Issue 14   |  August 2018
Letter from the President & CEO
Dear colleagues,

Sadly, the people and programs we in the municipal financial empowerment field have committed ourselves to champion find themselves in political cross hairs. The question I've been asking myself during this time of federal retrenchment is whether we're up to it - have we as a field generated enough momentum to weather these new political challenges?  

In thinking about whether we are programmatically up for the challenge, 4 factors make me optimistic: the profusion of programs working to build people's financial stability, especially as local government gets involved; the rise of meaningful institutional partnerships; the increasingly professional nature of this work; and financial empowerment's foray into infrastructure to under-gird all of this.

Community organizations have been battling financial insecurity and its many consequences for decades. From CFE's vantage point, the engagement over the last 10 years by local government has brought a powerful new sector to the mix, both on its own and for partnerships with community organizations and others. Local government has come to realize that financial empowerment investments must be made for people to succeed, and so has been both funding and providing financial empowerment programming across the country - and doing so at scale. 

A second sign of reliable progress is institutional partnerships. Community organizations and local governments have started working together deliberately through ongoing, publicly-funded work. There is also a growing culture of powerful financial institution partnerships, beyond philanthropic dollars. Financial institutions are partnering on consumer services: in the banking access field, financial institutions of all sizes have partnered to catapult Bank On work into a national consensus around making welcoming and appropriate accounts available on branch shelves and in programming sites across cities. Bank On certified accounts are already available in more than 24,800 branches across the country. 
A third beacon of hope is the rising tide of professionalization of financial empowerment. Ten years ago, the norm to address financial instability was literacy-based, focusing on teaching people but not directly helping them. But as the field grows and attracts public funding, the turning point has been the professionalization of the work. The financial empowerment field is only able to attract and sustain public dollars when there's real training, quality control, and quantifiable and meaningful success. Stakeholders, from city governments to nonprofits to philanthropic partners, have come to expect quantifiable impact data from their investments. And with this larger professionalization of the field comes stronger programmatic growth and cross-sector partnerships.

Finally, financial empowerment partners have been increasingly focused on building the infrastructure of this field - investing in strategies and approaches that embed it for long term sustainability. City governments are weaving financial empowerment programs into the way an array of public services are delivered, making them truly an infrastructural part of the social service process. And ongoing efforts to measure the mutual benefits of these integrations is key for this field to sustain its new place in the funded service array.

The people and programs we care so much about face serious threats and challenging times. And so of course our work continues and redoubles. But I think our focus is to move forward, not to fall back and retrench. Together, I think we've built a field that is up to the challenge, that has generated the momentum to weather the future. 

Thank you for your partnership,

Jonathan Mintz

The CFE Fund today announced
  the selection of ten cities to receive a CityStart planning grant to kick-start local municipal financial empowerment efforts. The CFE Fund's CityStart initiative, generously supported by JPMorgan Chase and others, offers mayors and their administrations a structured approach to identify financial empowerment goals, convene stakeholders for sustainable success, develop actionable strategies, and ultimately craft an actionable blueprint rooted in local insights and opportunities. Each city will receive an intensive 6-9 month technical assistance engagement partnership, along with a $20,000 planning grant. Selected cities are: Albuquerque, NM; Anchorage, AK: Dallas, TX; Durham, NC; El Paso, TX; Fort Worth, TX; Portland, OR; Rochester, NY; Saint Paul, MN; and Tulsa, OK.

If you have any questions about CityStart, please contact Tamara Lindsay , Principal.

Under the national FEC Public platform, the Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) model recently celebrated working with more than 82,000 clients, helping them r educe debt by more than $100 million, and increasing savings by $10 million.

In partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Wells Fargo, The JPB Foundation, and others, the CFE Fund is now working to spread FEC replication nationally, supporting cities and counties across the country to provide this critical and impactful anti-poverty tool as a standard public service. The CFE Fund is now accepting applications for a 2018 FEC Planning Cohort of up to 15 local governments looking to work to bring the FEC model of free, professional, one-on-one financial counseling/coaching to their residents. Local governments can apply now through August 20; please share with your networks.

To learn more about FEC Public, contact Tamara Lindsay, Principal.

The number of bank and credit union accounts certified as meeting the Bank On National Account Standards continues to grow; now with 17 accounts available at over 24,800 branches nationwide. Available accounts and their locations are listed on the Bank On coalition map.

The CFE Fund is excited to release the latest and 10th chapter of the Bank On Coalition PlaybookProgrammatic Banking Access Integration Best Practices. This chapter outlines the role that Bank On coalitions play in helping develop banking access program integrations.

To learn more about Bank On, please contact  Paige Diner or  David Rothstein on the CFE Fund's Bank On team.

Now in the  Summer Jobs Connect (SJC) initiative's fifth year, generously funded by the Citi Foundation, the CFE Fund is working with 16 city governments through their local Summer Youth Employment Program partners to provide summer jobs to low income residents, as well as connect them to appropriate bank and credit union products and meaningful financial education.
The CFE Fund is currently engaging the over 110,000 SJC participants through a national social media campaign that encourages them to share and reflect on their experiences and the impact their summer job and financial empowerment experience has on them. So far, over 750 users have Tweeted over 1,5000 times using #SummerJobsConnect, with an additional 1,500 email responses from participants across the country. Highlights include: 

To learn more about the Summer Jobs Connect initiative, contact I-Hsing Sun, Chief Program Officer.

Consumer Financial Protection Initiative
This Spring, Nashville, TN and Salt Lake City, UT both launched their consumer financial protection initiatives, strengthening their ability to protect consumers from unfair and predatory business practices and create a fairer marketplace, and joining Denver, CO, who previously announced theirs in March.

Thanks to generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the CFE Fund's engagement with these cities supported their efforts to refine consumer protection goals, strategies, and implementation plans, as well as to foster external support from critical local and state stakeholders, including mayoral staff, city attorneys, business licensing staff, state attorneys general, and community leaders.

Nashville's initiative will focus on building out a consumer complaint and resolution system leveraging its innovative hubNashville portal, developing formalized enforcement partnerships with state consumer protection agencies, and improving consumer engagement and education through its financial inclusion partners.

Salt Lake City's initiative will build a new consumer complaint intake and resolution system to handle a broader set of consumer priorities, including towing and booting companies, payday lenders, and construction contractors. In addition, they are examining existing local statutes to provide enhanced investigation and enforcement capabilities. 

To learn more about the Consumer Financial Protection Initiative, contact Kant Desai, Principal .


Building a Municipal Financial Empowerment Ethos: How Nashville's Financial Empowerment Center Catalyzed a Broader Movement

By Mayor David Briley, Nashville,Tennessee
What can a city do to help its citizens start catching up after they fall behind financially? Quite a lot, as the City of Nashville has discovered. 

Since 2013 the city, in partnership with the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), has provided professional financial counseling as a free public service. The Nashville Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) infused the city with a data-driven, partnership-focused program that continues to deliver exceptional financial counseling services to all Nashvillians. The FEC has been a critical part of our work to advance the economic lives of thousands of Nashvillians and is the cornerstone of our financial inclusion programs.

The results have been powerful. The program has reduced residents' debt by over $6.8 million and increased their savings by nearly $1 million.

The success of the FEC provided Nashville with a platform to expand our financial inclusion policies and programs. By tracking client data and stories, we found opportunities to leverage the success of financial counseling to create more banking access through Bank On Music City, which helps residents sign up for bank accounts; provide financial capability training to summer interns participating in Metro's Opportunity NOW initiative, and implement the Opportunity Loan, a small-dollar loan alternative program in partnership with a local credit union.

The FEC also inspired us to broaden our thinking of what financial inclusion means, including in seemingly unrelated areas like our criminal justice system. We implemented a recommendation from our Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee to pilot a text message reminder service for court appearances. The Mayor's Office worked with our criminal justice stakeholders to implement the pilot and reduce failures to appear, which often lead to unnecessary criminal court fines, fees, and even jail time. These fines and fees can have a snowball effect--compounding other financial hardships-and make it harder for other policies and programs designed to improve financial security to succeed.

Nashville is now seen as an expert city in the financial empowerment field, and we will continue our leadership by implementing new and innovative strategies to increase the financial stability of all Nashvillians. We've heard far too many tragic stories of fraudulent, predatory, and deceptive business practices targeting our most vulnerable residents and creating more instability in their lives.

In response, we are working with CFE Fund to develop and implement a local consumer financial protection initiative with the goal of creating a more fair and transparent marketplace for Nashville consumers. Supporting businesses that play by the rules and going after the bad actors will lead to a better economy for all.

Nashville's story demonstrates how financial empowerment can be more than a buzzword or a single program. It can be an ethos that informs everything we do. The City of Nashville will continue to do its part to ensure our city's economy is inclusive to all, providing an opportunity for all residents to thrive - which will make our community even stronger.

News from the CFE Coalition
Bank On San Francisco Relaunches!
On June 25th, Treasurer José Cisneros hosted a relaunch event for the Bank On San Francisco program, with more than 70 nonprofits, city agencies, banks and credit unions, funders, and community leaders in attendance. San Francisco is are excited to renew their commitment to financial access and equity through the next generation of safe, affordable bank accounts, strong community partnerships, and a push for consumer justice in banking policies and practices. 

Boston Celebrates and Leverages America Saves Week
Boston's Office of Financial Empowerment used America Saves, a national campaign that promotes good savings behavior, to embed its financial education message in activities open to Boston residents, including free tax preparation, a Boston Builds Credit workshop, assistance with opening safe and non-predatory bank account (supported by Bank On Boston), and outreach to Uber/Lyft drivers.

NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Serves its 50,000th Client at the Financial Empowerment Centers
This summer, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment has helped 50,000 New Yorkers improve their financial health and reduce their debt by $54.9 million and increase their savings by $4.4 million.

Philadelphia Mayor's Task Force on Evictions Releases Recommendations
The Philadelphia Mayor's Taskforce on Eviction Prevention and Response released a new report with seventeen recommendations to reduce the number of evictions and illegal evictions, including a mediation process.

San Francisco Financial Justice Project Named Top Innovations in American Government
The Harvard Kennedy School announced that the San Francisco Financial Justice Project is one of seven finalists for the Innovation in American Government Award. Since its inception, the award has received over 27,000 applications and recognized nearly 500 government initiatives.

Current Grant Opportunities
Financial Empowerment Center 2018 Planning Cohort
Local governments across the country can apply now to be part of the 2018 Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) Planning Cohort. The CFE Fund is now accepting applications for the 2018 FEC Planning Cohort of up to 15 local governments looking to work to bring the FEC model of free, professional, one-on-one financial counseling/coaching to their residents. Selected local government partners will receive up to $20,000 and significant technical assistance for 6-12 months to design and prepare for the launch of a FEC. The CFE Fund will invite successful planning cohort grantees to apply for an implementation matching grant at the conclusion of this planning period. For more information, read these Frequently Asked Questions and their answers.

Newly Released Resources
New Bank On Coalition Playbook Chapter
Chapter 10: Programmatic Banking Access Integration Best Practices of the Bank On Coalition Playbook outlines the role that Bank On coalitions play in helping develop banking access program integrations.

The CFE Fund is Hiring!
The CFE Fund is hiring for an Associate to support financial counseling work in cities across the country! View the job description here.

Financial Empowerment "In The News"