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Family Assets Count: Chicago

Posted by lmullany on 07/01/2015

In Chicago 20% of families live in poverty, but far more (49%) are financially vulnerable. These “liquid asset poor”families do not have enough savings to live above the poverty level for just three months if they lose a job, face a medical crisis or suffer another income disruption. Communities of color fair even worse: 67% of African American households and 71% of Hispanic households in Chicago are liquid asset poor.

These households live in a state of persistent financial insecurity – one emergency away from falling into debt or even losing a home. The inability to bounce back from financial pitfalls not only hurts Chicago families, it stifles the city’s long-term economic growth.

The findings are part of a new data analysis from Family Assets Count, a project of CFED (the Corporation for Enterprise Development) and the Assets & Opportunity Initiative in partnership with Citi Community Development and the Illinois Asset Building Group. The analysis spotlights a range of challenges confronting Chicago’s vulnerable families:

  • Although the city has a 45% homeownership rate, one in three families are “asset poor,” meaning they lack sufficient net worth (what they own minus what they owe) to subsist at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income.
  • 16% of Chicago families do not have a savings or checking account – twice the national rate.
  • One in four families has a bank account but still relied on alternative financial services such as check cashing or payday loans in the past year, which means they are paying far too much for accessing their hard-earned money.

Families across the state are struggling to stay above water. A total of 1.8 million Illinois households (38%) are liquid asset poor. IABG and its partners are working to promote policy solutions at the state and local level including:

  • Passing land use ordinances to limit the prevalence of predatory lenders like payday, auto title and rent-to-own stores that entrap families in a cycle of debt.
  • Investing in citywide initiatives that help families build and maintain good credit scores through credit builder loans and credit counseling.
  • Creating an Illinois Children Savings Account Program that provides a savings account for every child.
  • Expanding access to the Illinois Bright Start program, making it easier for families to save for children’s’ college education.
  • Ensuring all Illinois workers have the opportunity to save for retirement through the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program.

Through cutting edge data, tools and resources Family Assets Count leverages the power of cities to improve financial stability for families and advances programs and policies that reduce barriers and encourage families to save and build assets. For more information and data visit

Download the Full Report

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Judge upholds local minimum wage ordinance

Posted by tlentz on 06/30/2015

Statement from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer:

"I'm pleased the court has upheld my right to enact a minimum wage, as well as other local governments. The Metro Council and I took this step last summer to provide working families a higher minimum wage because we know that many struggle to pay for housing, food, clothing and medical care. Today's favorable ruling will have a real impact on many Louisville families."

Courier-Journal article - Minimum wage ordinance upheld by judge

A Jefferson County Circuit judge on Monday upheld an ordinance raising the city’s minimum wage to $9 an hour over the next three years.

Packaging Unlimited, the Kentucky Restaurant Association and the Kentucky Retail Federation filed the civil suit this year, arguing the Metro Council did not have the legal authority to raise the wage for workers. The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office said the council has been given broad powers by Kentucky General Assembly

Democrats, who hold a solid majority on the council, spearheaded the minimum wage increase with a party line vote last December. Local wages are set to increase to $7.75 an hour this year, to $8.25 by July 2016 and $9 by July 2017. The Democrats also tied future worker pay hikes to the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index for cities in the region.

Proponents argued that increasing the wage at the local level was necessary because of gridlock in Congress and failure to move a similar measure forward in the state legislature. According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a $9 wage rate would directly affect an estimated 45,000 workers.

Those opposing the ordinance argued the increase would result in job losses and discourage employers from relocating to the city. Many business owners who testified before the council said a local minimum wage law would force them not to hire new employees and put them at a disadvantage with competitors in Southern Indiana and collar counties in the rest of the state.

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Seattle-King County affordable housing options panel discussion

Posted by acoday on 06/29/2015

Tags: housing, technology, hackathons

The conversation around access to affordable housing and housing options available is becoming more and more a topic of discussion. The Financial Empowerment Network | Seattle-King County is proud to host a panel discussion focusing on Seattle-King County affordable housing options.

Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2015 (first Wednesday of every month) Time: 1:35 p.m. - 3:35 p.m. Location: YWCA at Greenbridge, 9720 8th Ave SW, Seattle

Panelists will focus on: 1. Current programs and services designed to help people who are most impacted by rising rents and lack affordable housing. 2. How to advocate for clients, policy changes that are happening and those that need to change. 3. Individual and cultural specific strategies. 4. Creative immediate solutions for clients.

There will also be an opportunity to learn more about the recent Seattle Housing Hackathon and hear City of Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim’s (Seattle Housing Hackathon judge) perspective on how technology may provide help for finding affordable homes.

Panelists: •Panel Moderators – Joy Scott and Kira Zylstra, Solid Ground •Ben Miksch, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance •Rizwan Rizwi, Muslim Housing •Liz Etta, Tenants Union •Mona Tschurwald, YWCA – Landlord Liaison Project •Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim, City of Seattle

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Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc. (ONAC) to Offer Children’s Savings Accounts and Mini Grants for Family Emergency Savings Accounts with Tribes and Native Nonprofits in Oklahoma

Posted by cfinsel on 06/29/2015

News Release

Contact: Christy Finsel, (405) 401-7873

June 23, 2015

Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc. (ONAC) to Offer Children’s Savings Accounts and Mini Grants for Family Emergency Savings Accounts with Tribes and Native Nonprofits in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, OK - The Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc. (ONAC), a statewide coalition in Oklahoma, has begun a project to promote family financial security and opportunity for American Indian families in Oklahoma through pilot Children’s Savings Accounts and family emergency savings accounts.

The project is funded by a $200,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan.

“Children’s Savings Accounts, or “CSAs,” provide a nest egg of savings and can positively affect children’s educational development. Building from the groundwork that ONAC has laid with CSAs over the last few years, this project will launch the largest pilot of a Native Children’s Savings Account project in Oklahoma,” said Christy Finsel (Osage), Executive Director of the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition Inc. “This project will also help our constituents to provide family emergency savings accounts. With the varied project designs of our partners, we will be able to help Native youth and their families save for their future, have access to flexible savings, and connect to other asset building services. These resources from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will allow the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, and our Native partners, to address intergenerational poverty and to continue to positively impact a number of American Indian citizens in Oklahoma.”

Efforts will focus on offering financial education, opening accounts and providing the initial opening deposit funds. The project will also continue to build the capacity of ONAC constituents to provide similar programs in the future.

With this project, ONAC will work with our constituents to open a total of 270 Children’s Savings Accounts for American Indian children, ages birth to eight, in Oklahoma over the next three years. The partners include the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Anadarko), Osage Financial Resources, Inc. (Pawhuska), Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation (Shawnee), Cherokee Nation Child Support Program (Tahlequah), Mvskoke Loan Fund (Okmulgee), and the Ponca Tribe Head Start (Ponca City). Additionally, ONAC will offer a Request For Proposals (RFP) to fund six constituents (tribes and Native nonprofits in Oklahoma) as they provide family emergency savings accounts to tribal citizens. The family emergency savings accounts may be linked to other asset building programs the constituents already administer such as financial education, entrepreneurship development, foreclosure prevention and homeownership preparation, Native language, matched savings account, credit builder/credit repair, and free tax preparation assistance.

“This project will help Native families, with lower incomes, to open flexible savings accounts to buffer them in times of emergency, income fluctuation, or irregular expenses,” Finsel said. “Such accounts will promote financial inclusion by providing a mechanism for Native families to connect to mainstream financial services that are safe and affordable. With this funding, we will provide the initial opening account deposit and then the families can grow the accounts over time with their own deposits. Emergency savings accounts, for any family, can be a step along the way towards family financial stability and economic mobility.” Finsel added, “We are very excited about the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s investment in Oklahoma Native communities and our Native-led asset building coalition.”

About the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition Inc.: The Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition Inc. (ONAC), first organized in 2007 and now a nonprofit, is a Native asset building coalition that works with Oklahoma tribes and partners interested in establishing asset-building initiatives and programs in Native communities, for the purpose of creating greater opportunities for economic self-sufficiency of tribal citizens.

The mission of ONAC is to build and support a network of Oklahoma Native people who are dedicated to increasing self-sufficiency and prosperity in their communities through the establishment of comprehensive financial education initiatives, Individual Development Accounts, and other asset-building strategies. For more information about the coalition, go to

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit

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Posted by cfinsel on 06/29/2015


Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Christy Finsel June 17, 2015 (405) 401-7873


The Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc. (ONAC) recently received a $17,482 grant from the First Nations Development Institute of Longmont, Colorado. This award will support Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition’s Investing in Native Families and Promoting Conversations about Native Assets project.

With this grant, the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc. (ONAC) will partner with Osage Financial Resources, Inc. and the Mvskoke Loan Fund to fund 80 Children’s Savings Accounts in the next year. Both of the project partners are Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that offer loans and other financial services in their home communities. The project includes financial education and an art project. Prior to opening the accounts, youth participants and their families will receive Native-focused financial education materials from ONAC. They will also be invited to create a piece of art that reflects their understandings of Native assets. Partners will display the youth artwork at an art show at a location of their choice. ONAC will then generate a calendar, with the youth art included, which highlights various perspectives of Native asset building throughout the year.

“This grant will assist ONAC, and our partners, as we fund Children’s Savings Accounts for Native children who are living in two rural communities in Oklahoma. This pilot is part of a broader effort, on behalf of ONAC, to open Children’s Savings Accounts with Native youth throughout the state. We appreciate First Nations Development Institute’s investment in our coalition and we are excited about this opportunity to help Native youth from families experiencing poverty to build a nest egg of savings,” said Christy Finsel (Osage), Executive Director of the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc.

The Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition Inc. (ONAC), founded in 2007 and now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is a Native asset building coalition that works with Oklahoma tribes and partners interested in establishing asset-building initiatives and programs in Native communities, for the purpose of creating greater opportunities for economic self-sufficiency of tribal citizens.
The mission of ONAC is to build and support a network of Oklahoma Native people who are dedicated to increasing self-sufficiency and prosperity in their communities through the establishment of comprehensive financial education initiatives, Individual Development Accounts, and other asset-building strategies. For more information about the coalition, visit


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Working dads need a hand up too

Posted by rflum on 06/19/2015

Tags: EITC, tax credits, working families

This Father’s Day, Rhode Island lawmakers are poised to give 27,000 Rhode Island dads a gift more meaningful than the typical father’s day tie or “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug.

Tuesday evening, the house approved an increase to the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), increasing the credit from 10 percent to 12.5 percent, as part of the state budget. This means $6 million dollars in the pockets of working families. The Senate is expected to pass the budget next week.

While this is an important first step in reducing income inequality for our state’s working families, more needs to be done next year so that single or married fathers can better provide for their kids. Governor Raimondo’s original proposal called for increasing the EITC to 15 percent over the next two years. Our neighboring states have also proposed more robust increases--Connecticut’s EITC is at 27.5 percent and Massachusetts has proposed to get to a 22.5 percent credit —both states recognize the importance of making work pay, especially in this high-cost region.

By making a significant investment to the EITC next year, lawmakers can help Rhode Island dads help pay for the very things that allow them to work, like tending to car repairs, covering child care expenses, or buying a new uniform. This spending happens right here in our local economy, and provides a boost for our still struggling businesses.

Research on the benefits of the EITC found that filers work more, earn more, and are less likely to need to rely on welfare. Evidence also shows that the EITC has long-term benefits for s kids. The children of parents who received the EITC are healthier and do better in school. Larger tax refunds also boost college enrollment by making college more affordable for low- and modest-income households. And some of the best news is that the boost in work effort and earnings extends into the next generation, with more work and higher earnings for children raised by parents who benefit from the added income the tax credits provide.

State Earned Income Tax Credits also help to make sure that the state tax code treats low-wage families more fairly. In Rhode Island, the lowest-income households contribute almost twice as much of their income towards state and local taxes as the wealthiest and our state now has the unfortunate distinction of having the 5th highest taxes on low-income households in the country. Low-wage dads pay a larger share of their incomes in local and state taxes than affluent households do in most states. Increasing our state EITC is one of the best ways to provide targeted relief to those who need it most.

This Father’s Day we honor our working dads, not by giving them another tie or coffee mug, but by giving them the means to help their family. Rhode Island lawmakers took an important first step by increasing the EITC this year. Let’s stay on the right track and do more next year so that working dads can build a brighter future for themselves and their children.

Kate Brewster is executive director of the Economic Progress Institute, a research and advocacy organization.

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Stepping Up: How Cities Are Working to Keep America's Poorest Families Housed

Posted by dbrown on 06/18/2015

Having a place to call home is a signature component of the American dream. But for far too many people, finding safe, decent, affordable housing is extremely stressful. The United States simply does not have enough affordable housing. And nationally, the situation is only getting worse.

This story is not about just counting homes. The affordable housing shortage has real consequences for families because millions of them pay more than they can afford to have a place to live, often at the expense of food, health care, and other necessities.

For extremely low-income families—those households earning no more than 30 percent of their area’s median family income—this pain is severe.

According to data from the Census Bureau and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), only 28 of every 100 extremely low-income renter households in the United States were able to find decent, affordable homes in 2013. This stark decline from 2000, when 37 of every 100 could find housing, reflects both a loss of units and an increase in extremely low-income families.1

Without federal housing assistance, the situation would be even worse: the share of families who could afford adequate housing in 2013 would have fallen to 5 percent.

The first federal programs to tackle housing affordability were created in the late 1930s. Over the next decades, those programs allocated resources to big cities with big needs.

Since the 1990s, however, federal resources devoted to housing extremely low-income renters have slowed. And growing cities—mainly in the south and west—have suffered.

The national picture could get bleaker. In recent years Congress has cut, and shown additional interest in trimming, federal spending for housing assistance programs.

The data’s message is clear. No matter where you look , federal programs are not enough. As a result, state and local governments must do everything they can to preserve existing affordable housing units while finding ways to produce more.

Counties around the country face their own challenges when addressing affordable housing needs. These variations exist, in large part, because counties have different federal, state, and local assets to work with. Both the tools and counties’ ability to wield them reflect particular histories, political climates, and levels of local engagement.

Suffolk and Travis Counties—homes to Boston and Austin—are very different. The most obvious difference is that Massachusetts is very supportive of affordable housing, while Texas is not. Another is that Boston benefits from its legacy of federal rental assistance, while Austin has experienced more recent growth and is unable to keep pace with rapidly increasing need. But both are using multilayered strategies—some proven, some promising—to tackle their local affordability challenges. And both are determined to face an increasingly daunting task.

  1. The research used the household as the unit of analysis. "Household" and "family" are used interchangeably in this feature.

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Min. wage for some Kentucky state workers rising to $10.10

Posted by tlentz on 06/11/2015

Louisville's Courier-Journal report on June 8, 2015 that the salaries of nearly 800 state workers will increase on July 1 under an executive order signed Monday by Gov. Steve Beshear that raises the minimum wage for employees of the executive branch of state government from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Read more.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer released the following statement. “I applaud Governor Beshear for leading by example and raising the minimum wage for state government employees. This will have a direct and real impact on families, much like it did when Louisville Metro Government increased the minimum wage for its lowest-paid workers. There is resounding support in Kentucky for increasing the minimum wage, and I hope the General Assembly takes that up in the next session"

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Scorecard: Housing and Homeownership

Posted by esivak on 06/08/2015

June is National Homeownership Month – a time that reaffirms the value of homeownership, particularly as a wealth-building tool for both the homeowners and the communities in which they live. Homeownership is an integral part of the “American Dream,” and plays an important role in how low-income and minority households achieve and build long-term economic stability. According to the 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, which comprehensively examines Americans’ financial security and their opportunities to create a more prosperous future, Mississippi ranks 29th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia on outcomes measures related to housing and homeownership.

In order to move the state forward, Mississippi must create affordable and sustainable housing options to help all Mississippians have an opportunity to climb the economic ladder and become financially secure. This blog takes a closer look at Housing and Homeownership in Mississippi.

Homeownership Rate

The homeownership rate illustrates the number of families that have the opportunity to build wealth through home equity. In Mississippi, 67.2% of Mississippi households are homeowners, nearly 4 percentage points higher than the national rate. However, this rate shows a continued downward trend, as homeownership for both the nation and state, in addition to 35 other states, is at a 20-year low (See Chart).

Change in Homeownership Rate

High-Cost Mortgage Loans and Delinquent Mortgage Loan Rates

High-cost mortgage loans have a significantly higher-than-average APR. Lenders typically target the elderly, minority, and low-income families with these products, which put them at a greater risk of foreclosure and loss of home equity. These products contributed to the housing crisis during the Great Recession and are still a problem today. Mississippi has the seventh highest high-cost mortgage loan rate in the nation and has the second highest rate in the Mid South region, behind Tennessee (See Chart). In Mississippi, 5.6% of mortgage loans issued are high cost, compared to 3.35% of mortgage loans issued in the United States. The percentage of homebuyers with high-cost mortgage loans is higher nationally and in Mississippi, as well as 41 other states, than it was in 2010.

High-Cost Mortgage Loans

Delinquent mortgage loans have payments over 90 days overdue and are an indicator of whether a household will go into foreclosure or if a mortgage is in need of modification. Mississippi has the highest delinquent mortgage loan rate in the nation – 3.9% of mortgage loans issued in Mississippi are 90 days or more past due, compared to 2.31% of mortgage loans issued in the U.S. (See Chart).

Delinquent Mortgage Loans

Homeownership is the primary means through which most Americans build wealth and provides not only long-term physical stability but financial stability as well. With one-third of Mississippi’s future workforce spending at least part or all of their childhood in poverty, it is critical now more than ever to create affordable and sustainable housing opportunities in Mississippi before the state’s economic potential is capped.

Source: Corporation for Enterprise Development. (2015). Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, 2015. Retrieved from

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Study: Homeownership Can Help Close The Racial Wealth Gap Across Greater Houston

Posted by slopez on 06/08/2015

Census figures have shown for decades a wealth gap between whites and minorities across the country and Greater Houston. A recent study finds a contributing factor is where they live: Whites have a much higher rate of home ownership compared to African Americans and Latinos.

Erica Jackson has just moved into her house in Cypress with her two boys.

Despite a well-paying job, it’s the first home that the 36-year-old has been able to purchase – thanks to a counseling agency called Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

The group helped her to control her spending, deal with her student loan debt and save more money every month.

“I just feel stable,” Jackson said. “I feel like I’m part of the whole American Dream, you know, and responsible.”

While Jackson has made it, many other African Americans are still struggling to buy a home.

Nationwide, 72 percent of white households own homes. But only 44 percent of African American and 47 percent of Latino households own their house, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Across Greater Houston, the disparity is similar.

One reason is that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to earn lower incomes compared to whites.

But imagine if they had the same rate of homeownership.

A recent report by Brandeis University and the advocacy group Demos looks at that scenario.

“African American wealth would grow a little over $32,000 and the wealth gap between whites and blacks would narrow by 31 percent,” said Tom Shapiro, who directs the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University. He helped create the Racial Wealth Audit, a research tool that was used to conduct the study.

He said for Latino households the median wealth would grow by $29,000 and narrow the wealth gap to whites by 28 percent.

“Homeownership is really the largest investments that most American families have and it’s by far the biggest item in their wealth portfolio,” said John Henneberger with the Austin-based Texas Low Income Housing Information Service.

That’s why acquiring a home is one of the goals by the United Way’s THRIVE initiative, which aims to guide people out of poverty by bundling different services.

“Not only are there financial advantages to owning a home with the tax incentives, etc.,” said Amy Corron, who directs the Thrive initiative. “But you have financial stability for your family as well, because you have a permanent asset.”

Corron said the vast majority of her clients are Latinos and African Americans.

Henneberger said a major reason why minorities are so much less likely to be homeowners than whites is economic segregation, which is especially pronounced in Houston and in other cities across Texas.

“The segregation of people of color into neighborhoods where home equity does not accumulate as fast, where foreclosure rates are often higher, where property values remain low, basically prevents people from being able to accumulate assets, and assets are the essential thing that allows the next generation to be able to afford a home,” Henneberger said.

He said to change that, the pattern of housing segregation must be eliminated.

“The city needs to not locate affordable housing opportunities targeted to people of color exclusively in low-income neighborhoods of color,” Henneberger said.

Back in Cypress, Erica Jackson said she now lives in a mostly white neighborhood. And she said so far that hasn’t been a problem.

“I was a little leery, to be honest, like I didn’t know how my neighbors were gonna… This is Texas and I’m from up north, so… But my neighbors here have been very nice,” Jackson said.

Certainly, the Houston Texans wreath outside her door will help the integration process.

This article was originally published in the Houston Public Media by: Florian Martin on April 6, 2015.

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