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News & Updates from the Assets & Opportunity Network


Catalyst Miami to Launch Lending Circles Program

Posted by dlevine on 04/01/2014

With founding support from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Catalyst Miami announces that it will soon launch an innovative social lending program which will help financially excluded communities of Miami-Dade County gain access to the financial mainstream. Catalyst Miami’s Lending Circles program will help consumers under-served by traditional banking institutions build credit, develop sound spending habits, and receive financial coaching.

The Lending Circles program will focus on formalizing social lending circles popular in many of the immigrant communities of Miami-Dade County. Participants in the program will have the opportunity to connect to the formal banking sector while building savings, establishing credit scores, or repairing damaged scores. By the end of the program participants will have both credit histories and savings which can be used for anything from the seed capital needed to form a new business to a simple desire to build savings.

Catalyst Miami will work closely with participants to help them reach their financial goals by offering financial coaching services such as credit counseling and family budgeting, in addition to benefits enrollment, tax services, and career services.

For more information please contact:
Terry Tasker, 786-527-2574,

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A Balance in Budget

Posted by mjohnson on 03/25/2014

Seems like all progress is one step forward and two steps back.

Even with the war on poverty and building assets.

Check out this report to see if there is balance in Obama’s budget for resources to help in saving and asset building.

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Kentucky Takes Positive Steps to Simplify Medicaid Enrollment Process

Posted by tlentz on 03/24/2014

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has taken many positive steps to simplify the enrollment process to make sure eligible kids are enrolled in Medicaid and the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP). In 2009, the Governor removed the requirement for families to have a face to face interview to enroll their children in Medicaid/KCHIP and allowed families to mail in applications. In 2010, the Governor eliminated premiums for KCHIP that some families were required to pay. This helped reduce the cost burden that many families faced to keep their kids enrolled in KCHIP. Most recently, the Governor recommended removing the requirement for children to wait 6-months to enroll in KCHIP when they are moving from private coverage to KCHIP and removing the 5-year waiting period for legally residing immigrant children to enroll in KCHIP. All of these policy actions help kids in Kentucky get and stay enrolled in health coverage.

Family Health Centers in Louisville worked with state partners such as Kentucky Voices for Health and Kentucky Youth Advocates to help these state policy actions move forward. In addition, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency serves as kynectors in Louisville to help enroll families who are eligible for Medicaid or private insurance if they are not eligible for Medicaid.

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Leaders in Louisville, KY Speak Up for a State Earned Income Tax Credit

Posted by tlentz on 03/18/2014

A state Earned Income Tax Credit that would piggyback on the federal Earned Income Tax Credit is currently making headway in the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly with SB 155, sponsored by Senator Morgan McGarvey from Louisville. The bill has bi-partisan support.

Over 21% of tax filers in Jefferson County are struggling to make ends meet and using the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to work their way out of poverty. These are families with one or both parents employed but not earning enough money to afford some of life’s most basic necessities in some of the most difficult economic times in Kentucky’s history. A state Earned Income Tax Credit would help 70,517 hard-working families in Jefferson County.

Several community partners in Louisville are actively working on a state Earned Income Tax Credit. The Louisville Asset Building Coalition educates families about the benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott serves as the coach for the team in Kentucky, led by Kentucky Youth Advocates, Metro United Way, Community Action Kentucky and the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, that is looking to pass Earned Income Tax Credit legislation in our state.

Here are a few recent articles by community partners promoting a state Earned Income Tax Credit:

An Extra 300 Bucks Can Make a Big Difference for Some This Tax Season - By John Nevitt, Senior Manager of Family Stability, Metro United Way

Kentucky should adopt an Earned Income Credit - By Attica Scott, Metro Councilwoman, District 1 -

For more information about the effort to pass a Kentucky Earned Income Tax Credit, visit

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Lending Circles in Chicago: A New Approach to Financial Empowerment

Posted by tararobinson on 03/17/2014

Tags: nonprofit, social lending, financial management, credit building, low-income, chicago

Please join JPMorgan Chase and Mission Asset Fund on Monday, March 31st to learn about how community foundations and local nonprofits in Chicago can empower low-income and immigrant communities to join the financial mainstream through Mission Asset Fund’s Lending Circles program.

Without good credit scores, thousands of Chicago residents struggle to get out of the economic margins. Lending Circles, the award-winning social loan program, provides an innovative solution. Through social loans and financial education, Lending Circles helps participants build credit history and gain access to low-cost loans.

Mission Asset Fund is a San Francisco-based nonprofit on a mission to create a fair financial marketplace for hardworking families so they can go on to achieve their dreams. Mission Asset Fund has partnered with over 20 nonprofit agencies to provide Lending Circles to nearly 2,000 people in six states, and now Lending Circles is heading to Chicago!

About the event

Mission Asset Fund will provide an overview of the Lending Circle program and share how Chicago organizations can participate in the program through training and technical support to bring Lending Circles to their clients. Reception to follow training.

Organizations focused on low-income and immigrant communities are encouraged to attend!


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The Struggle to Save Continues

Posted by mjohnson on 03/14/2014

The struggle to save is still prominent with a lot of Americans.

According to a recent survey, most Americans think they could be doing better to save for the future.

Click here to see the results of this survey. How do you think you compare?

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Women and Minimum Wage

Posted by mjohnson on 03/14/2014

Is it a surprise that women outnumber both teenagers and men when it comes to the highest demographic of minimum wage earners?

It’s true.

Click here to get more in-depth information on this alarming statistic.

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Expanding Economic Opportunities in Arkansas: Lessons Learned through the Mott Foundation’s State Asset Building Coalition Learning Initiative

Posted by tedwards on 03/12/2014

Last week, the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, a research institute at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, released “State Asset Building Coalitions: Perspectives from the Field.” The report captures the key lessons learned from a three-year State Asset Building Coalition Learning Initiative of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which took place against the backdrop of the Great Recession. It uses concrete examples from ten state asset building coalitions from around the country, including Southern Bancorp Community Partners, to show how states can strengthen their residents’ financial security and stability.

The report explains how state asset-building coalitions can take various steps to advance policies and practices that open the doors to economic opportunity for all residents. For example, the staff at Southern Bancorp Community Partners founded the Arkansas Assets Coalition (AAC) to focus on state-funded Individual Development Account (IDA) administration and policy. Southern also worked in coalitions to eliminate storefront payday lenders and promote new education opportunities through the creation of the state’s matched 529 program, known as Aspiring Scholars.

State Asset-Building Coalitions: Perspectives from the Field” also details the asset building efforts of state coalition members from California, Michigan, Washington, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, Texas, and New Mexico.

The report not only showcases the work Arkansans have done to advance family economic security, it also provides compelling evidence of ways coalitions are coming together to network and use asset-based strategies to improve family self-sufficiency and strengthen the economic and social fabric of their states.

We hope you’ll take some time to read this great report and share your own thoughts with us about how we can work to strengthen family economic security in Arkansas.

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Program Profile: YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

Posted by lmullany on 03/07/2014

“Women helping women, women supporting women, women nurturing women, women growing by leaps and bounds— now that’s empowerment. I see myself in the women I serve. I am not my sister’s keeper... I am my sister.”
-Shquestra Sitawi, Manager of Economic Empowerment

Women Supporting Women
YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, founded in 1876, is the oldest women-focused social service organization in Chicago. Born out of concerns over a lack of employment opportunities for women, it has grown to touch the lives of more than 150,000 women and children in neighborhoods all across the Chicago region. Today, YWCA’s comprehensive and integrated programs are designed to empower women and eliminate racism by providing a continuum of support and resources that promote self-sufficiency. YWCA staff members like Shquestra Sitawi believe that “if you stabilize a woman, you stabilize her family, and a secure family will help stabilize a community.”

Survival, Grow, Thrive: A Model for Self- & Financial-Empowerment
YWCA participants, and the situations that lead them to the YWCA, are diverse, but YWCA’s approach is always the same: that a woman can move from surviving to thriving if given the proper tools, support, and resources. These come in many forms at YWCA, from sexual and domestic violence support, to child care resources, to client-driven economic empowerment tools. The YWCA path to financial empowerment starts with participants identifying short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals with input from their Economic Empowerment coach. These goals are focused on asset acquisition like building savings, obtaining the education to kick-start a career, or purchasing a home.

YWCA then provides participants with the tools to reach their goals. Coaches train women and girls to be successful in school and the workplace. Community Technology Centers, like the one to the left, enhance participants' employment opportunities through computer training. YWCA’s Financial Literacy Program educates participants on many topics ranging from how to open a checking account to how to save for a home. YWCA embraces being part of the larger financial empowerment community in Chicago. As an active partner in the Bank On Chicago initiative, YWCA helps participants put their financial education curriculum into practice by providing unbanked participants with access to cheaper and safer banking services. Additionally, this spring YWCA joined a 2014 Pilot with America Savesand Money Smart Week to help participants build their savings through making a savings pledge and sticking to it with the help of email and text support.

Roots and Wings: A Story of Impact
The YWCA provides the Roots to stabilize women’s lives and the Wings for them to thrive. About two years ago, aparticipant named Lisa came to the YWCA seeking various services. At arriving at YWCA she was sad and somewhat defeated, but there was a spark in Lisa’s eyes and Shquestra Sitawi, her Economic Empowerment coach, knew if Lisa received the right support she could achieve her goals. Lisa enrolled in a GED program, attended YWCA Saturday math classes and meditation exercises. The math classes prepared her for the math portion of the GED while the meditation allowed her to focus and become peaceful in the face of test anxiety. She passed the GED test, and empowered she went on to complete the Healthcare Career Bridge Program with Kennedy-King College, and is now getting her state license to be a Certified Nurse Assistant. These goals were achieved within 15 months. YWCA provided Lisa with the resources to put down roots and stabilize her life. With her goals accomplished Lisa is now flying.

The Future of YWCA Chicago
YWCA will continue to focus on women empowerment along the continuum of survive, grow, and thrive, integrating efforts to best meet the needs of women and their families. YWCA is enhancing the Economic Sustainability initiative that already includes career mapping, specialization in skilled trades, and micro-entrepreneurship. Just recently YWCA created a new workforce development program to train and employ women in a career in utility construction. YWCA is always looking to bring new resources to their participants and would love to hear of opportunities to continue to do so.

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Paul G. Allen Family Foundation: Disrupting Poverty: Coming Together to Build Financial Security for Individuals and Communities.

Posted by acoday on 03/04/2014

Tags: collborative, Financial Security, resilience, collaboration

To Financial Empowerment Network | Seattle-King County partners:

We are thrilled to announce we have been recognized in a new report from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation: Disrupting Poverty: Coming Together to Build Financial Security for Individuals and Communities. The report highlights lessons and best practices garnered from the Foundation’s examination of asset building strategies. The report concludes stating, “Partnership and collaboration have become the guiding maxims for helping individuals and communities disrupt the cycle of poverty and build financial security and resilience”. One collaborative model and approach noted in the report is the Seattle-King County Asset Building Collaborative, now known at the Financial Empowerment Network | Seattle-King County (Network).

Join us to learn how you can contribute to our community by disrupting the cycle of poverty by building financial security and resilience.

• Attend the Network’s quarterly Financial Empowerment Workshop. The Financial Empowerment Workshop, developed in 2011 around CFED Household Financial Security Framework, trains staff to incorporate financial empowerment into their assessment, service delivery, and program outcomes along with providing ongoing technical assistance through resources, referrals, and direct assistance.

• Attend the Network’s monthly Financial Education Partners Network meetings and workshops. The Financial Education Partners Network (FEPN) provides ongoing opportunities for networking and peer learning and sharing.

• Attend the Network’s monthly Foreclosure Prevention Team meetings. The team provides housing counselors a forum for peer sharing, networking, planning, and implementing trainings, workshops, and community events.

• Support the Network’s Free Tax Campaign in partnership with United Way of King County by volunteering and/or referring clients.

• Join Bank On Seattle-King County in partnership with 15 bank and credit unions by promoting access to affordable mainstream financial services, including checking and savings accounts, financial education, and credit opportunities.

• Join our collaborative of community partners that are offering Financial Resource Day. On March 22nd, Financial Resource Day will offer a one day event that combines workshops, one-on-one counseling, and other financial services, offered by a wide array of Financial Empowerment Network partners.

Take a moment to review the report. You can find the report and network meeting, workshop and event dates on our website at

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