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News #2

June 3, 2016


Welcome to the second Connecticut Asset Building Collaborative newsletter. Read on for news about asset building in the nation and the state! 

Opportunities to Learn

CT ABC Peer Learning Event coming up!

Remember to register for the next peer learning event! On Thursday June 9th at 9:30am, Brett Theodos from the Urban Institute will present about his research on financial coaching programs. He’ll be joining us remotely by webinar, and you can either join us in New Haven (United Way’s Community Room) to watch the webinar together (and share breakfast and a discussion after the webinar), or watch from your own computer. See more information or register at the CT Asset Building Collaborative website.

Financial Empowerment Training for Social Service Agencies

UConn Extension will provide financial empowerment training in June for social service agency staff, using the highly regarded Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's “Your Money, Your Goals” Financial Empowerment Toolkit. The training is aimed at frontline social service agency staff, who are in a unique position to help people as they navigate complex and sometimes overwhelming financial difficulties. The toolkit provides a comprehensive guide, covering topics like budgeting daily expenses, managing debt, and avoiding financial pitfalls. The training will be held on Tuesday, June 7th at the New Haven County Extension Center at 305 Skiff Street in North Haven and Wednesday, June 15th at the Middlesex County Extension Center at 1066 Saybrook Road in Haddam. For more information contact Faye Griffiths-Smith at [email protected] or 203.407.3160.

Online learning – financial coaching and counseling

CFED’s Assets & Opportunity Network and Center for Financial Security is organizing a four-part virtual Listening & Learning Series on Financial Coaching & Counseling.  Between June and September, four online webinars will be held covering topics including the difference between coaching and counseling, program design, and metrics for impact measurement. Register for this important series here.

Report on Professionalizing Financial Counseling conference

On May 5th, more than 100 experts and practitioners, including some CT ABC members, participated in a day-long conference on ‘The Professionalizing Field of Financial Counseling and Financial Coaching’. Questions discussed included how do we best measure and evaluate impact? How do we define standards, and ensure compliance? And how do we share best practices when different programs operate in very different environments? You can find out more about the conference, and read a journal that was published for the event. See here for a short summary of the highlights of the conference prepared by CT ABC members who attended.

The latest research that matters:

Cities benefit when residents have a savings cushion

The Urban Institute published a report showing that cities save money when resident families have a savings cushion – as little as $250-750. This small cushion helps families avoid eviction and utility disconnection (both of which cost cities money) and helps them avoid public benefits in case of job loss, health crises or an unexpected drop in income. The takeaway? Offer products to families that work to help them build emergency savings.

Paying MORE bills may help!

Timothy Ogden, managing director of the Financial Access Initiative and the Financial Diaries project, has some interesting insights into how we can support families become more financially stable. A few of his suggestions include innovating around timing of not just wage payments but expenses (how about paying your electric bill twice a month?), moving beyond matching savings as the only way to help people save, and taking the idea of a basic minimum income seriously.

Protecting consumers by limiting payday loans? It’s not that easy.

A recent paper by the Brookings institutions dives deep into the issue of small dollar loan demand, payday loans and more. Among many other points, author Aaron Klein argues that i) while we commonly think of the need for payday loans arising when people are faced with unexpected expenses (such as car repair), in fact most loans are taken as a result of an unexpected drop in income; ii) poorer borrowers in many cases not only pay more but are actually subsidizing richer borrowers; iii) the key distinction is between those consumers who are insolvent (who will not be able to repay and should not borrow), and consumers who are illiquid (could benefit from affordable, well designed small dollar short term credit), and policy makers need to pay closer attention to ensuring that this second group has access to such credit.

Local News you can Use

Helping people get to work

Transportation is a huge problem for people in getting and keeping employment, which is key for financial security. The American Jobs Center in New Haven is piloting a collaboration with Uber to provide free rides to interviews, jobs and training. Between now and July 31st 500 free rides will be available. The program may continue in the future, depending on the experience of the pilot.

VITA in Connecticut

Tax season wrapped up April 15, and was another year of gains for the state’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and the households they serve. VITA is a program of the Internal Revenue Service that provides free tax preparation by trained and certified volunteers to households earning less than $54,000/year. The focus is on households with dependent children who qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which brings 6.5 million Americans, more than half of them children, out of poverty each year—more than any other federal policy or program. In 2016, Connecticut had 76 VITA sites, 28,166 federal returns successfully e-filed, total federal refunds of $45.4 million with an average refund of $1,868, 9,218 federal EITC returns, total federal EITC of $15.3 million with an average federal EITC of $1,627. In addition, VITA sites prepare state returns, and most federal EITC filers also qualify for a state EITC equal to 27.5% of the federal EITC. To learn more about VITA, call 2-1-1 for a site near you. For other information, contact Jim Horan at the Connecticut Association for Human Services, which coordinates more than half the VITA sites in the state, at [email protected].

Legislative update

An important piece of legislation approved this session is the Retirement Security Bill which will create a statewide public retirement program, filling a huge gap for workers across the state. Read more about the bill in CAHS March 2016 newsletter.  Another important piece of legislation passed is the Ban the Box bill, a crucially important step to help people with criminal histories find employment and improve their financial health, though we need to be aware of the possible pitfalls of such legislation. Bills that would have helped our goal of greater financial health for all, but sadly didn’t pass include the Paid Family Leave bill and the EITC Study Bill which would have assessed whether EITC income limits can cause some recipients to leave their jobs to remain eligible, and to consider changes to improve access.

An exciting job opportunity

Innovations for Poverty Action’s Financial Inclusion Program is looking for a Research Associate for the US Finance Initiative. This initiative conducts cutting edge research, using insights from behavioral economics to develop and evaluate financial products that help low- and moderate-income Americans to become more financially healthy.  See here for further information and application instructions.

Connecticut Asset Building Collaborative