Issue 9   |   December 2016
Letter from the President & CEO
The real headline of the 2016 presidential election comes as no surprise to those of us in the consumer asset building and protection field. Well, yes - most of us were surprised by the winner. But none of us were surprised that economic anxiety was front and center.

And so among the many changes to come in this country, our individual and collective organizations' focus on financial empowerment requires no hard pivot.

What's more, we know that cities will continue to lead the way in this work. Local leaders possess non-theoretical knowledge of the many effects of financial instability--and a clear sense of responsibility for investing in large-scale solutions. Local officials wrestle with the plight of their neighbors, rising social service caseloads, the pressure to balance budgets, and the political expectations of success. And, increasingly across the map, they know that weaving financial empowerment work into traditional antipoverty services can be a powerful boost to individuals and families' financial stability.

Our city partners are leading the way in close to 40 cities across the country: they are providing financial counseling as a public service through the  Financial Empowerment Center initiative; they are taking advantage of the summer job opportunity by integrating banking access and targeted financial education into Summer Youth Employment Programs through Summer Jobs Connect; and they are connecting residents to safe, affordable and appropriate bank accounts through Bank On. They are dedicating political resources launching Municipal Financial Empowerment Task Forces, and embedding financial empowerment strategies into multiple city services through the Next Generation award initiative. And, they are shining the light in CFE Coalition cities for the rest of the country, showing what is possible when local government prioritizes the use of its unique powers and opportunities to help people in need to stabilize and get ahead.

Many in our field will be leaving Washington in the months ahead. But before they do -- a heartfelt thank you for strong and dedicated service to our country, for supportive and invaluable partnerships, and for dear and durable friendships.

New faces, and new policy articulations, are on the horizon. And so some additional challenges are inevitable. But our work? Our work will be front and center.

Now, more than ever, thank you for your interest and support, your example, and your partnership in this work.

Jonathan Mintz

Financial Empowerment Centers Named One of 15 Most Innovative Policy Reforms of Decade Across the Globe
Congratulations to our Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) partners in Lansing, Michigan! The FEC initiative, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, was recently named one of the fifteen "boldest and most innovative municipal policy reforms of the past decade" across the globe by the Center For an Urban Future (CUF). In their report "Innovation and the City," CUF highlighted the Lansing FEC's partnership with the county parole office to provide financial counseling to formerly incarcerated people in transitional housing. The report pointed to the impressive gains realized by the 40 pilot participants: they have reduced over $432,000 in debt, opened fourteen bank accounts, and increased savings by $3,500. The report also highlighted another critical success metric--the Lansing FEC, like each of the other four FEC replication cities, has leveraged the CFE Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies' initial 3-year grant support into dedicated city funding to support this work as a public service.

These successes are also highlighted in our upcoming FEC evaluation report, set to be released this Winter. Make sure you and your partners are on our mailing list (sign up through our website) to receive it! Also, if you'd like to organize a briefing for your organization on the Financial Empowerment Center evaluation results, please email  Tamara Lindsay.

The CFE Fund soon will be announcing exciting additional opportunities to bring FECs to your city--stay tuned!

Updates From Summer Jobs Connect

In October, the CFE Fund hosted a Summer Jobs Connect Learning Community Convening in Chicago, bringing together our eight partner cities to share best practices and lessons learned embedding banking access and targeted financial education into large-scale Summer Youth Employment Programs. Sessions included remarks from US Department of Treasury Director of Financial Security Louisa Quittman on the federal context of this work and from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Office of Financial Empowerment's Sangeetha Malaiyandi on integration best practices; a discussion on learning from, and making programs responsive to, youth voices; Learning Community subgroup discussions on technology, peer learning and financial institution partnerships in Summer Jobs Connect; and a presentation on communicating financial empowerment successes to different audiences.

In addition, the CFE Fund joined the Aspen Institute's Forum for Community Solutions Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund Convening in October to share the success of Summer Jobs Connect. Discussion at the Forum centered on ways to build momentum for national efforts around opportunity youth; Summer Jobs Connect, funded through the Citi Foundation, served as an example of how financial empowerment strategies can be relevant and innovative programmatic solutions to a range of youth initiatives like those meant to serve Opportunity Youth.

In the coming months, the CFE Fund will release a toolkit report for municipal leaders and their partners interested in replicating Summer Jobs Connect in their cities. For more information on Summer Jobs Connect, contact I-Hsing Sun.

The CFE Fund continues building the national Bank On infrastructure to support local coalition efforts.

The CFE Fund highlighted an additional banking partner offering an account meeting the Bank On National Account Standards. US Bank, the nation's 5th largest financial institution, launched their Safe Debit Account across all 3,122 of their branches in 25 states, with features designed intentionally to meet Bank On Standards. Together with all 4 national banks, there are now over 22,000 branches in 49 states and Washington, DC with safe and appropriate accounts meeting Bank On National Account Standards.

The CFE Fund continues to support local coalitions through our Bank On Capacity Grant Fund, seed funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co.; applications are still open for this rolling grant opportunity; apply here

The CFE Fund has also been sharing Bank On successes with the field; we were invited to present on Bank On progress at the opening session of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion in Washington, DC, where Chairman Martin Gruenberg and his team released their biennial survey of the unbanked and underbanked.

Finally, keep an eye on your inbox for information about upcoming grant and technical assistance resources, as well as information about the 2017 Bank On National Conference on May 23, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Save the date! And, for more information on Bank On, contact David Rothstein.

Next Generation Municipal Financial Empowerment Award Updates
The CFE Fund is proud to share the significant financial empowerment strides that each or our Next Generation Municipal Financial Empowerment city partners has made.

The City of Boston is working to make a number of enhancements to their Financial Check Up tool, a financial wellness screening: they are working towards moving to an online platform, and to incorporate the tool into other city programs, such as Boston's Citizenship Corners through the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Advancement. In addition, the City launched a Financial Empowerment Advisory Board in October. The Board brings together a diverse range of stakeholder to support the Office of Financial Empowerment's efforts. The City of San José is working on next-phase efforts to integrate financial empowerment efforts across the city, even beyond their initial priority area of workforce development. Their first priority is to connect financial empowerment work with the City's library system, starting by offering financial empowerment workshops.

The City of Oakland is working to centralize financial empowerment efforts through a dedicated city entity, such as an Office of Financial Empowerment. In New Haven, the Mayor's Financial Empowerment Commission created a set of financial empowerment recommendations that they officially launched and presented to Mayor Toni Harp (see our Guest Column below for more details). In Shreveport, the Mayor's Financial Empowerment Taskforce has convened a number of meetings, and is finalizing their recommendations to present to Mayor Ollie Tyler.
The CFE Fund is excited to continue to work with these cities as they finalize their current financial empowerment efforts and look to future work helping their residents become more financially stable.
If you're interested in partnering to launch tangible financial empowerment agendas in your city, contact Tamara Lindsay.

News from the CFE Coalition
Lansing Financial Empowerment Center recognized as "bold, innovative" municipal policy in "Innovation and the City" report. As detailed above, the Center for an Urban Future recognized the Lansing FEC's pilot to provide financial counseling for recently incarcerated people living in transitional housing as one of the most innovation municipal policies of the past decade across the world.

San Francisco Treasurer Launches First- In-The-Nation Financial Justice Project.  Read about it  here  in an op-ed Treasurer José Cisneros authored in The San Francisco Chronicle. The Financial Justice Project aims to assess and reform how tickets, fines and fees impact struggling San Franciscans. The Financial Justice Project also published an  op-ed  in the Washington Post on Election Day that calls out how 30 states restrict the voting rights of people who owe fines and fees.

Boston Launches Children's Savings Account Pilot. Boston Saves launched at five pilot schools; kindergartners at these schools will receive a savings account with $50 seed funding, an online platform to track savings online, opportunities to earn bonus savings and matches, and financial literacy events to make saving fun.

Seeding Financial Empowerment in New Haven: A Municipal Leader's Perspective
By Martha Okafor, Community Services Administrator, City of New Haven

In 2015, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp received the CFE Fund's Next Generation Municipal Financial Empowerment Award, which provided consulting assistance and seed funding to embed financial empowerment strategies in city government. Mayor Harp's administration is committed to social justice and improving resident well-being, including through innovative strategies to better residents' financial lives.

The Next Generation process was a concrete example of the convening power of city government to bring people together, and cultivate enthusiasm and collaborative commitment across the community for a common cause. With CFE Fund guidance, the city established an Advisory Group to identify priority issues and areas for the Mayor's Financial Empowerment Commission. The Advisory Group also refined the Commission's scope, focusing on strategies to empower two critical populations: workers with low incomes, and people returning from the criminal justice system.

As a result, the Mayoral Financial Empowerment Commission was created. The Commission members Mayor Harp selected represented a broad range of stakeholders, from City agencies, nonprofits, funders, banks and credit unions, elected officials, and most importantly, community activists. For example, one Commission member, Stacy Downer, worked at a check casher before getting a job with the New Haven MOMS partnership--she now considers herself a financial empowerment advocate, bringing her knowledge of the dangers of predatory financial services to the Commission. The Commission came together multiple times over six months, to finalize key impact areas based on our residents' and providers' realities. Focus groups and surveys were utilized to collect crucial data from residents, city employees and staff from our Housing Authority. These real life experiences and service delivery assessments were used to start shaping recommended financial empowerment strategies.

Members broke into subgroups to go deeper and develop meaningful and relevant immediate, short-term and long-term strategies.  It was powerful to see the diverse perspectives and experience that were brought to bear on these complex issues. They recognized the serious financial issues residents face, and committed to developing actionable recommendations--not just words on paper. Finally, they crystallized around a set of recommendations, which the Mayor approved and launched last month. These recommendations include:
  • Build the financial capability of all residents, including target populations, through tools like a financial empowerment website; referrals to financial education and counseling at the New Haven Opportunity Center; advancing community financial health through integrating financial empowerment strategies into public school curriculum, youth development programs, and job training; and promoting policy changes that support community wealth-building.
  • Create a Financial Empowerment Center, based on the CFE Fund's model, to offer free, professional, one-on-one financial counseling. In addition to the model's standard outcomes, which focus on banking, savings, credit and debt, the New Haven Center would add additional outcomes for clients reentering from prison or jail.
  • Develop a Financial Empowerment Network to convene and support nonprofit financial empowerment providers, with each member committed to providing a continuum of services, using the same referral/intake tool, training, standards, and measurements.
  • Identify and address macro-economic issues that are barriers to financial empowerment and opportunity for New Haven residents, including an academic study and a summit of City residents and leaders.
The planning grant was a spark for leaders from across New Haven, and across sectors, to come together and create a strategy for financial empowerment in our city. And, what's more, this grant really helped us create an overall framework for this work, looking at things like banking access and municipal ID and their place in a larger financial empowerment strategy. The City of New Haven, and Mayor Harp's administration, is excited to launch specific, actionable steps to empower residents and help them create more stable financial futures.

If your city is interested in working with the CFE Fund on a similar process, please contact Tamara Lindsay
CFE Fund Updates
The CFE Fund is thrilled to announce that Leigh Phillips, the CEO of  EARN, has joined our Board of Directors. EARN, based in San Francisco, empowers families to achieve life-changing goals by establishing a habit of savings. Prior to joining EARN in September 2015, Leigh was the Director of the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment. We are grateful to bring Leigh, and her deep experience with municipal financial empowerment and financial inclusion work, onto our  Board

In addition, we are excited to share our redesigned website! Take a look at our burgeoning map of municipal engagements; check out our most recent funding opportunities; or browse through our library of reports, briefs, newsletters and other resources. Drop us a note to let us know what you think or to tell us about new features you'd like to see.
Financial Empowerment "In The News"