federal policy priorities—expanding affordable housing, protecting the social safety net and ensuring strong consumer protections—were also the top issues in each of the eight regions. Our fourth priority area—turning the tax code right-side up—was not identified as a top-three priority, but has important implications for all aspects of our collective work to expand economic opportunity. Learn how here.

Finally, alongside these national trends were a number of nuances between regions, each of which are listed in this findings document. That there were so many unique priorities at the regional level in addition to the shared priorities among all regions suggests that there is a pressing need to more deeply understand the unique contexts that vary from one region to another.

What’s Next?

First, we want existing and potential new partners alike to know that we’re ready to stand with you. We’re eager to help prepare the increasing numbers of advocates who want to ensure financial security and economic inclusion is truly a reality for all. In this spirit, look out for new advocacy trainings and tools in the coming months. In the meantime, sign up for one of our four federal policy campaigns or check out the latest state- and local- level data on financial security.

Second, we look forward to working with the Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee to develop a plan to continue these regional dialogues. Almost 90% of all survey respondents said they’d like to continue these regional discussions. This means we have clear marching orders, and we’re using your feedback to refine these conversations to ensure they can best meet your needs. Stay tuned for future opportunities to connect with peers regionally.

Finally, we are committed to developing communications and messaging resources related to our shared policy priorities, as these will be critical to showing why these priorities are essential for expanding economic opportunity for all families. For example, we heard that there is a need for clear messaging on why turning the tax code right-side up is critical, how our policies will help close the racial wealth divide, and how all of these policies fit into our broader Household Financial Security Framework. If you have messaging and communications suggestions, resources or tools to share, please email assetsandoppotunity@cfed.org!

The Virtual Regional Listening Sessions were such a valuable way to hear from our partners across the country, and we learned so much about local and regional priorities and how we can better connect our partners. But we’re just getting started, and your contributions are key to strengthening our networks and our efforts.

If you weren’t able to join a session but want to share your thoughts, suggestions or ideas, please email assetsandopportunity@cfed.org. If you want to learn about future opportunities to engage, sign up for email updates.

Black History Month 2017: Our Focus Should Be On Celebrating History. And Making It.

By Dedrick Asante-Muhammad on 02/09/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: News, Racial Wealth Divide

February is Black History Month, and as our nation celebrates this year, a positive light will once again be shined on African Americans’ many contributions to and influences on this country’s history and culture. Although this is an important moment for reflection, we also must focus on the present day realities of African Americans in the United States. In particular, Black History Month is an ideal time for us to explore the undeniable correlation between race and wealth, as well as how we can move forward as a nation to bridge the ever-growing racial economic divide. As CFED supporters and allies know best, there is still a long way to go in our shared mission of advancing civil rights and expanding opportunity for African Americans. Indeed, in an opportunity economy, there is no room for racial wealth inequality.

Much has happened since last year’s Black History Month. In the past year, we’ve witnessed the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement to a nationally recognized slogan, which exposed the unfair treatment of many African Americans by law enforcement officials. These issues also entered the spotlight during the 2016 presidential elections, which provided a platform for politicians to draw attention to the fact that African Americans are disproportionately targeted and imprisoned for non-violent crimes. This Black History Month will also be the first since the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened to the public toward the end of the first Black president’s second term, itself an historic moment. These are all notable advances in the mission to bring attention to the continued hardships faced by African American families.

Nevertheless, we have much history yet to make if we are to usher the nation into an era not defined by racial economic inequality. As CFED and the Institute for Policy Studies reported in August, racial economic inequality is on a path to expansion, not contraction. From 1983-2013, African American median income wealth declined from $6,800 to $1,700, while White median income wealth increased from $102,200 to $116,800. If these trends continue, by 2043, when White people are projected to comprise a minority of the nation, African Americans will have median wealth of just $425. Over that same timeframe, however, White wealth is projected to increase to $131,980.

Rampant inequality helps to explain, in part, why demand for change is sweeping across the nation. From the newly elected president to the millions of people finding themselves on protest lines, it seems that our nation is finally realizing the current trends are unsustainable.

In this context, this year’s Black History Month feels like one where our attention should be focused on making history, rather than solely reflecting on the great deeds of the past. Pulling our country away from an increasingly calcified apartheid socioeconomic order will itself change the course of history. To that end, CFED will remain steadfast in working with you to make 2017 another powerful year in forging a path toward overcoming racial wealth inequality.

President Trump & Congressional Republicans Are Putting the Interests of Wall Street over Working Families

By Emanuel Nieves on 02/07/2017 @ 11:00 AM

Tags: News, Federal Policy

By Seeking to Repeal Common Sense Financial Regulations, President Trump Sides with Wall Street over the Forgotten Men & Women that Elected Him

Last Friday, President Trump signed an executive order that would begin the process of rolling back critical financial regulations and consumer protection laws, including the landmark Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank). The order, signed after a meeting with a number of business executives, establishes a set of core principles for what the administration believes would constituent prudent financial regulations and instructs the Treasury Secretary to conduct a sweeping review of financial regulations to determine if current rules are promoting or inhibiting these principles.

Framed as a way to remove burdensome regulations, the exercise authorized by the President will only serve as a road map to weaken or eliminate common sense Wall Street reforms and consumer protections. Although the order does not get into specifics, we imagine that the review will target the good work done by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which in just five years has returned $12 billion to 29 million wronged consumers across the country.

Yet, despite the value Dodd-Frank and the CFPB have demonstrated to working families, coupled with the fact that then-candidate Trump himself said he would not let “Wall Street get away with murder”, this action is another affirmative statement that it’s ok for Wall Street to continue with the same behavior that led to the 2008 economic crisis. Given that this behavior resulted in massive economic losses for the very same forgotten men and women he’s pledged to uplift and protect—including African-American, Latinos and Asian-American who lost more than half their wealth during the economic downturn—President Trump’s regulatory action will undoubtedly hurt working families.

Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans are Also Working to Block Consumer Protections That Would Protect Working Families

On the heels of President Trump’s Executive Order last Friday, Congressional Republicans in the House and Senate have begun to use an obscure piece of legislation—the Congressional Review Act (CRA)—to repeal several sensible regulations put in place by the Obama administration.

Among those efforts in one led by U.S. Senator David Perdue and U.S. Representative Tom Graves, along with several other congressional republicans, including Senator Johnny Isakson and Congressman Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, to block the CFPB’s prepaid card rule from going into effect. By using the Congressional Review Act, this action would not only block basic fraud protection and fee transparency protections from being extended to all prepaid card users, it would also indefinitely tie the CFPB’s hands from ever proposing a “substantially similar” rule the future.

Given the rapid growth in the prepaid card market over the past several years, including the fact in 2015 the FDIC found that nearly 10% of all underbanked households—over 12 million—used a prepaid card to manage their financial lives, blocking this common sense regulation should not be a priority for Congress. Instead of allowing prepaid card companies to make tens of millions of dollars in through costly fees, including overdrafts, or making it more difficult for these consumers to access their own money, Congress should allow the CFPB’s rule to take effect.

By doing so, these congressional republicans would ensure that American families that have been shut out of the mainstream financial system can enjoy in some of the same protections banking and credit cards consumers already have. Otherwise, congress is also just picking Wall Street over working families.

We Must Stand and Speak for What We Believe In

By Leigh Tivol and Kristin Lawton on 01/30/2017 @ 11:00 AM

Tags: News

CFED stands with refugees and immigrants in their journeys toward hope, safety and opportunity. Moreover, we are heartened by the tens of thousands of people around the country and around the world—at city halls, in airport terminals and marching in the streets—who are making their voices heard. They—and we—believe that our long-standing American values of acceptance, diversity and openness must prevail over fear, demagoguery and divisiveness.

We believe diversity must prevail because it is in our DNA as Americans; our nation was founded on inclusion and acceptance. Every immigrant who has come to this nation to build a better life for their family is another example of someone who wants what we all want: a shot at prosperity and the chance for the next generation to live a better life than our own.

We also know that making good on the promises of diversity and inclusion requires opportunity in all forms. Here at CFED, we often say we believe in economic opportunity for all families, regardless of which ZIP code you’re born in. The same is true regardless of which country you’re born in. We stand for protecting the social safety net for our most vulnerable. We stand for safe, affordable housing and the chance to build wealth through homeownership. We stand for defending consumers against unscrupulous companies who seek to strip their hard-won earnings and assets. And we stand for fairer federal tax programs that help all households build wealth.

Perhaps most importantly, we know that we must keep fighting, and we must do so on all fronts. Moves in recent weeks—and especially in the past ten days—have brought so many new and unprecedented challenges that it’s hard to keep up with them all. Luckily, you haven't lost sight of what matters. By taking to the streets, building relationships with potential allies, holding our elected officials accountable, opposing policies that would increase financial insecurity for vulnerable families and more, you are staying diligent in our fight to ensure that the opportunity economy we envision remains within reach. We have lots of work ahead, but your commitment proves that we are strongest when we stand together.

The past several days have felt overwhelming, but we have to stand up and speak up. And, we must keep standing and keep speaking—for all the issues that matter to us.

Thank you for standing with us.

President Donald Trump Won't Help the Working Class by Attacking the CFPB

By Jeremie Greer on 01/26/2017 @ 12:00 PM

Tags: Federal Policy, News, Featured Stories

Editor's Note: This article was originally published at U.S. News on January 25, 2017.

Donald Trump has just been sworn in as our next president and already newly emboldened congressional Republicans are planning assaults on an agency that exists to help all consumers, regardless of party affiliation. And they’re doing so even though Trump ran on a platform of protecting working-class Americans.

The agency is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), part of the Dodd-Frank reform package enacted by Congress to rein in the excesses of the banking and finance industry in the wake of the Great Recession. The CFPB was created with the recognition that products like mortgages, credit cards and student loans involve some of the most important aspects of people's lives. It's the first and only federal agency dedicated to protecting consumers in the financial marketplace.

In the six short years since its formation, the CFPB has collected and sent back to consumers $12 billion (that's billion with a "b") from financial service companies that have preyed upon U.S. consumers. It now is finalizing a "payday rule" that finally would bring basic protections to an industry that costs Americans more than $8 billion annually in interest fees.

And the response from Congress? Two Republican senators have called on Trump to fire the CFPB's director, Richard Cordray. The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee has introduced a bill that would gut much of the bureau's regulatory authority and replace the office of director with a five-member commission subject to congressional oversight and appropriations. And Trump's own transition team now is promising to dismantle the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, suggesting it's produced nothing but "bureaucratic red tape and Washington mandates."

So what type of red tape and mandates are we talking about?

Over and beyond the $12 billion returned to consumers through enforcement actions, the CFPB has introduced strong new mortgage disclosure forms that have improved the market and gone a long way to rectify the predatory lending practices that were rampant before the financial crisis. The agency's consumer complaint database has given Americans a vehicle for getting attention and help for problems with financial institutions. And the bureau has conducted research and outreach to millions of people so they better understand their finances and can access good financial products.

Moreover, the CFPB has or will soon introduce strong new rules in several markets beyond the payday rule to improve fairness and transparency for consumers, including in the areas of prepaid cards, overdraft offerings and arbitration requirements. Congressional critics say the rules and enforcement actions of the CFPB are holding back lending and the economy in general, but the evidence isn't there to support that. Lending in mortgages and other financial products is approaching pre-crisis levels, unemployment is under 5 percent and the stock market is approaching all-time highs.

So what's the real fallout if Trump goes along with the congressional assault?

Replacing the director with a commission would bog down the agency's work and mire it in politics, similar to what's happened at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Moving the funding of the CFPB from the Federal Reserve System to Congress would not only add to the deficit, but would allow Congress to stymie the work of the bureau by starving it of funding. Congress has done the same to the SEC and the Internal Revenue Service, greatly reducing their effectiveness.

Families would lose protections from predatory products that could leave them mired in debt and unable to pay for basic living expenses, let alone save or build wealth to get ahead. And if arbitration rules were overturned or watered down, consumers would have no ability to hold financial institutions accountable for predatory practices and would never be able to have their day in court.

Last fall, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testified to Congress that the law and associated regulations absolutely had made the financial industry safer and that it made no sense to roll back those protections. Even the financiers are urging caution; Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein says it might be appropriate to review some parts of Dodd-Frank, but he wouldn't "want to repeal in toto."

A partisan backlash against federal regulation is not what we need right now, particularly when an agency is doing the job it was chartered to do. The CFPB should remain independent and encouraged to continue its work on behalf of all consumers.

Today Is No Different from Any Other Day: Your Efforts Matter.

By Kristin Lawton on 01/20/2017 @ 08:00 AM

Tags: News, Recommended Reading

You work hard every day to ensure that everyone in your community has a fair shot at getting ahead. But some days, it can feel like no matter how hard you try, progress is just too far out of reach.

For moments when you feel that way, we want to remind you that you can and do make a difference in the lives of low-income families, families of color and the millions of others who, if not for you, would be excluded from opportunities to get by and get ahead.

Not sure how you can make a difference? Here are three simple actions you can take today to help financially vulnerable communities achieve progress and prosperity.

  1. Join one of our advocacy campaigns. Taking 60 seconds to sign up will connect you with opportunities to protect and promote policies that ensure that all U.S. families have the skills, knowledge, access and protections they need to realize their financial dreams. Our four campaigns focus on the four areas in which we can achieve the greatest impact: protecting social safety net programs like AFI and VITA, flipping the tax code right-side up, strengthening protections for consumers and expanding affordable homeownership opportunities.
  2. Share your story to inspire others. Each of us are called to this work for different reasons. Take time today to reflect on what gives you hope and write down your personal story. Share your story on social media and in our Story Bank to inspire others.
  3. Chip in to advance our shared vision. Add your name to the list of people who are putting opportunity within reach by contributing whatever you can—even $20 can go a long way toward promoting prosperity. Unable to donate but looking for ways to help in your local community today? Print off a list of needs from a nearby food bank or shelter and spend the day with your family or friends collecting those items from neighbors or at a dollar store. Then, take a trip together to bring your collection to the community organization that needs your support.

Today is no different from any other day: your efforts matter. If you’re not convinced, we hope you’ll take one of the actions above or think about how you might support one of the thousands of organizations that do great work every day to promote prosperity and expand opportunity. By working together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

From Talk to Action: What The Next Administration Can Do to Help Close the Racial Wealth Divide

By Emanuel Nieves on 01/19/2017 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: Federal Policy, Local Policy, News

This is it. 72 days after the 2016 Presidential election came to a surprising end, the inauguration of President-elect Trump is upon us. Despite the various feelings that may come with tomorrow’s inauguration, the peaceful transition of power will conclude in about 24 hours from now when President-elect Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

Click the image to read the report.

Once the inaugural ceremonies conclude, President Trump and his team will face the difficult task of not only governing and leading a deeply divided country but also turning many of his pledges into reality. Given what we’ve learned during the campaign and since it ended, President Trump will be heavily focused on accomplishing much of what he’s laid out in his First 100 Days Agenda, which includes a number of ambitious and troubling items such as the undoing of a number of Obama-era executive actions as well as action to weaken the Affordable Care Act.

Given the real impact that a number of President Trump proposals will have on some of our most vulnerable individuals and families, CFED has been working diligently over the past several months to ensure that we’re ready to defend and strengthen affordable homeownership and safety net programs, consumer protections and tax policies that we view as instrumental towards building an opportunity economy that works for all. As a first step towards fulfilling this goal, this past September we released A Federal Policy Blueprint to Close the Ever-Growing Wealth Gap, which outlined a number of wealth-building, inequality-reducing, opportunity-expanding legislation and ambitious budget requests.

Today, as another step towards expanding economic opportunity for all, we’re proud to announce the release of a new publication—Administrative Actions to Close the Ever-Growing Gap (direct download here)—which proposes several ambitious administrative actions the Trump administration could enact to help solve the problems of financial insecurity and wealth inequality. These actions address seven issue areas:

  • Rainy Day Savings
  • College Savings
  • Affordable Homeownership
  • Retirement Savings
  • Financial Capability Services & Tax Preparation
  • Racial Wealth Divide
  • Persistent Poverty and Community Development

While each issue area outlined in Administrative Actions is critically important to building an opportunity economy that works for all, we wanted to highlight one in particular that builds off President-elect Trump’s commitment to taking a number of actions the moment he becomes President as well as his expressed interest in tackling the economic realities facing African Americans and other communities of color. This interest has been expressed through his ‘New Deal for Black America’ as well as through meetings with personalities such as Jim Brown, Ray Lewis, Kanye West, Steve Harvey and most recently Martin Luther King III. Thus, Administrative Actions presents the President-elect Trump with a singular action he can take during his First 100 Days to begin addressing the ever-growing racial wealth divide, which today amounts to households of color owning just a fraction of the wealth ($12,377) White households own ($110,637).

That action—which President Trump could take with just the stroke of a pen—is an executive action to authorize a government-wide audit to understand how current policies are affecting the racial wealth divide facing communities of color today. Given the role that federal policies have played in creating the racial wealth divide, understanding how current policies continue to shape the economic circumstances of communities of color is a necessary first step towards deliberately crafting policy solutions to close the divide.

As part of this executive action, President Trump should appoint a special advisor or ombudsman to coordinate the audit as well as advise him on unilateral actions he can take to address this pressing economic problem. To ensure the audit is as comprehensive as possible, President Trump should direct the ombudsman to make use of empirical tools that would quantify the economic impact of current federal policies and programs on the racial wealth divide.

In selecting these tools, the ombudsman should first look towards established methods, such as the Racial Wealth Audit framework co-developed by the Institute for Assets and Social Policy (IASP) at Brandeis University and Demos, which underpins a recent paper CFED and IASP co-published that assessed the impact that specific education policies would have on the racial wealth divide. In addition to these duties, the ombudsman should also assist in the development of a legislative agenda and public report that can increase public awareness of strategies that can reduce the government’s role in growing the racial wealth divide.

While the matters facing communities of color today might seem like an isolated problem only affecting a particular group of people, the changing demographics of our country tells us these problems will soon be relevant to everyone. In fact, according to recent research we conducted last year with the Institute Policy Studies, if nothing is done to lift up the economic opportunity of the children and their families now, the racial wealth divide will literally never close.

Once the inauguration ceremonies end and the focus shifts to governing, we hope that Administrative Actions provides President Trump with solutions that can turn his stated concern for communities of color and the places they call home into the actions needed to begin closing the racial wealth divide. By taking deliberate and substantial steps, President Trump can help to ensure that the racial wealth divide does not become a deeply ingrained feature of our future American life.

Congress Hears Your Voice! Making a Difference Through Effective Advocacy

By Arohi Pathak on 01/17/2017 @ 12:00 PM

Tags: Local Policy, Federal Policy, News

The 115th Congress is busy transitioning to a new Administration—one that has already prioritized the interest of the corporate sector over that of the working families who sent them to the White House. Over the past several weeks, CFED has engaged with state and local Network members from across the country to send the new Administration and Congress an important message: we need an opportunity economy that works for all, one that allows us the chance to build a more prosperous future for our families and communities.

As Congress focuses on vetting President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominations, our state and local members have shared numerous stories and data with their members of Congress, asking them to hold these nominees accountable for their policy priorities and perspectives, while ensuring that the needs of consumers, working individuals and families and communities are protected.

For example:

Ben Carson’s nomination as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • CFED shared stories with several Senators on the Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee, showing the impact of HUD programs, such as Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) and housing counseling, which help families move toward self-sufficiency and independence. During the vetting of Dr. Carson’s nomination, we asked that Senators hold Dr. Carson accountable to protecting FSS, housing counselling and other HUD programs that help so many families build financial security.

Steven Mnuchin’s nomination as Secretary of Treasury

  • Mnuchin has made no secret of his interest in chipping away at Dodd-Frank, the CFPB and consumer protections. Additionally, while at OneWest, Mnuchin was responsible for racially discriminating against people of color, barring them from the opportunity to own a home and foreclosing on tens of thousands of families. Along with our Network members, CFED shared data, testimony and stories with Senators on the Senate Finance Committee to show how the foreclosure crisis and predatory mortgage practices impacted communities and families in their state. We’re hopeful that this information will inform and arm Senators as they ask questions during the confirmation hearing to better understand Mnuchin’s views on protecting consumers as well on a range of other issues.

Rep. Tom Price’s nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • CFED shared stories and data with Senators on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee to show how the Assets for Independence (AFI) program and other HHS programs help low-income families save for their future and move out of poverty. Our hope is that Senators vetting Rep. Price’s nomination will ask the Congressman how he plans to protect AFI and other programs to ensure continued investment in low-income communities.

These are your stories and your voices, and they are making a difference! In sharing your stories and data with Members of Congress, CFED has received great feedback about how this information will arm Members of Congress in:

  • holding nominees accountable during the vetting process
  • asking nominees tough questions about their priorities as leaders of key agencies over the next four years
  • holding nominees accountable over the next four years to protect consumers and communities

CFED’s top priority in 2017 is continued advocacy at the federal level to ensure that we protect and strengthen the hard work that so many of you have engaged in over the past decades to create an opportunity economy. Such engagement will allow the Network to be a strong and credible partner to federal policymakers, it will highlight the incredible work that so many of you do on a daily basis, and it will enable us to fight for priorities that help build economic opportunity and access for all.

As President Obama eloquently reminded us during the final speech of his presidency on January 10, 2017, change is only possible "when ordinary people get involved" and join forces to demand progress. Together, we can demand change and progress. Your voices are important for effective advocacy and they are being heard loud and clear. Over the course of this year, CFED will continue to engage you in other actions to ensure consumers and families are not left behind at the expense of corporations and financial institutions. We hope you’ll join us in these efforts as we work to build an opportunity economy that works for all.

Thank you to all those who have engaged with CFED and shared this information with us.

2016 Year in Review: Despite Challenges, Assets Advocates Have Much to Celebrate

By Sean Luechtefeld on 01/11/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: News, Economic Inclusion

The last two months of the year brought significant uncertainty and concern about the future for many of us. But for all of us working to build a more inclusive economy, 2016 also offered much to celebrate. We began the year by launching an ambitious new Strategic Plan, and although our tactics for achieving the goals laid forth in that plan may shift in the wake of the new political environment, our overall objectives do not. Because much of the foundation for achieving those goals was laid in 2016, we want to take time to reflect with you on all we accomplished together throughout the year.

One key area of focus in 2016 was on closing the racial wealth divide. Our Racial Wealth Divide Initiative marked its first full year of operation, deepening our field’s analysis of the financial challenges facing communities of color. As part of this effort, the 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offered new data measures that were, for the first time, disaggregated by race. We also kicked off two exciting projects: the African-American Financial Capability Initiative, made possible thanks to generous support from the Northwest Area Foundation, and the Building High-Impact Nonprofits of Color project, made possible thanks to generous support from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The past 12 months also saw significant strides when it comes to consumer protections. This summer, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its long-awaited proposed regulations on predatory small-dollar lenders, while just weeks later, the Bureau outlined a framework for regulating abusive debt collection practices. Then, just last month, the Federal Housing Finance Agency released its long-anticipated “Duty to Serve” rule, which compels Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to serve the manufactured housing finance market. Each of these three victories illustrate just how important it is that federal agencies and regulators have vulnerable families’ needs and interests on the top of their agendas.

Ultimately, these achievements would have been impossible without a large and growing network of advocates, service providers and other allies like you who are fully committed to the notion that our skin color or the ZIP code in which we're born shouldn't determine our chances of success. Nowhere did this message resonate more than at the 2016 Assets Learning Conference, which was the largest-ever gathering of asset-building professionals. Your energy, your eagerness to learn and your willingness to use your voice to build the opportunity economy are what make CFED confident that despite the challenges ahead, 2017 will offer several victories for us to celebrate together.

Well-Intended, Well-Resourced Policies Aren’t Enough to Close the Racial Wealth Divide

By Emanuel Nieves on 01/11/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: Racial Wealth Divide, News

Just 9 days from today, President-elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office. While many questions still remain as to what the new President will do once in office, his actions over the past nine weeks have provided us with more details of what he may prioritize. For example, the deal he cut with Carrier and his recent Twitter messages about other manufacturers sending jobs outside of the country indicate that he may stand by his commitments to focus on keeping jobs in the US. At the same time, through his ‘New Deal for Black America’—his 10-point plan to advance the economic prospects of African-Americans—President-elect Trump has also shown some interest in remedying the economic plight of African-Americans and other communities of color. Given the current state of the racial wealth divide, in which households of color own just a fraction of the wealth ($12,377) of White households ($110,637), it is impossible to ignore the economic realities facing African-American and Latino families.

While we laud and share a common goal of closing the racial wealth divide for African-Americans, the President-elect’s plan falls far short of achieving this goal, and if enacted will very likely widen the racial wealth divide even further. For African-American and Latino families, that’s a prospect they cannot afford. As CFED and the Institute for Policy Studies’ recent report, The Ever-Growing Gap, indicates, that wealth divide is already on track to double over the next 30 years, from an average of $500,000 today to over $1 million by 2043. Although it’s heartening to see that the incoming President is thinking about racial equity issues, addressing this problem is going to require that his administration take consequential action that does not make this situation worse.

To help ensure that future policy decisions close the racial wealth divide, CFED and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University (IASP) have released a new report, titled Equitable Investments in the Next Generation: Designing Policies to Close the Racial Wealth Gap. The report uses a new framework—The Racial Wealth Audit™, a joint collaboration between IASP and Demos—to help policymakers and advocates design economic policies that close, not exacerbate, the racial wealth divide.

As part of its findings, Equitable Investments highlights how even well-meaning policies can increase the racial wealth divide if those policies are not targeted to provide the most support to those who need it most. For example, the report highlights how universal policies to eliminate student debt could actually increase the racial wealth divide among young adults by nearly 10%, while targeted policies such as providing relief to households making $50,000 (roughly the U.S. median income) or less could reduce the racial wealth divide by seven percent.

To avoid repeating mistakes of the past, President-elect Trump should take a closer look at the policies in the ‘New Deal for Black America.’ For example, while it is true that African Americans are in need of expanded access to affordable credit, it should not be done through abusive, predatory products and services that offer triple-digit interest rates and place people in a perpetual cycle of debt (such as payday, car title and pawn shop loans). Also, we should not further tilt our already upside-down tax code to further provide disproportionate benefits to the wealthy at the expense of working families.

Again, it is our hope that President-elect Trump will diligently work to ensure that it does not take 228 years for the average African-American family and 84 years for average Latino family to amass the wealth White households enjoy today. Unfortunately, if enacted as proposed, the President-elect’s ‘New Deal for Black America’ will likely widen the ever-growing racial wealth divide even further.

Now Available: New Resources for Integrating Financial Capability

By Jennifer Medina on 01/11/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: News, Financial Capability

Building the financial capability of low- and moderate-income families is a priority for CFED and our many partners in the field. As part of our commitment to this priority, CFED has provided technical assistance to community-based organizations interested in integrating financial capability services into their existing programs as part of the Family Financial Empowerment Initiative, a two-year project supporting financial capability integration in the northwest. As part of this work, we had the opportunity to produce several resources to support the growing slate of organizations seeing financial capability as critical to improving outcomes. Now, we’re excited to kick off 2017 by sharing these resources—including two videos and six tips sheets—with the field. We encourage you to take a few minutes to explore these new resources and share them with your partners!

Financial Capability Integration in Practice. In this eight-minute video, service providers and nonprofit leaders share their stories about the promise of integrating financial capability into the services they offer, while clients speak to the ways in which financial capability has made a positive difference in their financial lives.

Household Financial Security Framework. CFED recently revamped its Household Financial Security Framework, which we launched last month with a new animated video. The Framework helps illustrate how people must be able to navigate financial systems, learn key skills, earn money, save their earnings, own assets and protect those assets in order to achieve financial security.

Tip Sheets for Practitioners. CFED developed six tip sheets to help practitioners integrate financial capability services into their existing programs. Ranging from tips on how to select a target program for integration to strategies for serving specific populations to ideas for supporting clients from financial instability to stability, these easy-to-use tip sheets are filled with helpful advice from experts in the field.

To browse these and other resources, visit our online hub for Financial Capability Integration at cfed.org/integration.

Andrea Levere Named to Federal Reserve Board’s Community Advisory Council

By Danielle Fox on 12/07/2016 @ 02:30 PM

Tags: News

This morning, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System announced that CFED President Andrea Levere has been named the newest member of its Community Advisory Council. The Council is comprised of individuals with consumer- and community development-related expertise and provides information, advice and recommendations to the Board on a wide range of relevant policy matters and emerging issues of interest. The Council is made up of fifteen members who are chosen through a public nomination process.

Andrea’s nomination to the Community Advisory Council is a recognition of her extensive expertise in the community development issues that affect the low-income communities and communities of color that CFED serves. Levere currently serves as the Chair of ROC USA (Resident Owned Communities USA), a national social venture that converts manufactured home parks into resident-owned cooperatives. She is a member of the FDIC’s Committee on Economic Inclusion, Morgan Stanley’s Community Development Advisory Board, Capital One’s Community Advisory Council and JPMC’s Consumer Advisory Council. In 2013, President Obama appointed Ms. Levere to the National Cooperative Bank’s (NCB) Board of Directors to represent the interests of low-income consumers.

Given the important work that the Community Advisory Council does, we are honored that Andrea has been chosen to serve in this new capacity. Please join us in congratulating her by tweeting her at @ALevere!

Building High-Impact Nonprofits of Color in New Orleans and Miami

By Jessika Lopez and Dedrick Asante-Muhammad on 12/01/2016 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: News, Racial Wealth Divide

The outcome of last month’s presidential election made clear that our work to serve communities of color has never been more important. It was thus fitting that one week after the presidential election, CFED’s Racial Wealth Divide Initiative team was on the ground in New Orleans and Miami to meet with members of the first cohort of the Building High-Impact Nonprofits of Color project. The project, made possible thanks to generous support from JPMorgan Chase & Co., convenes leaders from New Orleans and Miami to build their capacity to better serve their local communities.

Our host when we traveled to New Orleans was the Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, a neighborhood-based nonprofit homebuilder that provides families with healthy and energy-efficient affordable housing opportunities. While in Miami, we were hosted by Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center, whose mission is to empower, strengthen and stabilize South Florida's Haitian community through access to free services and resources.

The trainings provided in each city, titled Understanding the Power of Community Assets in Addressing the Racial Wealth Divide, explored how organizations of color can leverage their own strengths to boost financial stability in their communities in the context of deep racial wealth inequality. Each organization developed a community asset map to better identify resources to be leveraged in their community. Then, each leader identified someone from one of the other cohort organizations to be their coach through the end of the year. In this way, the nonprofits of color we’re working with aren’t just learning from CFED and from the experts we’ve partnered with to provide these trainings, but also from one another.

Last month's trainings mark the end of the first phase of the project. We look forward to launching the second phase in early 2017, including the kickoff of our second cohort of nonprofits of color with organizations in Baltimore and Chicago. Stay tuned!

CFED's Commitment to Equity and Opportunity in a New Political Environment

By Leigh Tivol on 12/01/2016 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: News

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just a few weeks since the election—the dust is still settling, and a tremendous amount of uncertainty remains. Nonetheless, we’re moving as nimbly and decisively as we can to chart the course forward with the information we have so far. Just before Thanksgiving, CFED organized a Town Hall meeting for the field to share our latest thinking and to hear from our key stakeholders about their own ideas. More than 600 people registered for the Town Hall, which generated a flurry of insightful questions and ideas. We thank all those who joined us. If you weren’t able to participate, here are some of the highlights from that conversation.

Some of you have asked, “How do the election outcomes change the work of CFED and the field?” The short answer is that our mission and goals don’t change one bit. We are still driven by our charge to help millions of people achieve financial security and contribute to an opportunity economy for all. We still scale innovative practical solutions that empower low- and moderate-income people to build wealth. We still drive responsive policy change at all levels of government. We still support the efforts of community leaders across the country to advance economic opportunity for all. And through all of that, we still retain our special focus on equity for communities of color.

So our mission doesn’t change. But our tactics and our expectations for the near term do. They change:

  • Through the way we approach our federal policy strategy.
  • By doubling down on our state and local policy efforts, hand-in-hand with many of you.
  • By forging a new level of collaboration among our existing partners, and by developing new partnerships that amplify our shared messages and goals and allow us to extend the reach of our ideas to new audiences.
  • Through continuing our deep connections with all of you across the country, understanding what’s happening in your communities, and ensuring that you have the support and resources you need to continue your work in this fast-changing environment.

As you are well aware, there is no shortage of critically important social and economic issues to grapple with over the next few years. Much of our work will necessarily focus on shielding the organizations and people we care about and the gains we’ve made. Our task will be to sharpen our focus on those issues, decisions and opportunities where we as an organization and as a field can leverage our expertise, power and resources to achieve the greatest impact.

Naturally, our federal policy strategy is central to all of this. The morning after the election, our Government Affairs team got to work. They have crafted an approach that is both pragmatic and bold, and that acknowledges the realities of the new political environment while also driving us to take a strong stand. Our overall goal is to limit the damage to low- and moderate-income households, and to position CFED to advance our own policy priorities in 2-4 years. Here’s how:

Our Focus: We will aggressively fight federal proposals that would harm low- and moderate-income households, and narrow our focus to four areas of greatest impact: programs for low-income households like AFI and VITA, flipping the upside-down tax code, consumer protections and homeownership. This doesn’t mean that we won’t still work on other issues—we will continue to take a leadership role in some issue areas, and play a supportive role in others—but our primary focus will be on these four areas.

Our Activities: To execute this strategy, we will redouble our efforts to galvanize our network members and build new national partnerships, strengthen and expand key congressional relationships, and spread word far and wide about our key federal policy priorities.

To advance these policy and partnership strategies in the weeks and months to come, we will need the help of every person reading this message. Here’s how you can lend a hand: This month, CFED will be hosting a set of virtual Regional Listening Sessions to allow our partners and stakeholders across the country to talk together in smaller groups about what’s happening nationally, regionally and locally. These will be informal calls that will be facilitated by members of our Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee. They are open to all interested stakeholders. Stay tuned for more information about the Listening Session in your region.

Thank you for your continued partnership as we begin this journey forward. It will be a long road, but we will travel it together—and for that, all of us at CFED are grateful.

Housing Advocates Gather for Largest-Ever I'M HOME Conference

By Mikah Zaslow on 12/01/2016 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: News, Housing and Homeownership, Events

Last month, 180 housing developers, lenders, policymakers, industry experts, homeowners and community organizers from 30 different states gathered to participate in CFED's 2016 I'M HOME Conference in San Antonio. This conference was made possible thanks to generous support from Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, the Ford Foundation and NeighborWorks America. Our biggest gathering yet, this year’s I’M HOME Conference opened with a keynote address from NeighborWorks America CEO Paul Weech and featured conversations and learning opportunities related to manufactured housing policy at all levels of government, as well as products and services that propel potential homeowners to achieve their dreams. Participants also learned about recent research regarding the cost burdens of energy-inefficient homes in Appalachia and explored avenues for reforming how manufactured homes are financed.

The Conference wouldn't have been possible without the tireless work of the I'M HOME Network's national partners, including Next Step, ROC USA and the National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA). In addition joining CFED on the plenary stage to share about the Network's many accomplishments over the past year, national partners led specially-designed breakout sessions on a number of issues critical to manufactured home owners and advocates. These panels dicussed the eHome America online homeownership education platform, manufactured home foundation requirements, tips for positive allyship with manufactured home residents, lending products for manufactured homes and filling vacancies in communities.

Throughout the Conference, several themes emerged that focused on how manufactured housing can continue to be an asset that empowers residents. However, the Conference also made clear that more work remains if we are to realize the full potential of the largest unsubsidized stock of affordable housing in this country. Conference attendees reflected on the need to reverse the stigma surrounding manufactured housing and its residents, to promote greater understanding of the potential of manufactured housing to expand homeownership to more families, and to scale the innovations and solutions that help enhance quality of life for residents of manufactured homes. Especially as homeownership for other housing types becomes increasingly unaffordable, the industry must approach development in new ways and in new real estate markets, such as through “land re-adjustment” to make communities more amenable to manufactured housing and to adapt to density planning needs.

As I’M HOME and the manufactured housing industry adapt to the evolving housing landscape, CFED will continue to facilitate discussions about how we can work together to achieve the goals of the I’M HOME Network and to advance manufactured housing initiatives.

If you couldn’t join us in San Antonio, you can check out session presentations, handouts, reports and other materials from the Conference here. Then, mark your calendars for the 2017 I'M HOME Conference, to take place October 2-4 in Providence, RI!

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