Celebrating Financial Capability Efforts to Support Latino Financial Well-being

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

Financial Capability Counseling gives Latino families the information and tools needed to improve credit, increase savings, and build wealth. Through participation in a financial capability program, Latino families can access a range of resources and learn how to use skill-building tools and financial products that will help them achieve their financial goals, such as homeownership.

For Affiliate partners of the NCLR Homeownership Network (NHN), building families’ financial capability has never been more important. Because of the financial crisis nearly a decade ago, millions of Latino families saw their savings disappear when they lost their homes to foreclosure. At the same time, a rise in unemployment among Latino workers made it harder for families to the get the assistance they needed to save their homes. Today, a generation of Latino families are still recovering and trying to repair the damage to their credit when they lost their homes. Rebuilding by understanding how to budget, save, and improve credit is critical to economic recovery and the ability for Latinos to become homeowners.

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2016 Workforce Development Forum Wrap-Up

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On May 4, NCLR and some of the top business minds in the country convened the annual NCLR Workforce Development Forum in Las Vegas. The goal of the Forum was to help educate attendees on coming demographic shifts in the American workforce and their implications for the economy, as well as to provide best practices in integrating new American workers into the workforce. Attendees, stakeholders, experts, and corporate representatives spent two days discussing how employers and their employees can most effectively work together to create an efficient and conscientious workforce.

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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending March 4

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Week Ending March 4

This week in immigration: NCLR demonstrates the benefits of integrating financial capability resources and immigration service programs; and USCIS grant program provides $10 million for citizenship and immigrant integration work.

NCLR kept the community informed with staff quoted in NBC News, EFE, and Univision.

NCLR highlights financial capability and immigration work: From 1998-2008, application costs of applying for U.S. citizenship rose 610 percent, putting naturalization out of reach for many aspiring new Americans. NCLR, in partnership with Citi Foundation, works with Affiliates nationwide to integrate financial capability resources and immigration legal service programs. Since its inception, Affiliates have assisted 1,371 people with immigration legal services and financial capability, while 671 have received basic financial education when visiting an Affiliate for immigration services. For more, see a blog post penned this month highlighting the program and the individuals who have benefited, such as one program participant who, during his citizenship preparation, received one-on-one coaching sessions that helped him remove credit report errors and open a money market account so he could begin saving for a house. He has since become a citizen and soon will have saved enough to put a down payment on his first home.

USCIS grant program offers funds for citizenship preparation programs: USCIS announced this week that the agency has begun accepting applications for its Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. These grants will be used to help prepare permanent residents for naturalization by assisting organizations who offer citizenship preparation services. Specifically, USCIS will be distributing grants for two separate programs: one provides funds for organizations which offer both citizenship instruction and naturalization application services to legal permanent residents, while the other will assist organizations interested in establishing or expanding citizenship instruction programs. Up to $10 million in funding will be available through these programs. The application deadline is April 22, with award recipients notified in September. More information can be found on the USCIS website, and stay tuned for upcoming webinars for organizations interested in applying for these grants.

Financial Capability Is Putting Immigrants on the Road to Citizenship and Financial Security

FinancialCapability_sharegraphic-02The path to U.S. citizenship is extremely rewarding but also a long and difficult process. Becoming a citizen has many benefits including higher wages, access to government jobs, and retention of retirement benefits, yet immigrants must also face the technical nature of immigration policy, such as a 20-page application and a civics test that one in three native-born Americans regularly fail. Additionally, there are financial barriers that all too often preclude low-to moderate-income immigrants from reaching their goal of citizenship.

The financial challenges are not limited to the application cost alone, which ballooned 610 perent from 1998–2008. They include costs for English language instruction, legal assistance, and civics classes. These barriers pose a significant challenge to low-income immigrants who are aspiring to become American citizens. To help these aspiring Americans reach both their immigration and financial goals, NCLR, with the support of Citi Foundation, has been working with several Affiliates across the country to integrate financial capability resources and immigration service programs.

Simply put, financial capability is financial knowledge, coaching to reach one’s goals, and access to safe and affordable financial products. Such services empower Latino families to make informed decisions for their financial future.

 

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Folks like  J. Reyes (names have been changed to protect anonymity) have already benefited from a combination of financial capability and citizenship services. After attending a 2014 Citizenship Workshop at our Affiliate, The Resurrection Project (TRP), Reyes was identified as a citizenship candidate after hearing a presentation about how to cover the application fee, which included loans. He initially applied for an application fee waiver with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, but found out he was ineligible. He remembered the presentation at The Resurrection Project and reached out about the possibility of applying for a loan. Mr. Reyes was a prime candidate for financial coaching as he needed help improving his credit score. During the initial coaching session, he developed an action plan to address his credit and budget needs. Next, TRP made a direct referral to a local credit union, Second Federal, to apply for the loan. Had it not been for that loan, Reyes says, he would have had to wait on citizenship and his credit would have continued to crumble. Since meeting with our Affiliate and applying for the loan, Mr. Reyes achieved his long-time goal of receiving American citizenship.

Financial capability goes beyond helping immigrants reach their citizenship goals, too. D. Angulo, originally from El Salvador, received information about budgeting and saving as part of his ESL instruction at our Affiliate, Hispanic Unity of Florida. During his citizenship preparation, he received one-on-one coaching sessions that helped him to remove credit report errors and to open a money market account so he could begin saving for a house. Angulo has since become a citizen and soon will have saved enough to put a down payment on his first home.

D. Angulo and J. Reyes are just two examples of how financial capability can empower people to take control of their future. There are scores of other Latino families who have yet to benefit from this integrated model, and we’re working hard to reach them. With the help of trusted community institutions like NCLR Affiliates, we are helping immigrants more successfully navigate the road to the American Dream—citizenship, success, and economic security.