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MD Ranks #1 in Policies, 21st in Outcomes

Posted by rmckinney on 01/29/2015

2015 Scorecard shows Maryland ranks best for policies, but more work to be done to improve financial stability of Marylanders.

For a second year, Maryland ranks #1 among all states for its adoption of policies aimed at increasing the financial stability of residents. This ranking marks a great achievement that should be celebrated. Over the last few years, Maryland passed laws to:

  • Increase the Maryland Earned Income Tax Credit, providing more money in the pockets of almost 400,000 Marylanders.
  • Require paid tax preparers to be licensed, including competency testing and continuing education.
  • Eliminate asset limits for public benefit programs, which removes barriers for low-income residents to save money.
  • Protect residents from high cost, short-term loans like payday and refund anticipation loans.

Despite some good news, Maryland ranks poorly on several outcome measures critical to family financial security, earning an overall rank of 21 out of 50 states. Almost 35% of all Marylanders do not have sufficient savings readily available to weather a financial storm. It is almost 2.3 times higher for households of color. We can do better.

Maryland ranks:

  • 7th in liquid asset poverty (34.8% of households without liquid assets to live at the poverty level for three months)
  • 47th in average credit card debt ($12,311)
  • 40th in borrowers 90+ days overdue on payments (3.95%)
  • 30th in bankruptcy rate (3.8%)
  • 43rd in foreclosures (3.2%)
  • 45th in delinquent mortgage loans (3.1%)

We believe it takes a combination of innovative programs, safe products and effective policies to ensure ALL Marylanders achieve financial security. In 2015 legislative session, we will be supporting legislation that:

  • Ensures all eligible families receive the Maryland EITC
  • Ensures that all paid tax preparers are licensed
  • Ensures banks and credit unions can effectively offer new prize-linked savings products
  • Marylanders continue to be protected from expensive short-term loans
  • Ensures that parents and students can easily understand the true cost of attending college
  • Provides paid leave so parents don't have to choose between a sick child and a paycheck

Sign up today to stay in the loop and get involved!

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Payday Lending Bill in Kentucky introduced (SB32)

Posted by tlentz on 01/22/2015

A bill was introduced earlier in January 2015 in the Kentucky State Senate to cap interest rates on payday loans at 36%. For more information, click here.

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Build a Better Bay Area as a Lending Circles partner!

Posted by tararobinson on 01/16/2015

Are you a Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to helping hardworking families find economic opportunity?

Mission Asset Fund wants you to apply to become a Lending Circles partner!

The Better Bay Area initiative is a unique opportunity for up to 10 Bay Area nonprofits to join the Lending Circles partner network through a special application process.

With support from Google, Y&H Soda Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, selected organizations will be able to provide Lending Circles, the award-winning social lending program proven to build credit scores, pay off debt and increase access to affordable financing. Valued at $70,000, the partnership includes free technical assistance, training, and access to the online social loan platform.

Join Mission Asset Fund for an in-person info sessions or webinar to learn more about the partnership, application process and speak with MAF CEO Jose Quiñonez and staff.

Join Us

Check out the online RFP here

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Promoting Financial Capability in NC: Report from the Assets Learning Conference

Posted by dgallagher on 01/16/2015

North Carolina had a record number of representatives who attended the 2014 CFED Assets Learning Conference (ALC) in September 2014—all committed to building a nation and a state where every one of us has the opportunity to build a better financial future. If you were one of the lucky ones joining the group of 1200+ in attendance, you returned home with new ideas, new views of addressing community needs, new ways for low-to-moderate income households to build wealth, impressive policy wins, and informative, recent research on how best to create the platforms for prosperity in your community or state. You arrived home full of inspiration and motivation from the impressive plenary speakers, with many new contacts from around the country.

Our NC contingent connected ahead of the 2014 ALC to plan for both our Hill visits during the ALC, and also to plan for a post-ALC event coordinated by the United Way of Greater Greensboro and the North Carolina Assets Alliance. With sponsorship from JPMorgan Chase Bank, our state’s ALC delegation convened 70 professionals from around the state for a day of learning, networking with one another, and thinking through how to best move the assets indicators in our communities. Our event was held at NC A & T State University. This central, Greensboro location helped us divide the Murphy to Manteo span of 540 miles west to east across NC.

We learned from CFED that we were the only state formalizing a post-ALC event, and we were fortunate to have had Fran Rosebush from CFED join us as a speaker and to represent the Assets & Opportunity Network. Other speakers were ALC attendees and sponsors. The agenda for the day shared information from specific ALC sessions, new directions from the A & O Network, new developments in the asset-building field, and opportunities to build relationships with one another.

The NC Assets Alliance is the lead state organization for the A & O Network. Formed back in 2005, we published a research report in 2010, “A Prosperity Grid for North Carolina: Connecting Households and Communities to Economic Opportunity.” While the data is now outdated, the conclusions and aspirational goals for our state remain the foundation of our work here. Sadly, in spite of continuing and sustained efforts, we have seen our state slide nationally and we are currently 46th in outcomes according to the 2014 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard. At the ALC our NC contingent of 35 people was able to attend a broad range of presentations and group meetings. By sharing that information with the network of 80+ agencies that are members of the NC Assets Alliance, we hope to use the learnings from the ALC to spark new activities and to build financial capability across the state.

As nonprofit workers and community builders, you are experts at organizing and hosting events. What did we learn from our post-ALC event that could be helpful to your state for hosting a post- 2016 ALC event?

  • Organize the ALC session attendance ahead of time—If your state or local organization is considering hosting a post ALC event, CFED can provide a listing of ALC registrants from your state to help you contact them and organize who is attending what, to broaden the coverage. The NC Assets Alliance conference organizing committee contacted the NC people who had registered for the ALC about one month ahead of the ALC. We could have used a little more time. We recommend six weeks out as the minimum, or as soon as the final ALC agenda has been published.
  • Make the difficult decisions on what sessions will appeal to the broadest audience. At the end of the day, we made decisions based on whether topics had been consistently included in the NC Asset Alliance’s legislative policy priorities, and whether both urban and rural populations could benefit. Of our state’s 100 counties, a large majority are considered rural.
  • Strike a balance between the length of the breakout sessions and the number of sessions offered. We had to decide whether to provide snapshots of ALC sessions and reduce the agenda time to 30 minutes to offer more sessions, or provide more in-depth coverage of the sessions at the ALC by allowing for longer breakout sessions, and thereby offering fewer of them. We opted for the latter, and used the postings on to develop the individual sessions.
  • Have the professionals take care of technology—live streaming, audio recordings, and posting on the website all took special technological expertise. Include these functions in your budget (researching the costs well ahead of time) and relieve yourself of these responsibilities. The technology helps to reach the broadest audience possible, for those unable to attend in person, and hiring professionals allows the organizers to focus more on interacting with the attendees and conducting the presentations.
  • Share the work and share the revenue. The event budget covered lunch, audio-visuals and recording, facility rental, printing and supplies. Additionally, transportation stipends were available to attendees to cover the cost of gas to attend. Planning and contracting with the venue, technology support, finalizing speakers, laying out and printing the program, assembling attendee packets, and catering were all the responsibility of the United Way staff. Sending communications to potential attendees, loading the video and audio recordings to the NC Assets Alliance website, and managing registration were handled by The Collaborative.
  • Involve the community. An event like this is a great opportunity to recruit volunteers to assist with the event logistics. United Way had a volunteer event planner who assigned volunteer roles (greeters, runners, etc.), communicated with the facility staff, and took care of details so that the planning committee could focus on the conference content. Assign more than one volunteer to take photos and manage social media during the event. Ensure that sponsor logos show up in the photos and videos posted online.
  • Evaluate the effort. Separate surveys were provided to those who attended via live stream, and those who attended in person. The organizing committee was in agreement that we would do it all again, but we will review the results of the evaluations during our January, 2015 NC Assets Alliance membership meeting to gather additional information and begin to plan for 2016.

You can view and print the program and handouts, or watch and listen to our entire event by going to:

-Donna Gallagher and Sarah Glover

Donna Gallagher ( is a member of the Steering Committee for the North Carolina Assets Alliance and Executive Director of The Collaborative of NC. Sarah Glover ( is a Community Impact Manager for the United Way of Greater Greensboro and a member of the Greensboro Asset-Building Coalition and the North Carolina Assets Alliance.

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Posted by lmullany on 01/09/2015

Chicago, IL — Governor Quinn signed the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program (SB2758) into law yesterday. The new program will give millions of private sector workers in our state the opportunity to save their own money for retirement by expanding access to employment-based retirement savings accounts.

SB2758, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss and Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, will automatically enroll workers without access to an employment-based retirement plan into the Secure Choice program. While workers can opt-out of the program, those that do participate will be able to build savings in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) through a payroll deduction. All accounts are pooled together and professionally managed; ensuring that fees are low and investment performance is competitive.

“We think it will be a model for many, many other states,” Quinn said of the law. “Because one of the leading causes of worry for everyday people who are working hard, raising kids, doing the right thing, is how much money they will have when they pay their kids’ college tuition, when they’ve paid all their bills, will they have any money left for their retirement so they can live out their years in dignity.”

The new program will require businesses with 25 or more year-round employees, that have been in business for 2 or more years, and don't currently offer a retirement savings option to offer the Secure Choice Program to its workers by June 2017.

“Illinois has taken a huge step forward in addressing a growing retirement crisis by giving Illinois residents the tools to save,” said Senator Biss. “The Secure Choice program will have a minimal impact on the state and participating businesses, but the effect for workers will be the difference between retiring with dignity and a retiring into poverty.”

More than 2.5 million workers do not have access to a retirement savings account through their employer, according to a report from the Woodstock Institute and IABG. The report found lack of access is most serious for low-wage workers, of whom 60 percent lack access, but even for workers making $40,000 or more, 49 percent do not have access to an employment-based retirement savings plan. In every Senate district in Illinois, over half of private-sector workers do not have access to this type of plan.

“The Secure Choice Savings Program will make it easy for Illinois workers to save without burdening employers or the state,” Representative Currie said. “This program can make a secure retirement a reality for hard working Illinoisans.”

The Illinois Asset Building Group (IABG), a project of Heartland Alliance, has been advocating with its partners for the passage of the Illinois Secure Choice Program. “Secure Choice is an innovative, simple program that makes saving for retirement easy for Illinois workers,” said Lucy Mullany, Coordinator of IABG and a Senior Project Manager with Heartland Alliance. “We thank Governor Quinn for signing this bill into and look forward to working with leaders to implement this new program.”

The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program was supported by IABG, Heartland Alliance, Woodstock Institute, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, SEIU Healthcare, AARP Illinois, and over 60 organizations and businesses across the state.


The Illinois Asset Building Group (IABG) is a statewide coalition committed to increasing access to the tools people need to build financially secure futures for themselves and their children. IABG's work across issue areas includes examining barriers and solutions to the persistent racial wealth gap. IABG a project of Heartland Alliance. For more information, visit

Heartland Alliance - the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest - believes that all of us deserve the opportunity to improve our lives. Each year, we help ensure this opportunity for nearly one million people around the world who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. For more information, visit:

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Posted by lmullany on 01/09/2015

December 2014

This past fall, IABG partners advocated for the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act during a day on the Hill at the CFED Assets Learning Conference. Last week, Congress passed the ABLE Act and, in doing so, allowed individuals with disabilities and their families to build much-needed savings.

Millions of individuals with disabilities rely on public benefits for health care, food, housing, and income. Currently a means or asset test on Social Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and other programs prohibits benefits recipients from building savings over $2000. Essentially, to remain eligible for much needed benefits programs, an individual must remain poor and financially insecure.

The ABLE Act eases financial strains faced by young individuals with disabilities by allowing them to create tax-free savings accounts. Expected to be signed into law by President Obama shortly, the bill allow families to open accounts similar to 529 savings plans for college-bound kids. Money saved in these ABLE Accounts will not be counted against them when applying for federal benefits programs.

Who is Eligible for and ABLE Account?

ABLE Accounts are limited to individuals with an age of onset of disability before turning 26 years of age. If you meet this criteria and are also receiving benefits already under SSI and/or SSDI, you are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account. If you are not a recipient of SSI and/or SSDI, but still meet the age of onset disability requirement, you would still be eligible to open an ABLE account if you meet SSI criteria regarding significant functional limitations.

How Much Money Can be Saved in an ABLE Account?

The total annual contributions by all participating individuals, including family and friends, are $14,000. The accounts can grow to up to $100,000 before they begin impacting an individual’s eligibility for SSI. Finally, the limits will be adjusted annually for inflation.

How Can the Funds be Used?

The funds in an ABLE Account can be used for any "qualified disability expense,” which means any expense required of the individual as a result of living a life with a disability. This includes education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services. Other eligible expenses will be further described in regulations to be developed in 2015 by the Treasury Department.

What are the Next Steps?

Each state is responsible for establishing and operating an ABLE program. After President Obama signs the ABLE Act into law, the Department of Treasury will begin to develop regulations that will guide the states. No accounts can be established until the regulations are finalized following a public comment period on proposed rules for program implementation. States will begin to accept applications to establish ABLE accounts before the end of 2015.

Questions about the ABLE Act: email Lucy Mullany, IABG Coordinator

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Nevada A&O Monthly Learning Call

Posted by mjohnson on 01/08/2015

Tags: monthly call in, learn, Nevada, assets&opportunities


Learning conversation - Nevada Volunteers' Service Enterprise Project with Janet Wright and FredaMae Voorhies

Announcements and Information Sharing

For call-in info email

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Nevada Financial Security Day!

Posted by mjohnson on 01/08/2015

Tags: Reno, Nevada, Financial Security, Legislature

Please Volunteer for the Opportunity Alliance Nevada 2nd Biennial Financial Security Day at the Nevada State Legislature


February 6, 2015 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Nevada State Legislative Building – Room 3100 401 S. Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada




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Minimum wage in Louisville upped to $9

Posted by tlentz on 12/19/2014

The Metro Council and Mayor Greg Fischer, who were at odds over increasing the minimum wage, reached an agreement Thursday night with the council voting to increase the minimum wage in Jefferson County to $9 an hour gradually over three years.

Mayor Fischer released the following statement on the vote. "I'm pleased with the council's vote, appreciate their hard work on this important issue, and look forward to signing this ordinance into law. I will support $9 over three years because it is a balanced compromise solution that gives hardworking families a raise while minimizing the risks of job losses in our city."

Read more from the Courier-Journal...

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Metro Council committee (Louisville) approves minimum wage increase

Posted by tlentz on 12/16/2014

Mayor Greg Fischer provided the following statement on minimum wage, "I support raising the minimum wage on a state and national level. However, increasing the wage locally must be considered in the context of job losses since our surrounding counties will not be increasing their minimum wages.

“I am most concerned about manufacturing businesses that have a high cost of labor as part of their total business expenses -- and I do not want to see the wage increase lead to a loss of jobs for the very people we want to help.

“Increasing the wage in the range of $8.50 to $8.75 an hour appears to be an area where local job loss would be minimized and many people would still benefit from the increase.

“Due to my extreme concern about job losses in our city, I am not prepared to support an increase to $10.10 per hour and will veto such an ordinance if passed by Metro Council. “I reiterate my support for a statewide and nationwide increase in the minimum wage and ask all advocates to work with me and others on this issue.”

Read more from Louisville's Business First

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