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News #1

This is the first of a quarterly newsletter that the Connecticut Asset Building Collaborative will be sharing with members, providing updates about programs, events and policy issues.

How are we doing in Connecticut? Many of you may have seen the Assets and Opportunity Scorecard for Connecticut. While we should be proud of our state's policy environment - we rank second in the country when it comes to adopting policies that help low and moderate families build assets, unfortunately those policies do not seem to have translated into practice - we rank only 23rd when it comes to actual outcomes. We remain one of the most unequal states in the nation, with people of color faring particularly badly, with low wages, low rates of home ownership, and high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Our challenge is to understand what services, tools and products can help people build assets, and how we can advocate for broader structural changes to enable an environment that promotes asset-building.

CT ABC Peer Learning Events: This year we have organized two, well-attended peer learning events. At our January event Jonathan Morduch of NYU presented his ground-breaking 'financial diaries' research. He described how low and moderate income families experience 'spikes and dips' in income, and need tools and products to help them not only build assets for the long term, but also to save for the short and medium term to weather the dips. See more here about his work. Then, at our February event, our colleagues from CAHS along with guests from CT Jumpstart, the CT Alliance for for Basic Human Needs (CABHN) and AARP discussed the legislative process and specific policy proposals. Stay tuned for news about our next peer learning session, likely to take place during April.

Tax time isn't over yet! We know that tax time is crucially important for many poor families given the injection of cash they can get from the EITC. Families earning less than $62,000 can file their taxes for free at VITA sites all over Connecticut. See here for a list of VITA sites statewide.

Key policy ideas for asset building: brief recently released by the Casey Foundation recommends four key federal policy changes to help families develop savings habits and build financial stability. These include i) improving access to myRA accounts, designed to provide low-wage workers who may not have employer provided retirement plans; ii) raising asset limits for public benefit programs; iii) expanding home ownership support programs such as HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency Program, and iv) providing all children, at birth, with a seeded savings account. The brief also makes state-level recommendations, including i) curb predatory lending (CT is already a leader in this regard); ii) open 529 College Savings accounts for all children (CT is beginning to make this a reality), and iii) permit prize-linked savings (CT has done this!). CT is already doing well when it comes to state-level policy, as we know. Now we just need to ensure that those policies lead to real results!

Helpful links and list serves: If you don't already have enough information flooding into your inbox (or perhaps you just want to make sure that what comes in is worth reading), consider signing up for updates from one or all of the following. They all provide succinct and timely information, directly relevant to our asset building work. Click on the links to find out more and sign up!

  • The Assets and Opportunity network, associated with the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) analyzes and shares data and stories from practitioners to raise awareness of asset-building issues and improve programs and policies that help low- and moderate-income families build financial security.
  • Access to Financial Security for all is associated with the national research and action institute, PolicyLink, and seeks to advance equity by addressing wealth inequality, the racial wealth gap, and family financial security for all.
  • If you sign up for the weekly FaIV, associated with the Financial Access Initiative, you'll get a tidy email once a week with links to five particularly interesting stories relevant to asset-building.

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