Bringing the Credit-Invisible into the Light

Conference15Voices

The Mission Asset Fund (MAF) is a San Francisco nonprofit that works to expand access to financial services, savings, and investment opportunities for low-income and working-poor families. The organization was established in 2007 to combat financial exclusion in the Latino community and among other underrepresented groups, and was a co-winner of the NCLR Family Strengthening Award at this year’s NCLR Annual Conference in Kansas City.

MAF has formalized the process of Lending Circles, in which a small number of people agree to lend money to each other at no interest, by having registered participants’ payments reported to the national credit bureaus. This helps people who may not otherwise have had access to get into the mainstream financial system, says Ximena Arias, Financial Services Manager at MAF.

“The CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] released a report that said that 45 million adults in the U.S. are credit-invisible in the financial system. It’s a catch-22 scenario where if you don’t have credit you can’t get access to credit,” she says.

“A credit report is like a passport to the financial marketplace,” said José Quiñonez, CEO of Mission Asset Fund, in a 2014 New York Times article. “Without that passport, you’re denied entry.”

The process can help those who have specific goals in mind, such as paying the application fee to become a citizen. That was the case for Karla Henriquez, who has experienced the process both as a participant and as the Programs Coordinator for MAF.

“I got my mom, my sister, and I to join the Lending Circles for Citizenship program where we were able to make payments of $68 for 10 months,” she says.

Other Lending Circles programs facilitated by the Mission Asset Fund can be used to save for a deposit to rent an apartment or secure fees for a temporary work permit.

Arias says the organization also offers financial counseling and education to participants, and partners with more than 40 organizations in 14 states. Those interested in finding related services in their area can visit: lendingcircles.org.

Weekly Washington Outlook — July 27, 2015

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. 1138 – Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson / Natural Resources Committee)

2) H.R. 774 – Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Del. Madeleine Bordallo / Natural Resources Committee)

3) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2499 – Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot / Small Business Committee) 

4) S. 1482 – Need-Based Educational Aid Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley / Judiciary Committee)

5) H.R. 1656 – Secret Service Improvements Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte / Judiciary Committee)

6) H.R. 2750 – Improved Security Vetting for Aviation Workers Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)

7) H.R. 2770 – Keeping Our Travelers Safe and Secure Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice / Homeland Security Committee)

8) H.R. 2843 – TSA PreCheck Expansion Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)

9) H.R. 2127 – Securing Expedited Screening Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Homeland Security Committee)

10) H.R. 1300 – First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Peter King / Homeland Security Committee)

11) H.R. 2206 – State Wide Interoperable Communications Enhancement Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)

12) H.R. 1634 – Border Security Technology Accountability Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

13) H.R. 998 – Preclearance Authorization Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Meehan / Homeland Security Committee)

14) H.R. 1831 – Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

15) H. J. Res. 61 – Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis / Ways and Means Committee) 

16) H.R. 675 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Ralph Abraham / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

17) H.R. 1607 – Ruth Moore Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

The balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

H.R. 427 – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Todd Young / Judiciary Committee)

H.R. 1944 – VA Accountability Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

It is possible the House will vote on the VA Budget and Choice Improvement Act and a Conference report to Accompany H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016.

Senate:

The Senate this week will continue its consideration of H.R. 22, the legislative vehicle for a six-year surface transportation reauthorization.

White House:

On Monday, President Obama will attend a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the President of Uganda, the President of Kenya, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the Chairwoman of the African Union, and the Foreign Minister of Sudan. The purpose of the summit is primarily to discuss South Sudan and regional counter-terrorism issues.

On Tuesday, the president concludes his trip to Africa and returns to Washington.

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

Also This Week:

Immigration – Last week, the House passed H.R. 3009, legislation that would block certain funding streams to local law enforcement in so-called “sanctuary cities.” While several related bills have been filed or are in progress in the Senate, it is unlikely these will come for a vote this week. Instead, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark-up several bills related to border security, including the “Department of Homeland Security Border Metrics Review Act of 2015,” the “Northern Border Security Review Act of 2015,” and a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate “regarding the success of Operation Streamline and the importance of prosecuting first time illegal border crossers.”

Budget – On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee will examine overhauling the Congressional budgeting process. While legislation is not expected to come from the hearing, this is the first step in what Chairman Price (R-Ga.) has described as a multi-year process. Elsewhere, former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm will appear Tuesday before the Joint Economic Committee on dynamic scoring.

Health – Over the weekend, as part of consideration of its surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Senate took a procedural vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While this was the first time since Republicans gained the Majority in the Senate this has occurred, it nonetheless failed 49-43. Elsewhere, on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell will testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee on ACA implementation.

Financial Services – The House Financial Services Committee will continue its examination of the Dodd-Frank Act with a hearing Tuesday, “Dodd-Frank Five Years Later: Are We More Free?” Also on Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee plans to mark-up fourteen bills related to housing, financial markets, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s authority. The full list is available here. Elsewhere, the Senate Banking Committee’s Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “The Role of Bankruptcy Reform in Addressing Too Big to Fail.”

Education – The Senate HELP Committee continues its work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. This week, the Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on combatting sexual assault on college campuses.

Tax – After a weekend session, the Senate this week will attempt to conclude its work on a multi-year highway bill before a July 31 deadline to fund the Highway Trust Fund. The Senate is expected to vote Monday to attach a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, setting up a possible fight with the House over this provision. Further complicating passage, the House has already cleared a five-month patch and is unlikely to pass the Senate’s multi-year bill. For House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the short-term highway bill is a means to provide leverage at the end of the year for negotiations on expired tax credits and some permanent changes to tax policy. With the House recessing at the end of the week for five weeks, the precise path forward remains somewhat up in the air.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July 24

Immigration_reform_Updates_blue

Week Ending July 24

 This week in immigration reform: new poll finds positive voter attitudes toward undocumented immigrants, House passes an anti-immigrant bill, and immigrant integration legislation introduced.

NCLR kept the community informed with staff quoted in the Guardian, Politico, Buzzfeed, and  EFE. Watch José Díaz-Balart and Janet Murguía discuss Donald Trump on MSNBC.

 Also worth a read is an article in the New Yorker quoting Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro and highlighting how delays in Congress and the courts impact American families across the country. Tune in to hear Clarissa discuss this and other issues important to the Latino community on Al Punto, Univision’s Sunday morning public affairs program.

 NCLR hosts press briefing exploring voter attitudes: This week NCLR hosted an event discussing the implications of new polling data from The George Washington University that found most U.S. voters have positive views of undocumented immigrants. Participating in the forum were NCLR immigration expert Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, GW Associate Professor Michael Cornfield, scholar and journalist Edward Schumacher-Matos, and Republican consultant Katie Packer. Findings show most American voters agree that undocumented immigrants are “family and community oriented” (71 percent) and “filling jobs Americans don’t want” (67 percent). A majority of those surveyed disagreed that undocumented immigrants “are ‘cheaters’ here just to help themselves” (59 percent), “belong to gangs and commit many crimes” (56 percent), or “threaten our traditional American culture” (56 percent).

“The findings show that the majority of voters disagree with Donald Trump’s offensive remarks, and that demonizing immigrants will not win the White House,” said Martinez-De-Castro. “The vast majority of Americans are in a much more pragmatic place than Congress on this issue, and they believe immigrants make valuable contributions to our nation.” Click for the GW report, read about polling on Republican attitudes, and view the entire presentation.

These sentiments echo those offered by NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía last week at the close of NCLR’s Annual Conference. She said:

“Hispanics—immigrants and citizens alike—continue to contribute to the lives, and the livelihoods, of all Americans. We are doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and scientists. We care for the country’s children and tend to the elderly. We plant and pick the food Americans eat every day. We build the buildings Americans work in, and clean them after everyone else has gone home. That is part of our country’s heritage too. The likes of Donald Trump disparage that heritage. But even worse, they also demean the proud heritage of the Republican Party… So, to my Republican friends, I ask you, I plead with you, indeed, I demand of you: stand up for your heritage. And I’ll stand with you.”

You can read the entirety of Janet’s remarks here.

House passes bill punishing cities that seek greater trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve: In the wake of a tragic incident in San Francisco, House Republicans passed hastily introduced legislation that would bar cities that choose to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement from receiving certain federal funds. NCLR strongly opposes this bill and submitted testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. Martinez-De-Castro writes: “During this time, we urge a respectful dialogue that protects all communities. Labeling immigrants as criminals is not only harmful, it is incorrect. A report by the American Immigration Council demonstrates that increased immigration to the United States has in fact coincided with a significant decrease in both violent and property crimes nationwide. We know that the majority of the immigrant population comes to this country to reunite with family and work, and make meaningful contributions that enrich their communities.

Furthermore, what we have seen as a result of the entanglement of immigration enforcement and local law enforcement is an increase in racial profiling. There is widespread evidence that delegating to states and localities the enforcement of federal immigration laws threatens civil rights and subjects entire communities to unlawful law enforcement stops, arrests, and detention.” Read the statement and a related piece by the Center for American Progress.

Immigrant integration bill introduced in the House: This week Congressman Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced H.R. 3201, the New American Success Act of 2015, to promote the integration and naturalization of immigrants in the U.S. According to a press release, the bill would “channel funding to provide lawful permanent residents (LPRs) with better access to English-language and civics programs and other support through the naturalization process, and create a grant program to reduce barriers to citizenship and establish ‘Integration Success Grants’ to encourage integration partnerships among states, municipalities and nonprofits.” NCLR supports efforts like this to improve the outcomes for new Americans and to support communities already welcoming immigrants across the country.

For America to Succeed, Immigrants Must Succeed

By Victoria Benner, Senior Legislative Analyst, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR

The reintroduced “New American Success Act” would allow immigrants the chance to thrive.

SONY DSC

New citizens being sworn in at a Kansas City naturalization ceremony earlier this month.

Following on the heels of Donald Trump’s remarks casting immigrants as murderers and rapists, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3009, the Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act, yesterday, which would penalize local police choosing to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies. H.R. 3009 would compel sheriffs across the country to abandon best practices in community policing and prioritize immigration enforcement over public safety.

While some members of the House of Representatives labeled the entire immigrant community as criminals, focused only on misguided enforcement-only solutions to our broken immigration system, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D–Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–Fla.) recognized the contributions of this vibrant population by reintroducing the “New American Success Act.” This legislation seeks to maximize the potential of new arrivals by promoting economic, civic, and linguistic integration into American life.

From the experiences of our Affiliates, we know the full and successful integration of immigrants into the American spheres of work, school, and civic life is vital to the social and economic strength of the United States. Unfortunately, immigrants face considerable challenges obtaining higher levels of education, including industry-recognized postsecondary credentials and certificates as well as the English proficiency they need to succeed in modern career pathways. Additionally, without a public investment in immigrant integration, many do not have the resources or supports needed to navigate legal and other governmental infrastructure. This bill acknowledges that an effective immigrant integration policy can help break down these barriers and ensure each and every resident, including new Americans, is a wholly productive participant in all aspects of our national systems.

If enacted, the “New American Success Act” would authorize two grant programs to facilitate immigrant integration. The Initial, Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistance Grants are designed to help local community-based organizations provide direct legal assistance and related services to lawfully present immigrants naturalizing or applying for other immigration assistance. Similarly, the Integration Success Grants would fund states and municipalities that create a comprehensive plan addressing civic, linguistic, and economic integration.

Marlene-SeptA previous iteration of the “New American Success Act,” strongly supported by NCLR and other partner organizations, would have created a National Office of New Americans—a federal coordinating body within the White House responsible for multiagency immigrant integration programs. By establishing meaningful goals, indicators, and metrics to measure success at the national, state, and local levels, this National Office of New Americans would advise other federal entities how the United States can best serve its newest arrivals and put them on a path to becoming flourishing Americans.

While the recent work of the White House Task Force on New Americans is a fundamental first step in addressing a comprehensive immigrant integration strategy as envisioned by the “New American Success Act,” the nation needs a permanent office with a strong mandate to continue this work and truly implement the legislation’s purpose of establishing a federal immigrant integration strategy. As the bill moves forward we will work to restore the provisions establishing the National Office of New Americans included in the previous versions of the legislation.

The “New American Success Act” is a positive step toward an enhanced federal policy designed to meet the real needs of new immigrants. As new data show, most American voters don’t view immigrants as criminals, and this bill would help reinforce that belief. Most importantly, it will help ensure the country benefits fully from the skills and talents immigrants bring to the United States.

From Conflict of Interest to Best Interest

By Amelia Collins, Legislative Fellow, NCLR

AgingLGBT_blogpic_4Thirty-eight million working-age households have nothing saved for retirement.

This retirement savings deficit is worse for communities of color, with 62 percent of Black and 69 percent of Hispanic households with no money in a retirement account. For those who do save, their account balances are disproportionately low: three in four Black households and four in five Latino households aged 25–64 have less than $10,000 in retirement savings, compared to one in two White households.

With too many Americans already struggling to save enough for retirement, any loss in retirement funds jeopardizes retirees’ financial security. One of the biggest drains on retirement savings is “conflicted advice.” Conflicted advice occurs when those giving advice can steer clients into higher-cost products to boost their own bottom line, even if those products aren’t the best for the client’s savings. Unfortunately, current regulations allow many who market themselves as financial advisers to make these conflicted recommendations. Back in April the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed an update to prevent conflicted advice on retirement investments. The proposed rule would ensure anyone providing investment advice for a fee—whether a registered investment advisor or a broker—will suggest products that are in the best interest of their client.

The DOL regulation would also strengthen the financial security of Hispanics, who are already disadvantaged in the retirement space. Barriers already prevent Latinos from saving enough for retirement, making it all the more imperative that the advice they receive helps them improve savings and bolster account balances.

Workers of color have less access to retirement savings vehicles compared to Whites: 38 percent of Latino employees, 54 percent of Black employees, and 54 percent of Asian employees aged 25–64 work for an employer that sponsors a retirement plan, compared to 62 percent of White employees.

Further, as Latinos tend to have lower balances in their retirement accounts, higher fees represent a higher proportion of their retirement savings absorbed by advisers and financial institutions. This makes Latinos even more vulnerable to financial instability. Quality standards for advice provided for a fee are especially important to Latino and other low-income consumers to ensure the advice they receive is truly in their best interest.

As part of the regulation process, the DOL asked groups for their input on the proposal. NCLR weighed in this week in support of the proposed rule and applauds the department’s commitment to a strong, workable rule. This Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety held a hearing on the proposal. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez defended the rule, saying “as long as we don’t lose sight of the North Star—an enforceable best-interests commitment—we are very flexible on the question of how to get this work done.”

Deceptive Legislation to Undermine Consumer Protections

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy Strategist, NCLR

This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee conducted a markup of the 2016 fiscal year budget knowing there would not be much consensus. This was a symbolic gesture that makes a mockery of the appropriations process. Rather than focusing on restoring programs to full funding levels, which would respond to Americans’ needs, decision-makers attempted to use today’s proceedings to weaken financial regulation and consumer protections.

The appropriations bill adopted an amendment that included more than 200 pages of Senator Richard Shelby’s (R–Ala.) “Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015” to ease bank regulations. This was an attempt to pass a massive regulatory relief bill that was previously and adamantly rejected by consumer supporters. Under the guise of helping small and community banks, this bill actually exempts major lenders from essential mortgage provisions that were designed to prevent another economic meltdown. The financial entities that would benefit from these relaxed regulations include multihundred billion–dollar institutions comparable in size to banks like Washington Mutual and Countrywide, which played a major role in the financial crisis.

The amendment also attacked consumer protections. Despite being aware of its proven success, decision-makers sought to alter the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) leadership structure from one director to a multimember commission. Historically, five-member boards have hobbled decision-making and increased gridlock—something Washington already experiences far too often. The bill also subjects the CFPB to the appropriations process. In 2010, when Congress passed the bipartisan Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act it deliberately kept the CFPB away from an annual appropriations process. As with every regulatory banking agency, the CFPB’s independent funding insulates it from partisan attacks. Congress established this funding stream of non-taxpayer dollars for the Bureau to come from the Federal Reserve.

Today is a perfect example of how the appropriations process can be subverted for pure political gain. It also highlighted the amnesia Washington has when reflecting on our economic past. This fight exhausts Americans. Rather than rolling back consumer wins and strong regulation, leaders should build on these successes and join the fight in creating a more resilient financial system for all.

New Survey Shows Voters See Undocumented Immigrants in a Positive Light

The narrative of undocumented immigrants as criminals and cheaters that is being peddled by folks like Donald Trump is false, and there is data to prove it. 

This week, at a briefing at NCLR Headquarters, George Washington University Professor Michael Cornfield presented findings of new research that explores the attitudes among American voters toward undocumented immigrants. The data show that most U.S. voters have positive views of undocumented immigrants when it comes to their character, motivation, and impact on our nation.

“Among American voters today, there is a substantial, multidimensional and widespread favorable attitude toward undocumented immigrants,” said Dr. Cornfield, Associate Professor of Political Management and Research Director, Global Center for Political Engagement, The George Washington University. “Political strategists and policymakers should take these majority attitudes into serious consideration.”

The study, “Broad Sympathies and Borderline Myths shows that most voters see undocumented immigrants positively, saying they are “family- and community-oriented” (71 percent), and “filling jobs Americans don’t want” (67 percent). In fact, a majority of those surveyed (59 percent) disagreed with the sentiment that they are ‘cheaters’ here to just help themselves, or that they “belong to gangs and commit crimes” (56 percent).

To provide some historical context to the report, journalist and Wilson Center public policy scholar Edward Shumacher-Matos joined the panel.

“We have seen Donald Trump types throughout American history make such vile comments and for a while it appeals to people’s fears,” said Schumacher-Matos. “In the 19th century, it appealed to a populist movement that proudly called itself the ‘Know-Nothings’ and who accused Irish Catholic immigrants of being apelike and criminals. But sooner or later, as this poll shows, the vast majority of Americans catch on.”

Katie Packer, of Republican consulting firm Burning Glass, also joined the briefing to underscore that disparaging immigrants is a losing strategy for her party.

Our study of GOP primary voters in early states along with general election voters in swing states indicates that the strongest candidate is one who supports a multistep path toward legal status for undocumented immigrants, along with much stronger border security,” said Packer. “This combination of accountability and compassion is the sweet spot for a majority of American voters.”

“The findings show that the majority of voters disagree with Donald Trump’s offensive remarks, and that demonizing immigrants will not win the White House,” said our own Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, Deputy Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation. “The vast majority of Americans are in a much more pragmatic place than Congress on this issue, and they believe immigrants make valuable contributions to our nation.”

See the full presentation of the briefing here.

How PayDay Lenders Prey on the Vulnerable

PayDayLending

Maria Cervantes knew of the pitfalls of payday lending when she took out her first loan. The hardworking mother of three found herself in need of a new tire for her car, but she didn’t have the money to buy it. Maria found herself up against a wall and went to a payday lender because she knew she could get access to cash quickly. After all, if she couldn’t get a new tire, she couldn’t get to work, and if she couldn’t work, she couldn’t provide for her family. Maria felt she had no choice. She needed to borrow $300, and the lenders were more than happy to give it to her.

That was five years ago. Today Maria owes more than $2,000 and is still struggling to pay that initial loan back.

As has happened to so many others in her position, Maria fell victim to the vicious payday lender debt trap, which has resulted in thousands of dollars in fees, negative credit reporting, and harassment. Unable to pay back the initial loan upon her payday, she was forced to renew it plus pay exorbitant fees. To pay that first loan back, she had to take out another loan from a different provider. Eventually, Maria had three loans out and was paying $45 for each every two weeks, or $270 a month.

“Every time that I thought I was going to pay off the $300 loan, something always happened, so I found myself in a cycle. I regret ever taking the $300 loan.” said Maria in a testimonial.

With her credit in tatters, Maria reached out to an NCLR Affiliate, Montebello Housing Development Corporation (MHDC), for help. Working with MHDC, she has begun eliminating her debt and reestablishing her credit, a process that could take up to two years. She is also working with MHDC to pay off her credit cards one at a time. Maria knows she has a long road ahead of her, but with investment and education, she is putting herself on the path to recovery and warning others of the dangers of payday lending along the way.

“The only good thing this experience has given me is the chance to share my experience with those who are thinking about payday loans or those who want to save for a home,” said Maria.

Unfortunately, Maria’s story is not uncommon, and without regulations in place to rein in payday lenders, more and more low-income communities will fall prey to shady lending practices. That’s why we support the proposed Consumer Finance Protection Bureau rule to reform payday lending. Join us in putting an end to predatory lending so that Maria and millions others like her can share in the American Dream.

Vale la pena esperar

Para obtener el mayor provecho de sus beneficios de retiro, debe considerar esperar llegar hasta la edad en la que pueda maximizar sus pagos mensuales. Vea esta gráfica y verá por qué vale esperar. Visite nclr.us/ItPaysToWait para descargar nuestro panfleto titulado en inglés Latinos and Social Security: How to Maximize Your Benefits.

Decisions,decisionsSP