Issue 13   |  March 2018
Letter from the President & CEO
The CFE Coalition's first meeting on March 20, 2008. 

On our tenth anniversary as a field, a bit of nostalgia is unavoidable. Ten years ago, six city representatives gathered around the dining room table at Gracie Mansion, the official New York City mayoral residence, and started sharing notes. Municipalities had to do something major about family financial stability, and these cities were each in their own way giving it a serious try. Ten years later, we're celebrating a movement that's already invested tens of millions of dollars in multiple programs in well over 50 cities across the hemisphere.

The Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition began in 2008, right at the beginning of the recession. For policymakers, one of the top lessons learned from the financial crisis was the public interest in the financial stability of individuals and households. Financial instability started taking down families, homes, neighborhoods, and cities. No longer merely a "low income problem", no longer "just a nonprofit thing," financial instability has almost become the American norm:

  • Nearly half of households in this country don't have the assets to survive three months without their income and live above the federal poverty rate (43%).
  • Almost 1-in-5 households either have zero wealth, or "negative net worth" (debts greater than their assets) (17%).
  • Almost 25% of US consumers are so significantly behind that they have at least one debt in collections.
  • 65 million adults in the US are un- or underbanked, relying on costly alternative financial services outside of the financial mainstream for routine financial transactions (such as check cashers, payday lenders, and pawn shops).
City leaders are paying attention to this work for a number of reasons. First, local government uniquely must address problems of the magnitude of financial insecurity. Beyond statistics in a report, for cities, those are people in need - and the chorus of public accountability requires high quality, large scale solutions. In addition, cities are paying attention because they can make a difference. Cities are a trusted voice amidst a sea of scams and predatory actors; they have the power to regulate businesses and products in the consumer financial marketplace; they control flows of social services and public expenditures; and they can leverage programming structures to integrate financial empowerment strategies.  

The CFE Fund is proud to support the work of so many dozens of city leaders and their partners, and to seed the continued growth of the municipal financial empowerment field. And with all this momentum and demand, this month we launch our CityStart initiative, which helps new city leaders to convene stakeholders to identify financial empowerment priorities and then create actionable plans to further these efforts. We're accepting new applications now. And read below to see other significant expansions in key financial empowerment programs: Bank On and Summer Jobs Connect, Financial Empowerment Centers, Consumer Financial Protection offices, and more. 

A lot has happened in ten years. But really, we're just getting started!

Jonathan Mintz

Apply Now: CityStart

Want help to bring financial empowerment work to your city? The CFE Fund is now accepting proposals  from city governments looking for assistance in developing local financial empowerment strategies and programs under its CityStart initiative.

The CFE Fund's CityStart initiative, with seed support from JPMorgan Chase & Co., offers mayors and their administrations dedicated assistance through a structured approach to identify their financial empowerment goals, convene key local stakeholders for sustainable success, develop clear strategies, and ultimately craft an actionable blueprint rooted in local insights and opportunities. The CityStart initiative stems from the CFE Fund's extensive work with local government leaders in over 50 cities, and connects critical on-the-ground insights about the impact of financial instability on families, communities, and municipal budgets with tangible, measurable, and sustainable municipal strategies to improve families' financial lives.

The CFE Fund will select up to four cities for the current opportunity for an intensive 6-9 month technical assistance engagement partnership and a $20,000 planning grant. Selected cities, working with the CFE Fund, will host a municipal financial empowerment "boot camp" event that brings together key local constituencies, including leaders from city agencies, mayoral leadership, local funders, community organization partners, and financial institution representatives. Following the boot camp, the CFE Fund will work with each city to craft an actionable municipal financial empowerment implementation blueprint. Click here to apply. Applications are due   April 20, 2018.

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

Consumer Financial Protection Initiative

Earlier this month, the CFE Fund joined Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver city officials in launching their new Consumer Financial Protection Initiative to strengthen consumer rights and protect residents from predatory financial practices. 

Denver, CO is one of four cities which the CFE Fund has been working with, with seed support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to build a local consumer financial protection division within their local government. Denver's initiative will focus on ways the city can combat elder financial abuse, notario fraud, wage theft, predatory lending and predatory housing practices. The city has also received funding for the effort from the Colorado Attorney General's Office. To date, Denver completed a preliminary needs and resource assessment, as well as identified key stakeholder groups. In 2018, Denver will focus on the implementation of a central hub for consumer financial complaints that will connect consumers to the various agencies that can resolve complaints or provide consumers with other resources as well as collect data to inform efforts moving forward.

Other Consumer Financial Protection Initiative partner cities include Boston, MA; Nashville, TN; and Salt Lake City, UT.

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

Financial Empowerment Centers Update
In 2017, professional counselors at Financial Empowerment Centers (FECs) in Nashville and Philadelphia tested an innovative approach to defining, discussing, and tracking their clients' efforts to build savings, using new savings outcomes. Last month, with the support of Capital One, the CFE Fund convened field experts to discuss the results from this two-city pilot to better understand how FEC clients are saving and ultimately inform new savings indicators for financial counseling success.

Earlier this month, the CFE Fund also announced a generous investment of $1 million from Wells Fargo, joining Bloomberg Philanthropies and others to support the replication of the FEC model in 50 cities under the  FEC Public platform. These funds will enable the CFE Fund and its municipal partners to reach more residents with high-quality, one-on-one financial counseling as a free public service.

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

The CFE Fund's Bank On Fellowship program, also supported by Wells Fargo, is in full swing. The CFE Fund is providing funding and in-kind technical assistance to five Bank On Coalition fellows to support full-time coalition leadership. In recent months, Bank On Fellows have coordinated and facilitated successful banker roundtables with financial institutions in the Suncoast region of Florida; Akron, Ohio; Houston, Texas; and New Haven, Connecticut. 

Bank On Houston's Banker's Roundtable featuring representatives from (L-R) Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank On Fellow Yvonne Green 

These roundtables help local coalitions highlight the importance of Bank On account certification and connect with local and regional financial institution representatives and regulators, and are a critical part of launching or reinvigorating coalition operations. In addition, Bank On Fellows have been facilitating validation of new Bank On certified accounts; to learn more about the Bank On certification process, click here.

Earlier this month, the CFE Fund released the latest chapter of the Bank On Coalition Playbook: Launching or Relaunching a Bank On Coalition, which provides guidance for new or reinvigorated coalitions as they look to launch or relaunch their Bank On efforts.

Additionally, with generous support from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and others, the CFE Fund is offering funding opportunities to support local Bank On coalitions. Applications are now being accepted on a rolling basis for the CFE Fund's Bank On Capacity Grant Fund, which offers grants of up to $10,000 to assist Bank On coalitions in expanding banking access locally; the Bank On Renewal Capacity Grant Fund, offering up to $20,000 for current and past Bank On Capacity Grant recipients; and the Bank On Innovation Grant Fund, for grants of up to $50,000 to support the development of replicable, large-scale programs that connect underserved populations to certified accounts.  Click here to apply!

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

Summer Jobs Connect Update

Summer Jobs Connect (SJC) works with cities to enhance municipally-led Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEPs) by integrating structural linkages to safe and appropriate banking products, services, and education. Beyond a seasonal paycheck, SJC positions early job experiences as entry points for lifelong success in the financial mainstream.

With generous seed support from Citi Foundation, SJC has now spread to 16 cities across the country. For Summer 2018, the CFE Fund welcomes three additional Summer Jobs Connect city partners: Detroit, MI; Nashville, TN; and San Jose, CA.

Stay tuned! This summer, the CFE Fund's #SummerJobsConnect Twitter campaign will highlight voices of youth participants about the impact of their summer job and money management and banking access lessons. Watch the video below to see the highlights from last summer.

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


10 Years of Magic: The CFE Coalition

By CFE Coalition Co-Chairs 
Jo s é  Cisneros, Treasurer, City and County of San Francisco, and 
William Porro, Assistant Director, City of Miami
This month marks an important milestone in our work together - a decade nurturing financial empowerment from an idea, to a movement, to a field. Ten years ago, the two of us, along with representatives from New York, San Antonio, Savannah, and Seattle became the founding members of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition (CFE Coalition). Each of our cities' administrators and elected officials had already begun to use the power and position of our platform in city government to help our residents build financial stability, but this work was uncharted territory and many of us were looking for national partners to help build local capacity. The six of us came together to share an insider perspective on what each was doing. It was 2008, just at the start of the recession - and we were motivated by the reality that we couldn't just talk, but needed to act with a sense of urgency to take concrete steps towards protecting and empowering our neighbors and our communities. That first day planted seeds that blossomed into sustained and meaningful investments in local programs serving people in financial instability, as well as a vibrant field of over 50 cities investing in financial empowerment.

Since its inception, the Coalition has purposefully limited its membership to city governments making significant investments to empower residents. This built a strong cohort of social intrapreneurs with a shared commitment to creativity, candor, and action. The Coalition is a forum for members to swap the hard-won lessons and insights that come from experience designing, testing, scaling, and sustaining initiatives that have a direct impact on people, particularly low-income communities, immigrants and communities of color facing systemic challenges. In addition to defining and sharing best practices, Coalition meetings offer a place where visiting senior-level officials, from Mayors to leaders of federal agencies, come not to make speeches but to consult municipal leaders making a difference on the ground in cities across America.

Coalition members share and borrow ideas, and compare notes on what has worked - and what has not - in their cities, all from the unique vantage point of local government that is deeply involved in this work. Each benefits from "stealing" and then localizing programmatic or policy efforts to benefit their own cities. As examples, programs like Bank On, Children's Savings Accounts, and Financial Empowerment Networks were all expanded through, and began replicating from, these convenings. In fact, members and non-members' interest in replicating what was being demonstrated by leading cities spurred these convenings, as well as the creation of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund over 5 years ago to build capacity and expand the field beyond the Coalition. 

In the past decade, the municipal financial empowerment movement has grown from 6 cities gathered around one table, to more than 50 cities across the country that are investing in a range of financial empowerment efforts. We are proud of the catalyzing role of the Coalition over the past decade and look forward to the next decade of innovation and growth of the financial empowerment field.

News from the CFE Coalition
Bank On Boston Grows During Tax Time
The Boston Office of Financial Empowerment's Bank On Boston is piloting remote bank account opening during tax time . The City of Boston Credit Union is providing remote account opening at one of the city's busiest tax sites; they are learning from this best practice to inform the work of other Bank On Boston partners.

Mayor Garcetti's 2018 Free Tax Prep Campaign to Support Low-to-Moderate Income Working Families
Launched last month, Los Angeles' 2018  Free Tax Prep Los Angeles campaign provides families with free tax preparation services and helps them claim tax credits up to $9,000. All 16 of the City's FamilySource Centers will be open throughout the tax season to assist families with claiming their refunds.

New York Advocates to Protect Residents Struggling with Income Volatility
New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) released a Request For Information to better understand the extent that income volatility impacts New York City workers, consumers and businesses, and how DCA might support these New Yorkers; responses are still being accepted. In addition, DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas wrote an op-ed for The Hill, highlighting the need for policymaking and regulatory oversight in the consumer financial services industry.

Philadelphia Relaunches Bank On
On April 25, the City of Philadelphia's Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity will relaunch Bank On Philadelphia.

St. Louis Takes on Income Volatility
The City of St. Louis Treasurer's Office of Financial Empowerment has partnered with the Aspen Institute to explore  ways to solve income volatility at the local level.

Updates on San Francisco's Kindergarten to College
The San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment recently released a brief on Kindergarten to College that highlights the program's progress reaching low-income families and families of color.

The CFE Fund is Hiring!
The CFE Fund is seeking a talented and experienced Database Associate to support data collection and management for the Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) Initiative.  View the job description here. 

Financial Empowerment "In The News"