Coordinated by the Financial Empowerment Network advisory council and initiative chairs, service providers are connected to financial resources, education and networking opportunities to better assist their clients.
1) Bank on Seattle-King County is a major public-private initiative to connect people without bank accounts to affordable mainstream financial services, including checking, savings, credit, and financial education opportunities.
- Bank/Credit Union Comparison Matrix lists products and features of each institution’s accounts. The matrix is online at the Network’s website and can now be compared through an online chart available in 10 languages.
- “Get Banked!” was a 10–month pilot project of the Network that took an innovative approach to addressing the needs of low-income unbanked and under banked households. The pilot project launched in September 2014, married the products and services of a bank partner with the services and tracking of a partner financial counseling agency. Bank loan and new account declinations referred for counseling played an important role in building the long-term household financial capability, with many returned as bankable clients. We hope to replicate this model in south King County in 2016 where there is the greatest county need.
As poverty continues to move into the suburbs, we are reaching out to south King County suburban municipalities that have the highest unbanked populations in King County (Source-CFED Mapping Tool).
2) Financial Education Partners Network (FEPN) serves as a countywide network of financial education providers and participating agencies that are committed to providing low-cost, high-quality financial education and resources to low-income and working Seattle and King County residents. The purpose of FEPN is to provide the asset building community of financial educators, case managers, and financial counselors with networking opportunities, best practices, workshops and training that will improve the effectiveness of their approach and the quality of their services as well as to increase access of underserved populations to financial self-sufficiency services.
Through quarterly workshops, the FEPN offers continuing education that illustrates how members can practically implement financial empowerment strategies and resources in the context of their own organizations and programs. Workshop presenters are local professionals from diverse backgrounds with knowledge of the needs of low/moderate income people and the financial empowerment education and resources they need to be more financially successful. Workshops offer an interactive pedagogy that engages participants and fosters follow-up discussion (topics cover a full range of financial empowerment topics as well as the specific needs of target populations including banking).
3) EITC/Free Tax Preparation Campaign connects low-income individuals with free tax preparation assistance and help in accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The United Way of King County leads the Financial Empowerment Network’s EITC/free tax preparation campaign. In 2015, the Network assisted United Way with outreach, resulting in 19,915 families and individuals with tax preparation services, returning $27.2 million in refunds, including over $9.3 million in EITC. They ran 25 tax prep sites across King County.
4) Youth Financial Empowerment work group provides the opportunity for Seattle and King County youth providers, financial educators, financial service providers, to meet, share successes, strategies and find ways to collaborate to increase young adults’ access to financial education and financial services.
5) Homeownership and Foreclosure Prevention support is still needed to ensure that people do not lose their homes. The Foreclosure Prevention Team works with partner agencies to host community events, workshops and have developed written materials on the mediation process for both counselors and homeowners; Homeowner’s Guide to Foreclosure Mediation.
The Foreclosure Prevention Team also created an 78-page reference, Washington Foreclosure Prevention Resource Guide: A Tool to Educate Homeowners about the Foreclosure Process. The guide is updated and reviewed by the Foreclosure Prevention Team to help homeowners who are at risk of default or are trying to modify their loans.
6) Integration of Financial Empowerment into other Service Systems
Your Money Your Goals: A financial empowerment toolkit for social services programs
In 2016, the Financial Empowerment Network│Seattle-King County began offering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Your Money, Your Goals (YMYG): A financial empowerment toolkit for social services programs.
This training complements the financial coaching efforts happening across the counties and continues to shift human service models towards financial empowerment.
The CFPB’s Your Money, Your Goals is founded on data collected during their national field scan, highlighting how programs that already train case managers and counselors have succeeded—or struggled—in their efforts to provide training, tools, and resources to change case manager and client behavior. Included in the scan were interviews with Network staff and partner agencies whose work was of special interest. The Network’s long running Make Change Count!™ A Financial Empowerment Workshop was also part of the national field scan.
Your Money Helpline Resource Guide for Case Managers, Counselors and Advocates assists financial education providers and social service case managers in understanding basic financial empowerment issues and in accessing credible referral resources in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties. It is an essential tool in building a high-quality; accessible system of interconnected agencies offering financial empowerment services.