Community Bulletin: Uplifting Undeserved Communities, Combating Stigma and Plans for 2020

From the Guest Editor

Dear Community Partners and Friends,

It’s hard to believe that my first few months at Prosperity Now are behind me! It has certainly been a productive and meaningful time—both in familiarizing myself with all the great work we do and with the dedicated Prosperity Now staff. I am excited to share with you what I have learned so far, as well as some of my hopes for the future.

I have a deep and personal connection to this work. One of my vivid childhood memories is of my mother looking out the window of our small house in one of the poorest neighborhoods in North Minneapolis. Outside, in the dead of winter, men were standing around a backhoe digging up the street to turn off our gas main. That night my mother and her five children spent the coldest night of the year in the main room upstairs under heavy blankets in front of a small electric heater.

We clung to the bottom of the safety net; we were always living on the edge. We survived with some support from my grandparents and other relatives, rummage sales for clothes and furniture, food stamps and free and reduced lunch at school.

I was fortunate that my mother focused on my education and taught me that anything is possible with a positive mental attitude. I was also fortunate to have people in my life who made a big difference. I finished college, went to graduate school, and now use my skills, talents and abilities to make a difference for others.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve as the President and CEO of Prosperity Now, an organization dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our country has a clear path to financial stability, wealth and prosperity. Over the past few months, I have worked with and listened to our Leadership Team, Board and staff to chart our course forward. I have also attended a number of convenings in the field, learning and listening from people on the ground doing this work.

In my interactions with organizations in the field, I know there is a deep interest in the future of the organization under my leadership. I have also learned that it is our community partners and friends who are making this work happen on the ground. The power of our network is strong and we have a good foundation to build a successful movement of financial inclusion for low and moderate income people.

I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with a glimpse of my plans for Prosperity Now over the next few months. This includes:

  • Assessment of the current state of the organization—Now-1st quarter of 2020:
  • Realign the organization for impact—1st and 2nd quarter of 2020:
  • Refine the strategic plan—2nd quarter of 2020-3rd quarter 2020:
  • Gain Board approval of strategic plan—4th quarter 2020:
  • Implement new strategic framework externally—1st quarter 2021:

Our theme is “nothing about us without us”. Therefore, we want to ensure that our Community partners and friends play an integral role in the development of our strategic refinement. I am asking for your help in providing your thought leadership, feedback and input in the strategic refinement process. The focus of this work is to improve Prosperity Now’s reach, scale and impact for low-and-moderate income people. Please take the time to respond to our inquiries, surveys and focus groups that will occur in the second and third quarters of 2020.

We look forward to strengthening our work together by keeping our eye on the prize to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to prosper.

With great appreciation,

Gary Cunningham

And if you have any items you’d like to see featured in future Community Bulletins, share them with us at Community@prosperitynow.org

Highlights

CDFI of the Tohono O’odham Nation Protects Members from Undue Financial Burden

The Community Development Financial Institution of the Tohono O’odham Nation (CDFI TON) fully understands that Native communities have unique financial and economic needs, including exclusion from mainstream financial services like banking, credit and loans. In Arizona, where CDFI TON is located just outside Tucson in Sells, there are very few government or nonprofit services that target Tohono O’odham Nation directly, according to their CEO Stanley Gilmore Ruiz. The Nation, after seeing the economic distresses of the community, including high unemployment, few microbusinesses and lack of economic mobility, opened CDFI TON in 2004. Since then, they have been serving 33,000 Tohono O’odham Nation members by extending business, personal, education, auto and other loans and credit to applicants.

In addition to its lending services, CDFI TON provides financial education and business support, especially to young adults, as well as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).  They started VITA services after realizing how many Nation members were seeing paid tax preparers and paying high costs in return for refund loans, which many wanted to access to participate in the Nation’s rodeo and fair that takes place during the tax season. Since its introduction, CDFI TON has been able to increase their VITA returns by 200 every year. This past tax season, they did over 900 tax returns and expect to reach 1100 next year due to the introduction of their own refund loan product.

One of the most impactful services CDFI TON provides to Nation members is transferring of predatory loan products to the CDFI. CDFI TON takes on the predatory loans Nation members often have due to financial need, relieve that hardship on their clients, and pay out the loan. This prevents clients from paying extremely high interest rates, which can be up to 204% for car-title lending.

Mr. Gilmore Ruiz began his career in the steel industry and brings his understanding of business and the importance of business loans to his role working with CDFI TON clients. But, what keeps him motivated every day is the knowledge that he and CDFI TON are making a difference in the lives of Nation members by providing them with the relief of their financial stresses.

National Disability Institute Launches the Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development

National Disability Institute’s Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development officially launched this summer to improve the financial health and well-being of low- and moderate-income (LMI) individuals with disabilities and their families by increasing awareness and usage of the opportunities and resources available under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). People with disabilities make up a significant part of the LMI population, yet the specific needs of this sizable subpopulation are often overlooked in CRA opportunities. The Center’s activities began with a five-part webinar series that featured Center staff, federal regulators and national experts on inclusive community development.

The Center creates an opportunity to reexamine the approaches, roles and responsibilities of regulated financial institutions to proactively address the financial access and economic opportunity needs of people with disabilities through CRA. People with disabilities make up a significant part of the LMI population, yet the specific needs of this sizable subpopulation are often overlooked. In 2018, more than one quarter (27 percent) of working-age people with disabilities were living below the poverty level, over twice the rate of those without disabilities, and people with disabilities often are excluded from the labor market and economic opportunities.

To learn more about the Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development and its work, visit www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/disability-inclusive-community-development/.

If you have questions about the new Center and how to become involved, send an email to ask@ndi-inc.org.

Kentucky’s Frontier Housing Takes the Stigma out of Manufactured Housing

Frontier Housing is one of the largest builders of affordable homes in eastern Kentucky. In addition to building homes, they also provide services such as free financial counseling, mortgage lending options, home repair and rehabilitation and more. One unique aspect of their work is their energy efficient manufactured and stick-built homes. October was Manufactured Housing Anti-Stigma month, and Frontier Housing is a strong example of why manufactured homes can be a pathway to creating financial stability. 

Frontier Housing believes that manufactured homes are an affordable homeownership option when done right. Frontier Housing partners with Next Step and SmartMH to create manufactured homes that are modern and energy efficient. This enables families to put more money towards pressing needs such as groceries, health care and education. Families who purchase homes through this program also qualify for SmartMH loans, which provides assistance for down payments, utility costs, and offers better loan rates. More importantly, these homes are built on permanent foundations. This means that residents are not at risk of being displaced because the land on which the homes are built cannot be sold. 

The wide array of homeownership services, education and counseling is what makes Frontier Housing unique. These services empower the residents of Kentucky and offers a pathway to create stability in their life. Their work has lifted families out of poverty and created jobs. An experience that exemplifies this is that of a client who sought out assistance from Frontier Housing at a time when she and her family were living in a camper. Frontier Housing built her an affordable home which created a safe and secure environment for herself and family. That client went on to work for Frontier Housing, and her child went on to attend college. There are many more stories just like this, and it is these meaningful experiences that drive the team at Frontier Housing to do this work.  

To learn more about the opportunities manufactured housing can offer, read our latest blog here. Stay up to date on the latest affordable homeownership and manufactured housing news by joining the Affordable Homeownership and I’M HOME Network

Resources from Across the Community

Your Money, Your Goals: Focus on Native Communities | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
This Your Money, Your Goals companion guide provides tools and information on various financial topics tailored for Native communities.

Hispanic-White Racial Wealth Gap Infographic | Black-White Racial Wealth Gap Infographic | Asset Building Policy Network
These infographics analyze the income and wealth disparities between Black, Hispanic and White households. It shares strategies to address these disparities through savings, education and more.

Financial Well-being by State | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
This report shares state-by-state comparisons of financial wellbeing scores.

When A Job Isn’t Enough: Employee Financial Wellness and the Role of Philanthropy | Asset Funders Network
This brief describes the ways employers can offer Employee Financial Wellness Programs to promote financial well-being of workers.

The State of Working Connecticut | Connecticut Voices for Children
The data shared in this report demonstrates the growing racial wealth divide in Connecticut and the unequal inability to recover since the 2007 Great Recession.

On the Frontlines | Prosperity Now
This report showcases insights, experiences, and lessons learned from five financial coaching programs.

Opportunities and Events

Opportunities

Prepare + Prosper is recruiting over 400 volunteers for the 2020 tax season. Positions include tax preparer, intake specialist and financial advocates. To learn more and get involved click here.

Economic Opportunity Challenge is awarding $10 million to scale a data driven solution aimed at expanding economic opportunity for low-income individuals and families in the U.S. Register by January 28, 2020. Applications are due by February 18, 2020. Learn more here

Jobs

HUD Certified Housing Counselor | Hispanic Unity of Florida | Hollywood, FL

Workforce Development Job Placement Coach | Hispanic Unity of Florida | Hollywood, FL

Events

Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap: A Life Cycle Approach | Philanthropy New York | New York, NY | December 3, 2019

2019 Solutions for Affordable Housing | National Housing Conference | Washington, D.C. | December 3-4, 2019

Save the Date: Puget Sound: Creating Solutions Together for Racial Wealth Equity | Asset Funders Network | December 13, 2019

Webinar: Reaching Community Members with Sustained Debt Earlier | Prosperity Now | December 3, 2019

Webinar: Children’s Savings Account Learning Series | Prosperity Now | December 17, 2019

Webinar: Financial Coaching Network Peer Bi-Monthly Call |Prosperity Now| December, 2019

Portland NeighborWorks Training Institute | NeighborWorks | Portland, OR | December 9-12, 2019

Webinar: Local Credit Counseling Agency Innovation | Prosperity Now | January 16, 2020

Save the Date: Credit Building Symposium | Credit Builders Alliance | Washington D.C. | June 17 – 19, 2020

Save the Date: National Urban League Conference | National Urban League | Houston, TX | August 5 – 8, 2020

Save the Date: The 2020 Prosperity Summit | Prosperity Now | National Harbor, MD | September 30 – October 2, 2020

Policy Updates

Asset Limits

Supplemental Income Restoration Act, S 2753, was introduced into the U.S. Senate. This bill would increase the asset limits for recipients of supplemental income. Under the current law, which has not changed since 1989, individuals cannot have more than $2,000 and couples cannot have more than $3,000 in assets. S 2753 would increase that cap to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for couples. Learn more here.

Financial Empowerment Funds (CFEF)

The California Governor signed SB 455 into law. This bill created the California Financial Empowerment Fund (CFEF) which will, until January 1 2025, allocate $4 million to support California nonprofit organizations providing financial education and financial empowerment resources to residents of California.

Manufactured Housing

An expanded version of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Manufactured Housing Modernization Act of 2019, S 1804, was included in one of the U.S. Senate’s FY2020 Appropriations bills. The Modernization Act ensures that HUD supports state and local governments that want to develop manufactured homes as an affordable housing option and apply for federal funding to construct and repair them. Learn more here.

Children’s Savings Accounts

Illinois signed HB2237 into law, which will open 529 college savings accounts with a $50 seed deposit for every child born in Illinois after December 31, 2020.

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