The Financial Choice Act of 2017 Is the Wrong Choice for American Families

By Renato Rocha, Policy Analyst, Wealth-Building Project, NCLR

The reckless behavior of financial institutions including banks, credit card companies, and mortgage lenders caused the 2008 financial crisis that cost Americans millions of jobs, billions in taxpayer-funded bailouts, and trillions of lost retirement savings. A lack of consumer protections and oversight of the financial marketplace allowed unscrupulous lenders to target communities of color with unfair and abusive financial products. The Latino community was disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis and is still struggling to recover.

The devastating and widespread effects of the crisis led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which we view to be the crown jewel of Wall Street reform. In less than six years, the CFPB has already curbed several deceptive practices in the financial marketplace: bringing transparency to the remittance industry, prohibiting credit companies from adding on products that consumers never agreed to, and requiring mortgage lenders to ensure that applicants can afford the home loans they’re seeking. The CFPB is also working on putting protections in place that would rein in predatory payday loans and debt collection practices. Each one of these actions have helped put all Americans on a path to greater financial security.

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Congress: Don’t Turn Your Back on Workers Struggling to Save for Retirement

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Social Security is widely recognized as playing an important role in workers’ retirement security. In 2015 alone, Social Security benefits kept 22 million retirees out of poverty, and more than 60% of elderly beneficiaries relied on Social Security for most of their retirement cash income.

To celebrate National Social Security Month this April, the Social Security Administration created an online guide that workers can use to learn more about the program and its benefits.

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Making Quality Housing Affordable Again for Latinos in Los Angeles

By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

ELACC and partners with tenants’ rights fighters and allies from all over the state of California. Photos: ELACC

Homeownership continues to be essential to the creation of Latino family wealth, yet many Latino families are still trying to recover from the loss of their home to foreclosure during the financial crisis, as well as job loss during the recession that hit Latino communities hard.

For families who live in expensive cities like Los Angeles, homeownership can seem even further out of reach. In L.A., more than half of a family’s earnings goes to rent, and at 38%, Latinos have a lower rate of homeownership compared to other groups in the city. Even as families overall might pay less for a mortgage than on rent, Latino renters have difficulty saving for a down payment, let alone for a mortgage that would require nearly three times their median household earnings. Faced with this problem, community-based affordable housing organizations are finding creative ways of engaging community residents to make housing affordable for all.

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Four Things for Latino Families to Remember on Tax Day

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

For many Latino households, the tax refunds they receive every April is one of the largest influxes of cash they receive all year. The refunds help families pay debts, keep them out of poverty, and help to buy necessities like clothes and groceries. Below are a few things for Latino families to keep in mind as the 2016 tax filing season wraps up today.

1. You may be eligible for critical refunds, such as the EITC or CTC. Filing your taxes means that you might be eligible for critical refunds like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC and the CTC are two refundable tax credits that benefit low- and middle-income earners. They increase the earnings of lower-income workers, reduce child poverty, make low-wage work more rewarding, and offset the effect of paying regressive payroll taxes. Both credits raised more than nine million Americans out of poverty in 2015, and made 22 million others less poor. It is important to note that taxpayers filing with an ITIN number are eligible to claim the CTC, but not the EITC.

2. If you file your tax return with an ITIN, you may need to renew your ITIN to get a refund. Under legislation passed by Congress in 2015, the IRS requires that certain taxpayers renew their ITINs before they submit their tax return and claim certain tax credits, primarily the Child Tax Credit. Affected ITINs expired on January 1, 2017, and unless renewed, taxpayers using expired ITINs on their tax returns will face a delay in receiving eligible tax refunds. For more information and resources on renewing ITINs, visit nclr.us/ITIN.

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How One NCLR Affiliate is Helping Low-Income Latinos Build Wealth

By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Senior Counselor Dora Beltran talking with participants in the citizenship program, held at our Affiliate CARECEN in Washington, DC.

Building wealth is essential for Latinos to achieve financial prosperity today, and is essential to the prosperity of generations to come. That’s why NCLR works with nearly 300 community-based Affiliates across the country to help Latinos improve their credit, increase their savings, and build wealth. The Washington, DC-based Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), a member of the NCLR Homeownership Network (NHN), is a pioneer in offering financial capability services for Latino families. As we continue Financial Capability Month, we’re proud to feature the work of Anabell Martinez, Housing Director at CARECEN.

Martinez and the CARECEN staff focus on how they can empower Latino families to make informed financial decisions. “For many clients coming to CARECEN for financial counseling, it’s the first time they hear about making a budget,” said Martinez. She understands the need for financial capability because she knows what kind of questions Latino families have about building wealth and the difficulties they face to protect what they have earned.

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