Issue 18 | Novemer 2019
Letter from the President & CEO
Here at the CFE Fund, we are in the middle of another busy and invigorating conference season. Since our earliest days in the CFE Coalition, we’ve seen and experienced the genuine, tangible value of bringing together municipal partners to share insider stories with trusted colleagues and detail hard lessons learned, best practices, political strategies, and more.

Last month, we launched another new cohort of FEC Public partners, bringing them to New York for an intensive two-day training. Sessions featured partners whose Financial Empowerment Centers (FECs) had been operating for years, as well as those whose FECs just had been open for months. And last week, we convened program leaders from across the country who are integrating banking access into youth or adult workforce programs – some newly experimenting with such integrations, and some Summer Jobs Connect partners who first launched their integrations in 2014. And this month, we are hosting a meeting of our CityStart partners, who are working to kickstart local municipal financial empowerment efforts, overlapping them with a CFE Coalition Forum of our “varsity league” city government partners.

For each of these events, we intentionally bring together partners at different phases of similar work. The dynamism of this mix – the combination of fresh insights and hard-won lessons learned from experience – always proves electric. City partners early in their efforts bring insightful questions and new ways of thinking, absorbing the experiences and ideas of more seasoned program colleagues; and expert partners invariably deconstruct their own experiences, invigorated by new partner energy and insight.

The fact that we’ve reached a point where there are so many “inter-generational” cohorts working on a range of financial empowerment programs and strategies is a testament to the growth, and also the vitality of the municipal financial empowerment field. There are new faces and new cities represented at each convening we hold; new partners learning how to embed financial empowerment into municipal government infrastructure, and helping their Mayors become champions of this work.

We are thankful for this mix of energy and experience, and our many partners who make these learning community experiences possible– and know that residents in cities across the country are better for it.

Thanks, as always, for your partnership.
The CFE Fund’s FEC Public initiative , with seed support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Capital One, The JPB Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, supports local governments in working to launch professional, one-on-one Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) counseling as a free public service for residents in need.

Across the FEC Public initiative, the CFE Fund is now working with 30 government partners, ranging from Planning Partners working to plan for their FEC initiatives, Implementation Partners who have launched their FECs, and Experts whose FECs have been operational for multiple years and are self-sustaining. Across just the Implementation and Expert partners, the FECs already have worked with more than 99,000 clients, helping them reduce their debt by more than $137 million, and increasing savings by $19 million.

Last month, the CFE Fund proudly announced an additional six localities selected to receive a grant and intensive technical assistance to prepare to launch a local FEC through the national FEC Public platform: Gaithersburg, MD; Paterson, NJ; Racine, WI; Richmond, VA; Tulsa, OK; and Washtenaw County, MI.

These new local government partners recently attended the CFE Fund’s two-day onboarding training in New York, where they connected with experienced FEC partners to learn best practices in implementing the FEC model and strategies for long-term success. In addition, the CFE Fund has paired each new 2019 partner with an Expert Partner who will serve as their mentor throughout the planning phase. 

To learn more about FEC Public, contact   Tamara Lindsay , Principal.
The CFE Fund’s CityStart initiative , with support from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and other funders, helps local governments kickstart municipally-led financial empowerment for their city.

In September, the CFE Fund selected seven new CityStart cities for a planning grant and technical assistance to identify and plan for their local municipal financial empowerment strategic priorities: Birmingham, AL; Columbus, OH; Jackson, MS; Jersey City, NJ; New Orleans, LA; Madison, WI; and Waco, TX. This Fall, the CFE Fund is working with its city partners to conduct municipal financial empowerment bootcamps in each grantee city as their first step in the process.

This cohort of CityStart cities joins the CFE Fund’s 2018 CityStart cohort (Albuquerque, NM; Anchorage, AK: Dallas, TX; Durham, NC; El Paso, TX; Fort Worth, TX; Portland, OR; Rochester, NY; Saint Paul, MN; and Tulsa, OK). Since they began CityStart last year, these partners have created blueprints that outline their administration’s public vision for integrating financial empowerment within local government infrastructure - some are working to launch an Office of Financial Empowerment as a platform for overall efforts, some are identifying strategies centered around a specific municipal priority such as affordable housing, and some are replicating existing programs such as the Financial Empowerment Center initiative. 

To learn more about CityStart, contact  Tamara Lindsay , Principal.

The CFE Fund’s national Bank On initiative, with seed funding from JPMorgan Chase Foundation and multiple additional funders, supports local coalition and financial institution efforts to connect consumers to safe, affordable bank accounts.

Today, the CFE Fund is thrilled to release to our partners a preview of new findings from research on engaging unbanked people. This report, Making the Case for Banking Access: Talking to Unbanked People About Bank Accounts , explores the most effective messages to communicate with those who are unbanked about the value of safe accounts. Read more on this important work in the guest column at the end of this newsletter. In addition, the CFE Fund will hold a partner webinar on Wednesday, December 4 on the research and key findings; register for the webinar here

The CFE Fund also released a significant new resource for local coalitions: a Bank On coalition website template for their own local use. After hearing from coalitions that they were hungry for a b randed, uniform web presence, the CFE Fund designed and built a website template which is now available, at no cost, to any coalition who is interested . The CFE Fund piloted the template with   Bank On Milwaukee ,   Bank On Rubber City , and  Bank On Atlanta  – you can take a look now at their sites! If you have any questions about the process or the template, please email Kelsey Bradley , Associate. 

Finally, the CFE Fund partners with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to collect centralized account data through a national reporting platform for banks and credit unions with a Bank On certified account. The Bank On National Data Hub’s first pilot year of reporting demonstrated just how strong the demand is for safe, affordable, and functional Bank On accounts. Stay tuned for 2018 data and an accompanying report later this year! 

To learn more about Bank On, contact David Rothstein , Principal.
In its sixth year, the CFE Fund’s Summer Jobs Connect (SJC) initiative, supported generously from the beginning by the Citi Foundation, worked with municipal Summer Youth Employment Programs across 16 cities to embed financial education and banking access into their summer workforce programming.

This year, SJC connected over 40,000 young adults to direct deposit of their earnings, and further supported more than 120,000 participants with financial education on how to use bank and credit union accounts productively.

The CFE Fund convened over 60 program partners from SJC and other workforce integration grantees to share strategies for implementing financial empowerment and banking access into programming in New York City.  

To learn more about the Summer Jobs Connect initiative, contact I-Hsing Sun , Chief Program Officer.
With seed funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and additional support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the CFE Fund is working with Albuquerque, NM; Denver, CO; Nashville, TN; and Salt Lake City, UT on our Local Consumer Financial Protection Initiative . These partners are currently working with the CFE Fund to develop consumer complaint systems and build out offices of consumer financial protection within their local governments. 

Denver, Salt Lake City, and Nashville both recently launched their local consumer complaint systems and are continuing make progress enhancing the user interface, building referral processes and relationships with partner agencies, and exploring partnerships with organizations that can provide mediation services.

In August, the CFE Fund helped Albuquerque kick off their new initiative during a press conference with Mayor Tim Keller and meetings with an array of internal and external stakeholders.

To learn more about the Consumer Financial Protection Initiative, contact Kant Desai , Principal.
Guest Column:
Talking to the Unbanked About Banking Access
By Amy Jasper, RALLY
To many of us, having a bank account is just one of many realities of adult life – in the same category as paying taxes or filling your car up with gas. Those of us who have been living in the financial mainstream do a lot without a second thought and usually for free – paying bills or making purchases with the stroke of a pen, the swipe of a card, or a few clicks online; safely, usually automatically, depositing our income and then accessing it for free; and even creating regular and free savings transfers. However, as those of us in the banking access field know, messaging about the costs of not having a bank account do not strongly resonate with the unbanked.
With that challenge in mind, the CFE Fund engaged our strategic communications team at RALLY, in collaboration with market research firm PSB, to conduct a series of in-person focus groups followed by quantitative studies that allowed us to hear directly from unbanked people about their attitudes toward banks, bank accounts, and their financial habits – and then to use these insights to create research-informed messaging strategies that Bank On coalitions, financial counselors, and other partners across the country could use in their work to connect people to the financial mainstream.
What we learned surprised us, challenging a number of widely-held beliefs about banking access and underscoring the need for more nuanced messaging. While many in the field focus messaging on how a bank account is critical for financial stability, people who are unbanked feel they need to be financially stable before they get an account. Additionally, far from viewing a bank account as a critical personal asset in managing their finances, people without bank accounts cite painful and uncontrollable bank fees. And far from seeking to solve the problem of being unbanked, many highlight their pride in the ways they have pulled together to manage without an account.

However, despite these complex and often negative views about banks, we were heartened to see how significantly targeted messaging could move people’s (1) interest in, (2) favorability towards, and even (3) intent to open a bank account. This was surprisingly and especially true for those who had been previously banked but had closed their accounts – a group often considered least likely to be successfully moved. 
So how do we engage unbanked people more successfully around the authentic benefits of bank accounts? Our research revealed that the best approach is to communicate clearly about the fundamental benefits of bank accounts that will be useful for them today – in their current financial situation: no penalty fees in Bank On certified accounts, debit cards to make purchases, direct deposit, and fraud protection. It’s also best to highlight how bank accounts in the short term can help people save money, pay down debt, and build their credit to improve their immediate financial situations.
These and other findings are encouraging – and we look forward to continuing to assist the CFE Fund and their partners in deploying these lessons through specific communications tools in the next phase of our work. 
Read more about this research in the CFE Fund’s new brief, Making the Case for Banking Access: Talking to Unbanked People about Bank Accounts .
News from the CFE Coaliton
Boston Saves In the News
Boston's Office of Financial Empowerment has had a busy summer and fall, leading to the citywide launch of Boston Saves, our children's savings account program, which is providing 4,000 kindergartners at 80+ schools with a $50 savings account to launch planning for their futures (each year another class will be funded). 
Denver Financial Empowerment Center Impact Study at Warren Village
The Denver Office of Financial Empowerment & Protection conducted a recent small outcome study at one of Denver’s Financial Empowerment Centers, Warren Village, using 2017 and 2018 data to examine the client effects of having a financial coach specifically focused on housing outcomes. The study found that 30 percent more clients who successfully acquired permanent housing had a financial coach in their corner supporting them in their path to homeownership.

NYC Releases Updated Report: 1.04 Million Households in NYC are Unbanked or Underbanked
In October, the NYC DCWP released a  research brief  illustrating the updated number of unbanked and underbanked households in NYC and where they live. The brief shows that 354,100 households (11.2 percent) have no bank account and another 689,000 households (21.8 percent) have a bank account but use alternative financial products for some banking needs; these households are disproportionately in neighborhoods with higher rates of vulnerable residents and residents struggling in other areas of financial health.

New York City Launches the City's First Citywide Public Awareness Campaign for People with Disabilities
In October, the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) launched a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of free financial counseling tailored to people with disabilities and their families. EmpoweredNYC counselors have more than 100 hours of specialized training to help people with disabilities to manage their budgets, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, tackle Social Security Administration (SSA) overpayments, and transition to work.

New Video: #STLCollegeKids continues to grow
Founded by St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones’s Office of Financial Empowerment, College Kids has now opened accounts for over 13,500 children in St. Louis public and charter schools, with nearly $1 million saved—making it the second-largest municipal CSA, behind San Francisco.

San Antonio Issues RFP for Refund Anticipation Loan Alternative
The City of San Antonio and the San Antonio VITA Coalition issued a Request for Proposals in October 2019, seeking financial institution partners to provide a low-cost pro-consumer alternative to the high cost Refund Anticipation Loans offered by paid tax preparers. For cities or VITA coalitions interested in also offering a pro-consumer alternative loan for their VITA taxpayers, please contact Richard Keith at or 210-207-4647. 

SF OFE Launches ChexAdvisor As Part of Smart Money Coaching Program
In September, OFE’s financial coaching program--Smart Money Coaching--began using ChexAdvisor, a tool that allows a coach to review a client’s ChexSystems report in real-time, just as a coach helps clients review their credit report. 

Current Grant Opportunities
We're Hiring!
  • Technical Assistance Associate: The CFE Fund is seeking a talented and experienced Associate to provide guidance and support to local government administrations and their nonprofit partners, primarily focused on the Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) initiative. View posting here.
Newly Released Resources
Financial Empowerment "In the News"