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News & Updates from the Assets & Opportunity Network


Building Financial Security in Newark, NJ

Posted by klawton on 11/09/2015

Seventy percent of all Newark, NJ households—the highest of any major city in the nation—do not have enough savings to live above the poverty level for more than three months should they lose their income. Households of color, those led by a single parent, or those led by someone without a college degree fare even worse. For too many of these families, an income disruption due to job loss, a medical emergency, or something even relatively minor as car repairs, can be devastating.

Advancing families out of a cycle of poverty and toward financial security is an important goal for communities like Newark. On October 29, 2015, Family Assets Count, in partnership with the City of Newark, Citi Community Development and United Way of Essex and West Hudson, hosted a successful Financial Empowerment Day, drawing attention to the sobering needs of Newark’s hard-working families, and highlighting municipal and community-based efforts to help these families build financial security.

The Financial Empowerment Day started with CFED and Citi Community Development presenting sobering data about financial insecurity in Newark. For example:

  • 70 percent of households in Newark do not have enough savings to live above the poverty line for more than three months
  • Communities of color fare worse--71 percent of African-American and 77 percent of Hispanic households do not have enough savings to live above the poverty line for more than three months
  • 75 percent of households with an income of between $25,000 and $50,000 don’t have enough savings to live above the poverty level for three months if they suffer an income disruption due to a medical emergency or losing their job
  • 60 percent of families with an income between $50,000 and $75,000 don’t have enough savings to live above the poverty level for three months
  • Just 38 percent of Newark resident receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), far less than those who are likely eligible
  • And less than four percent use free tax preparation services to access the EITC and other tax credits
  • A quarter of Newark households are identified as unbanked or underbanked

Newark’s Deputy Mayor for Economic and Housing Development, Baye Adofo-Wilson, and City Council President Mildred Crump talked about how financial empowerment in Newark can help transform the city, giving families the tools they need to build their own financial security, while also strengthening local communities. United Way of Essex and West Hudson announced the formation of an asset building coalition in Newark, in partnership with LISC, New Community Corporation, Ironbound Community Corporation and the Urban League of Essex County, which will continue to focus on policy and programmatic solutions that address financial insecurity.

At the press conference, Deputy Mayor Adofo-Wilson and Council President Crump announced a series of Financial Empowerment Days that provide residents with information on a range of financial services, including free tax preparation, credit counseling, budgeting, and support on filing for student aid. The first Financial Empowerment Day was held at City Hall, with four additional days planned over the next year to be held at Centers of Hope and LISC Financial Opportunity Centers around Newark.

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College Savings Pilot Program Launches in Dallas Area

Posted by lgates on 10/28/2015

Kindergartners love money. And this is definitely an advantage in Texas since state law requires financial education to be taught to all Texas students starting in Kindergarten. I have a kindergartner this year that is constantly jumping off the bus singing loudly “a penny is worth 1, a nickel is worth 5, a dime is worth 10 and a quarter 25!” It is amazing how excited kids get when they begin learning about money.

But what about their parents? As kindergarten students learn at two Dallas area elementary schools about earning income, saving money for college, reasons to open a savings account for college and how to keep track of savings as part of the state mandated financial education requirement, how do we excite and encourage the parents to help these kindergartners put their learnings into practice and start a college savings for their child? OpportunityTexas is currently trying to figure that out in our Dollars for College program.

OpportunityTexas, a joint initiative between RAISE Texas and Center for Public Policy Priorities, is piloting Dollars for College, a new college savings program that teaches kindergarten students about college savings as part of the Texas mandated financial education curriculum, and offers kindergarten parents at two elementary schools the opportunity to open a college savings account.

Our overall goal is to develop a platform that will allow us to expand college savings and access to college in Texas. This pilot will allow us to evaluate whether or not kindergarten parents are interested in opening a free school-based savings account, and the most effective ways to increase participation in college savings programs by testing different account incentives and marketing strategies during the evaluation period.

We are very excited about this opportunity to grow college savings in Texas, and we would like to thank our partners the Richardson Independent School District, First Convenience Bank a division of First National Bank Texas, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and the Texas Council on Economic Education. We would also like to thank The Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin for evaluating this pilot.

We are happy to share more information so send your questions to Or, for more information and specific details of the Dollars for College Program, visit the program website.

Dollars for College Bank

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3 Things I Learned About CSAs Last Week

Posted by lmullany on 10/19/2015

Last week, the IABG team was in St. Louis participating in a conference about the 529 program and Children's Savings Accounts. The conference was hosted by the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and the Center for Social Development at Washington University.

There was great energy, great ideas, and great partners in the room. Here are 3 things I learned.

  1. Tangible Hope. William Elliott, Director of the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion described how assets, and particularly Children's Savings Accounts, can give children and families "tangible hope." This hope can change people's behaviors and lead to brighter futures.
  2. $1.4 Million in San Francisco CSAs. In the Kindergarten to College (K2C) program, they have opened 23,000 Children's Savings Accounts, and families have saved a total of $1.4 million so far.
  3. Nearly 99,000 CSAs in Nevada - and a Tortoise. The Nevada College Kickstart program has opened nearly 99,000 accounts for children across the state. Their universal, automatic program opens a CSA for every kindergartner, and provides an initial $50 deposit. What's more - Nevada has an enthusiastic college savings mascot. Meet Sage the Tortoise!

Finally, our favorite quote from the conference:

"Children's Savings Accounts are needed to provide a trajectory for economic mobility."

-Kilolo Kijakazi, Urban Institute

Want to learn more about our efforts to create a universal CSA program in Illinois? Visit our new CSA website and spread the word using #brighterfuturesil!

You can find us @ILAssetBuilding and on Facebook.

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Too Many Mississippi Children Live in Families Struggling to Make Ends Meet

Posted by charris on 10/05/2015

Tags: depower, mississippi

Too many Mississippians struggled to make ends meet in 2014, according to new data released today from the U.S. Census Bureau, highlighting the need to invest in education at all levels so that Mississippians can build a secure future.

Our success as a state depends on opportunity for everyone. If schools aren’t given enough funding to help all children succeed, we could put opportunity out of reach, not only for the 243,000 children living in poverty, but for all Mississippians.

One in five Mississippians struggled to afford basic necessities in 2014, living on less than $24,000 a year for a family of four. This is higher than in any other state. About 29 percent (or 243,000) of children in Mississippi grow up in families that can’t give them a good start to life because they make this little. See graphic.

In order to succeed, all children need schools that will prepare them to meet the challenges of the future. Children who grow up in poverty, however, face greater challenges in getting the education they need to escape poverty, and, in many cases, require more resources to meet the achievement levels of children in wealthier families.

Find the full article here:

Sara Miller Senior Policy Analyst

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First Stop on the CSA Campaign: East St. Louis

Posted by lmullany on 10/05/2015

Earlier this month, we took the campaign for universal Children's Savings Accounts in Illinois on the road, and our first stop was East St. Louis. It was the first of many CSA Learning Summits around the state that we're hosting with Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI).

At the summit, we shared dreams for our children. Many of us hope that our children have bright, successful, and financially secure futures.

While higher education could help our kids reach many of these dreams, there are many barriers that stand in our way, including the cost of college. Children's Savings Accounts (CSAs) can inspire kids to dream big and help make college more accessible to families:

  • Low- and moderate-income children with $500 or more in savings are [three times more likely to enroll in college than children with no savings], and four times more likely to graduate.
  • Children given a CSA at birth tend to have stronger development, both socially and emotionally.
  • Children with a CSA were twice as likely to expect to go to college than kids without one.

We want to spread the word about the CSA programs in other states, and advocate for something similar in Illinois. Together, we can make universal CSAs a reality!

To learn more about our CSA Campaign, please visit

Want to Attend a CSA Learning Summit?

We hope you can join us at future summits. We'll be hosting a CSA Learning Summit in Chicago on Friday, November 6, from 9:00am-1:30pm at Gary Comer Youth Center. Please be sure to RSVP online. If you have any questions, you can contact Jody at Please help us spread the word by sharing this flyer!

Look out for additional Summits in Aurora and Champaign. More information to come soon!

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Black Income Levels Plummet 11% in KY

Posted by tlentz on 09/23/2015

African Americans living in Kentucky saw their average yearly incomes drop by more than 11 percent in one year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released this week.

The poverty rate also rose for black Kentuckians at a rate four times more than the rest of the state from 2013 to 2014.

Incoming President and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, Sadiqa Reynolds, looks at "urgency to create policies that will end cycles of poverty." Read more

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Unshared Recovery: 46 Million Poor; Poverty Rate Unchanged

Posted by rstoller on 09/22/2015

Coalition on Human Needs by Lecia Imbery
Below is CHN’s statement on the new poverty data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. We’ve also included tweets to share and our First Look at the data, which shows that economic recovery since the end of the Great Recession has been unshared.

Unshared Recovery: 46 Million Poor; Poverty Rate Unchanged

Congress Should Invest in Proven Anti-Poverty Programs and Reject More Cuts and Shutdowns

“The number of Americans living in poverty remained stuck at more than 46 million last year, not statistically different from 2013. Disappointingly, economic growth is hardly reaching America’s poor. The poverty rate is down from its peak of 15.1 percent in post-recession 2010, but, at 14.8 percent, is well over the 12.5 percent rate in 2007, before the Great Recession took hold. There are still more than 15 million poor children, more than one in five. Damaging inequality continues, with more than one in three African American children (36 percent) and about one-third of Latino children (32 percent) living in poverty. For white non-Hispanic children, the poverty rate was 12.3 percent. There are many troubling signs: nearly one in ten of our children is living below half the poverty line (the official threshold is $18,850 for a family of three). Hardship is broadly shared: for another year, one-third of the nation is uncomfortably close to poverty (below twice the poverty line).

“While economic gains are not reaching the poor in a sustained way, government programs are helping. The Census Bureau’s new report shows that low-income tax credits, nutrition and housing programs, Social Security and SSI are among the programs that work to lift families out of poverty. Even counting only part of the Child Tax Credit, the Census Bureau finds low-income tax credits lift more than 5 million children out of poverty. SNAP lifts a similar number of people out of poverty. Congress’ first order of business should be to protect and expand these programs. And yet, with only a few days before the end of the fiscal year, the Congressional majority is divided and apparently paralyzed. Every day they fail to act risks stalling the modest progress only just beginning to reach the poor.

“The proportion of Americans without health insurance has dropped substantially, with 10.4 percent reporting they had been uninsured for the whole year in 2014. Tax credits for low-income families encourage work and lift millions out of poverty. SNAP (formerly food stamps) helps children to grow up healthy and keeps millions from being poor. Poverty rates would be higher without rental assistance, and young children receive lifelong economic benefits from Head Start. And yet, right wing members of Congress threaten all these programs. Today’s reports show that the economic recovery is offering only halting and inadequate progress for the poor, but that government services make an important difference. That makes it even more essential that Congress invests in these programs, and rejects cuts and shutdowns.”

Sample tweets to share:

  • New @uscensusbureau data show in 2014, there were 46.7 mil Americans in poverty. Read @CoalitiononHN statement here:
  • 46.7 mil Americans in poverty is too high. @uscensusbureau data show we need more investments, not less #StopTheCuts
  • Economic recovery has not been shared – @uscensusbureau data show 46.7 mil in poverty. #StopTheCuts #TalkPoverty
  • .@uscensusbureau data show 46.7 mil still in poverty – Congress must #StopTheCuts to proven gov’t programs that work!

Click here for CHN’s First Look and visit our Census Poverty Data resource page for more data and additional resources as they become available.

The post Unshared Recovery: 46 Million Poor; Poverty Rate Unchanged appeared first on Coalition on Human Needs.

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Local and National Partnership Expands Economic Opportunities for Louisville's Disabled Community

Posted by tlentz on 09/22/2015

Louisville's partnership formed 18 months ago with the National Disability Institute’s (NDI) LEAD Center, Louisville Metro Community Services and Bank On Louisville led to a community collaborative bringing together disability advocates and representatives from the employment, financial services, workforce and asset development communities. Read more

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A&O Network Members Kick Off 12-month Financial Capability Integration Projects

Posted by klawton on 09/18/2015

In August, eight A&O Network members kicked off a 12-month financial capability integration planning and implementation project supported by CFED. These eight organizations were selected from a pool of organizations that attended statewide workshops hosted by Network Convening Leaders in Idaho, Oregon, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Washington and Minnesota.

The projects aim to integrate financial capability services into a variety of programs serving survivors of domestic violence, veterans, expectant mothers and families of newborns, Head Start families, affordable housing residents, and adult and youth workforce development clients.

Over the next 3-6 months, these organizations will receive support from CFED as they use tools from Building Financial Capability: A Planning Guide for Integrated Services to design a comprehensive plan to integrate financial capability services into existing programs. By February, the participating organizations will launch implementation and ongoing tracking of their projects.

The organizations and a brief project description are included below:

  • A&O Network Leader, NeighborImpact (OR) plans to integrate -in-house financial capability services available through its HomeSource program into its Head Start program.
  • Metro Family Services (OR) plans to integrate financial capability services available through its Family Support Programs into its early childhood/kindergarten readiness program, “Ready Set Go,” and its community school program at Lot Whitcomb Elementary School.
  • Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota plans to integrate financial capability services, such as those available through its Financial Counseling program, into its Behavioral Health program serving veterans.
  • Thurston Asset Building Coalition (WA) is partnering with Family Support Center, Mercy Housing and Enterprise for Equity to integrate financial capability services into two affordable housing locations: Family Support Center’s Pear Blossom Place Family Homeless Shelter and Mercy Housing’s Evergreen Vista Apartments.
  • Bingham Crisis Center (ID) is partnering with A&O Network Leader, Partners for Prosperity, to integrate financial capability services into programs for survivors of domestic violence.
  • Sojourner Family Peace Center (WI) plans to partner with several financial capability service providers in their community to integrate services into their programs for survivors of domestic violence.
  • CAP Services (WI) is integrating financial capability services available through its Human Development programs into two of its workforce development programs: Fresh Start, a Youth Build program for at-risk youth ages 16-24, and its Skills Enhancement program, which serves individuals working at least part-time who wish to pursue occupations with better pay and employer-sponsored health insurance.
  • Lutheran Social Services (ND) plans to integrate financial capability services into its Healthy Families program, which supports expectant parents and families of newborns.

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Failure to Expand Medicaid Keeping Health Coverage Out of Reach for Many Struggling Mississippians

Posted by esivak on 09/18/2015

Mississippi’s improvement in health coverage was not what it could have been in 2014, because the state has not expanded Medicaid coverage to more residents who cannot otherwise afford health insurance.

The Census Bureau today released the country’s official data on health insurance rates, which shows that 14.5 percent of Mississippians were uninsured in 2014, only a small decrease from 2013 (2.6 percentage points). This decrease would have been much larger had the state expanded Medicaid coverage.

States that have expanded Medicaid coverage collectively had a lower share of people without insurance (9.8%) than states that did not expand Medicaid (13.5%) (See Chart). Moreover, the effect of Medicaid expansion is particularly clear when you look at the uninsured rates among persons living below the poverty level. In 2014, in Medicaid expansion states the rate of uninsured among persons living at or below poverty fell to 25 percent while in “non-expansion states” the rate of uninsured among those in poverty was almost 40 percent.

Although Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid coverage, other provisions of the Affordable Care Act are helping reduce the number of Mississippians without health insurance, which is why Mississippi did have a small decrease in people without health insurance. People have gained health coverage through the state’s new health insurance marketplace, which allows people to easily compare prices and benefits of health care plans. Through the marketplace, some people who do not make enough to afford private insurance receive federal subsidies to help pay their premiums and reduce their out-of-pocket health costs, but a family of four who makes less than $23,550 does not qualify for this help because they should be receiving Medicaid instead.

Mississippi has so far passed up a big opportunity to make more progress through the Affordable Care Act, leaving thousands of Mississippians without the health care they need. In order to strengthen state-run Medicaid programs, the federal government agreed to pay all the costs of providing Medicaid to people making up to just $32,500 per year for a family of four (138 percent of the federal poverty rate) through 2016, and then no less than 90 percent of the costs thereafter. But the Supreme Court left it up to the state to decide whether to extend their benefits to these people and accept the federal funding to do so, and unfortunately Mississippi has not yet done so.

Making matters worse, residents of states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid like Mississippi had higher uninsured rates than those in Medicaid expansion states to begin with. In other words, the hole was deeper at the start, and we have done less to dig ourselves out.

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