A&O Network Blog

News & Updates from the Assets & Opportunity Network


Black Income Levels Plummet 11% in KY

Posted by tlentz on 09/23/2015 @ 09:42 AM

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


Unshared Recovery: 46 Million Poor; Poverty Rate Unchanged

Posted by rstoller on 09/22/2015 @ 09:57 AM

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: http://ow.ly/SiTXg
  • 46.7 mil Americans in poverty is too high. @uscensusbureau data show we need more investments, not less http://ow.ly/SiTXg #StopTheCuts
  • Economic recovery has not been shared – @uscensusbureau data show 46.7 mil in poverty. http://ow.ly/SiTXg #StopTheCuts #TalkPoverty
  • .@uscensusbureau data show 46.7 mil still in poverty – Congress must #StopTheCuts to proven gov’t programs that work! http://ow.ly/SiTXg

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.


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

Posted by tlentz on 09/22/2015 @ 09:04 AM

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


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

Posted by klawton on 09/18/2015 @ 12:00 PM

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.

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

Posted by esivak on 09/18/2015 @ 09:39 AM

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.


Prosperity Miami initiative kicks off in Overtown

Posted by dlevine on 09/18/2015 @ 09:36 AM

Local organizations launch effort to provide direct services and to increase civic engagement in Miami-Dade County neighborhoods

The effort, funded by Allegany Franciscan Ministries, aims to provide residents with direct services while engaging them in a dialogue about policy issues impacting their communities and how they can become involved in creating change

MIAMI, Florida – On September 14, 2015, Catalyst Miami, a nonprofit organization helping families become prosperous and civically engaged, officially kicked off “Prosperity Miami,” an initiative to offer direct services and to increase civic engagement in Miami-Dade County. Catalyst Miami has partnered with South Florida Voices for Working Families and New Florida Majority Education Fund to canvass ten neighborhoods and to engage 8,000 families. The goal is two-fold: to provide families with essential services and to connect them with opportunities to become civically active. The civic engagement opportunities include voter registration, U.S. citizenship application, participation in leadership development programs, participation in community organizing trainings, and more.

For many low-income families, accessing direct services is a challenge. The family caretaker has to worry about making an appointment, getting permission to miss work, accessing transportation, figuring out childcare, and, most importantly, losing income. These challenges make it hard for families to access social services that can improve their quality of life. It’s also a challenge to engage in civic activities when there are so many other pressing issues of concern.

To mitigate these challenges, Catalyst Miami will offer on-the-spot enrollment services at weekly Prosperity Miami neighborhood fairs, as well as community health fairs, churches, job sites, school open houses, and back-to-school events in ten neighborhoods, including Coconut Grove, Downtown, Florida City, Hialeah, Homestead, Liberty City, Little Haiti, Little Havana, Overtown, and Sweetwater. According to U.S. Census data, these ten neighborhoods have the highest numbers of uninsured and underinsured children and families, families at risk of becoming uninsured, families medically underserved due to low-income/asset-limited status, and individuals and families impacted by the five-year ban on permanent residents.

“Catalyst Miami is eager to begin this pilot and reboot our Prosperity Campaign. We are ready to bring our services to our clients, meeting them as close to home as possible. We are also grateful for our partners in this endeavor. New Florida Majority Education Fund and South Florida Voices for Working Families bring community connections and civic engagement opportunities to Prosperity Miami, helping us fulfill our mission,” said Gretchen Beesing, Chief Executive Officer of Catalyst Miami.

Prosperity Miami kicked off in Overtown at the YWCA of Greater Miami, located on 351 NW 5th Street, on Monday, September 14th. Dozens of canvassers knocked on doors from 3:00-5:00pm to inform families about the services and opportunities being offered.


Catalyst Miami is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting families and community organizations by improving health, education, and economic outcomes in South Florida.

New Florida Majority Education Fund is a statewide organization working to increase the voting power and influence of African Americans, Latinos, new immigrants, and working families towards a more inclusive, equitable Florida.

South Florida Voices for Working Families is a coalition of community, union and faith-based organizations working together to win improvements in the quality of life for working people in the South Florida area.


The 5th Annual Resource Day

Posted by acoday on 09/11/2015 @ 09:36 PM

On Saturday, August 29, 2015 an estimated 1,500 Seattle-King County residents attended the 5th Annual Resource Day & Back to School Event (formerly known as Financial Resource Day and Bridging the Gap) at the Rainier Community Center.

This one day event provided a connection to 77 financial and community service providers and 38 employers all in one location—brought to you this year by the King County Housing Authority and the Seattle Housing Authority with support from the Financial Empowerment Network | Seattle-King County and WorkSource Seattle-King County.


CFPB Releases Thousands of Consumer Complaints

Posted by lmullany on 07/27/2015 @ 10:40 AM

This week marks the 5th anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency committed to protecting consumers from abusive financial products and practices. Over the past four years, we have seen the CFPB return over $10 billion to more than 17 million consumers tricked by deceptive financial practices, consider new regulations on payday lenders and prepaid cards, and successfully sue for-profit colleges for abusive lending practices.

The CFPB's successes are thanks, in large part, to real stories shared by residents across the country. CFPB receives thousands of complaints every week about issues with banks, debt collection, paydays loans, student loans, prepaid cards, and many other areas. Take, for instance, Christine, a Chicago resident who shared her experience with payday loans in a recent video created by the Woodstock Institute:

The CFPB has been receiving complaints on issues such as those faced by Christine for years. Just recently, the CFPB made its Consumer Complaint Database public. To date, it has 421,413 complaints. For the first time, consumers' concerns with financial products and services are easily accessible to the public. You can now read consumer narratives and analyze consumer complaint data from around the country.

Here are just a few short examples of consumer narratives from the 558 complaints filed in Illinois:

Penn Credit Collection called my job requesting payment on a bill I do not even owe. The company keeps changing their number and calls my job and cell phone constantly. I do not owe the debt they are trying to collect.

I received a call from a company, XXXX XXXX, stating that I owed a payday loan that I never took. I did look into one years ago, but the fees were outrageous and I didn't finalize anything. They stated that it was my responsibilty to prove I didn't take it and that the fact that they had my information was enough for them to prove I did. All I have is a phone number for them, XXXX and after searching online, I found that they are doing this to alot of consumers.

Used XXXX to load money on my prepaid PayPower XXXX card but it was not added to my account. Have a confirmation receipt from XXXX, have the actual hard copy of the receipt that I have emailed XXXX times to the company and called close to a dozen times, spoke with several supervisors but yet over and over again they pass the buck and can not offer a resolution. It has been almost a month and still they have not credited my money.

How does this help consumers?

Consumers can use this as a source when researching financial products and services. You can view complaints filed against different companies. Consumers can also see what issues others are having, and can learn what practices are a red flag.

Also, by making the complaints public, it may encourage others to come forward and report their concerns. The ability to record a complaint is an important tool for consumers, with 98% of people getting timely responses from companies when they file a complaint with the CFPB.

How does this help advocates?

Advocates can download and analyze the data to support local and state campaigns to strengthen consumer protections. For a more nuanced picture of what’s happening in communities, advocates can also access consumer narratives by zip code or by state. With a better understanding the challenges facing residents and the companies most at fault, this data can help us create real policy solutions in Illinois.

Take a look at CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database, and spread the word to consumers and advocates about this great tool!


Bank On Chicago Community Partners Press for Safe & Affordable Prepaid Cards

Posted by lmullany on 07/24/2015 @ 11:22 AM

More and more people are using prepaid cards, yet it is a highly unregulated industry. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ 2014 report Why Americans Use Prepaid Cards, about $65 billions was loaded onto prepaid cards in 2012 - more than double the amount loaded in 2009.

Widely used by un/underbanked populations, prepaid cards are often used as an alternative to checking accounts. Most people who use prepaid cards are trying to gain control over their finances. The Pew Charitable Trusts’ report found that three of the top reasons people use prepaid cards are to:

  • Avoid credit card debt
  • Avoid spending more money than they have
  • Avoid overdrafts

However, the majority of prepaid cards - specifically GPR, or “General Purpose Reloadable” cards – are not meeting the needs of the people who use them. Many prepaid cards have the wrong ingredients: a long list of predatory fees, barriers to accessing account information, and credit features, which many people are specifically trying to avoid when they buy a prepaid card. Instead of being a tool that helps families become financially secure, prepaid cards are often a costly trap that strips wealth from communities.

According to data from the Family Assets Count, 16% of Chicago families do not have a savings or checking account – twice the national rate. With so many Chicago households not using traditional bank accounts, it is critical for prepaid cards to be a safe and affordable alternative. Because of the high prevalence of un/underbanked families in Chicago and the high usage of prepaid cards in this population, Bank On Chicago decided to create recommendations for what a safe prepaid card would look like.

This spring, IABG worked with Bank On Chicago community partners to collect feedback about prepaid cards. We hosted discussions with partners and collected nearly 100 surveys from Chicagoans who use these products. Based on this feedback, we developed a list of the right ingredients for prepaid cards. IABG sent a letter to City Treasurer Kurt Summers today with those recommendations, which include:

Create an affordable, transparent and safe prepaid card by providing:

  • Free ATM withdrawals
  • No overdraft or credit features
  • No point of transaction fees, monthly maintenance fees, or inactivity fees
  • Standard, accessible, and easy to understand disclosures

Provide convenient and free access to account information by offering:

  • Free customer service
  • Free access to account balances
  • Free paper statements
  • Free online & mobile transactions

Help people become financially stable by offering a linked savings account. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, 2 in 3 prepaid card users would welcome a savings feature. Savings are critical, as they can help people weather financial emergencies like a car repair, medical emergencies, or job loss.

See the full letter with our recommendations.

Bank On Chicago is a local coalition of government agencies, financial institutions and community organizations dedicated to improving the financial futures of unbanked and underbanked families in Chicago.


Sen. Brown, advocates call for strong payday lending reforms

Posted by kwilliams on 07/23/2015 @ 10:34 AM

Five years after creation of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, rules are still needed to curb payday lending abuses.

Contact: Kalitha Williams, 614.221.4505

Five years after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, consumer activists are encouraging the federal agency to curb abuses of the payday lending industry.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Policy Matters Ohio, Ohio Poverty Law Center and Neighborhood Housing Services of Cleveland are celebrating this important milestone and the work of the CFPB, but called for stronger efforts to protect consumers.

“Until Congress established the CFPB, there was no federal watchdog responsible for supervising lenders and enforcing regulations in the payday loan market,” said Senator Brown. “Since its creation, the CFPB has returned $10.1 billion to the pockets of 17 million wronged consumers. But too many Ohioans are still trapped with a lifetime of debt after taking out payday loans. And for too long, the payday lending industry has dodged rules that would protect consumers. I will continue pushing the CFPB to develop the strongest rules possible to crack down on payday lenders who prey on Ohio families when they are at their most vulnerable.”

Senator Brown is one of 101 congressional signers (68 House members and 33 Senators) of letters urging the CFPB to move forward with rules strong and broad enough to end the abusive practices of payday, car-title and other high-cost consumer lenders. Strong rules will keep Americans from getting trapped in the cycle of debt that is too often the result of these triple-digit-interest loans and unaffordable balloon payments.

“Ohioans have been under the thumb of payday lenders for far too long,” said Kalitha Williams, Policy Liaison of Policy Matters Ohio. “One in 10 Ohioans has taken out a payday loan. With interest rates of 600 percent or more, it’s no wonder we have the third-highest number of consumer complaints to the CFPB on payday loans. Ohioans need the CFPB to break through with a strong rule that will protect them from the debt trap.”

Ohio has a muddled history in trying to regulate payday lenders. In 2008, the Ohio General Assembly and Ohio voters, through legislation and a statewide ballot initiative, decided to curb payday lending by creating the Ohio Short-Term Loan Act. Last year, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a loophole in state law allowing payday lenders to operate outside the limits established by the General Assembly and backed by the state’s voters. The CFPB has an opportunity to step in where state policymakers have been unsuccessful.

“The booming payday industry in Ohio has opened the door to car title lending,” said Linda Cook of the Ohio Poverty Law Center. “These loans put vulnerable consumers even more at risk because one late payment means a family losing their only transportation to work, school and medical appointments.”

She said Ohio and the nation need reform and regulation of the lenders who use Ohio to profit from short-term, small-dollar loans. “Low-income Ohioans deserve access to credit that is affordable and doesn’t take advantage of their difficult financial position and Ohio’s challenging economic times. We applaud the CFPB for the work it has done so far to help make the marketplace fair for consumers, and we look forward to strong rules for payday.”

Payday lenders claim to be offering a one-time financial quick fix. In truth, their business model is to make loans they know cannot be paid back in full and on time – without requiring the borrower to take out another loan. Research shows that 80 percent of these loans are renewed within 2 weeks and a typical payday loan takes one-third of the borrower’s paycheck, leaving little for the borrower to live on. These loans ensure that a borrower is financially vulnerable for months and months.

“As a lender ourselves, ability to repay is a fundamental element of responsible lending,” said David Rothstein of Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland. “The CFPB is establishing a high floor for lending – by making loans borrowers can afford and still cover basic necessities like housing and food.”

Under the terms of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law of 2010, the CFPB has the authority to regulate small-dollar consumer loans. In March, the agency released a broad outline of its plans and is expected to come out with a formal proposal this fall. The payday lending industry is expected to resist a strong a rule and to fight back by attacking both the rule and the bureau.

A recent poll, found that many Americans support payday lending reforms. Ninety-one percent support regulating financial services and products to ensure they are fair for consumers. Eighty-eight percent agree that payday loans should require lenders to verify a borrower’s ability to repay. The poll underlines public concern about payday abuses, and strong support for regulation.


Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan state policy research institute with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

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