Financial Coaching Empowers Latinos

ElBarrio_consultingFinancial coaching—regular one-on-one sessions between a financial coach and a client to set and manage financial goals—is an effective model for assisting low- to moderate-income families achieve greater financial stability, confirms new research from the Urban Institute. NCLR, like many others in the asset-building field, has long known the benefits of financial coaching as an effective approach to help Latino families reach their financial goals and build wealth.

Over the past fifteen years, NCLR has operated one of the most successful HUD-certified housing counseling programs in the country, with a culturally competent, bilingual model to helping low- and moderate-income Latino homebuyers and renters. Our one-on-one counseling approach is a proven success and we have adapted it to develop a financial coaching program, which helps Latino families who are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.

As has been well-documented, communities of color were disproportionally impacted by the recession. Unemployment rates hit 13.1 percent in November 2010, and Latino median household wealth fell 66 percent from 2005–09 according to the Pew Hispanic Center. The loss of wealth and other financial strain caused many Latinos to fall out of the financial mainstream during the recession, leaving Latino families vulnerable to alternative financial services that are often more costly and sometimes even predatory. Latinos and other communities of color face an array of challenges that perpetuate their financial strain and instability, including underemployment, lack of retirement options, high student debt, language barriers, and legal status.

Finding reliable financial advice is difficult, but when combined with language barriers and other challenges, it’s even harder. To create access to quality financial coaching for low-income Latino families, NCLR built a program where Affiliates throughout the country combine financial capability with other community-based services such as health, workforce development, and legal assistance.

In one example, low-income clients who seek legal services will receive U.S. citizenship application assistance and financial coaching on money management, debt, savings, and credit-building. Felicia Caraballo, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, originally went to NCLR Florida Affiliate Hispanic Unity for help with her citizenship application. At the same time she received information about the qualifications for citizenship, she received basic financial education about savings and credit. Caraballo attended subsequent one-on-one financial coaching sessions where she learned she had a good credit score, set a savings plan for her citizenship application fee, and opened a money market account to save for a house. She became a U.S. citizen on February 13, 2015 and hopes to purchase a house in 2016.

The Urban Institute study provides data to support the successes we see on the ground, like those of Felicia Caraballo. Financial coaching empowers Latino families to make informed decisions about their financial future, but it is not a silver-bullet solution to Latinos’ wealth-building challenges. NCLR will also continue its advocacy for increased access to safe and low-cost financial products, as well as a financial regulatory environment that provides safeguards to assist Latinos in bridging the racial wealth divide.

We’re Committed to Protecting Health Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has the potential to significantly reduce the number of uninsured Latinos in the United States, and NCLR has worked to ensure that the benefits of the law reach as many eligible individuals as possible. As an organization that represents the most uninsured community in the country, NCLR has long advocated for quality, affordable, and accessible health insurance and care for all Americans. It is why we became deeply involved in the fight to enact the Affordable Care Act. While it is not perfect, it is the first meaningful effort in nearly 50 years to address the long-standing national health care gap and at long last bring quality health care to millions of families in the U.S., including Latinos.

Alejandra Gepp, Director of the NCLR Institute of Hispanic Health, and Steven Lopez, Senior Health Policy Analyst outside the Supreme Court this Wedensday.

Alejandra Gepp, Director of the NCLR Institute of Hispanic Health, and Steven Lopez, Senior Health Policy Analyst outside the Supreme Court this Wedensday.

Earlier this week, we continued that fight when we joined numerous organizations on the steps of the Supreme Court to affirm our support for the ACA as the Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell. The case challenges a core component of the ACA, endangering the financial assistance that the law provides for millions of low- and middle-income Americans who live in states that did not set up their own health insurance marketplaces.

The outcome of King v. Burwell is critical. According to a widely referenced report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about 9.3 million people in 34 federally facilitated marketplace states are at risk of losing premium tax credits if the Court rules in favor of King. About 8.2 million people are projected to become uninsured. Such a decision by the Supreme Court would be a step backward for all Americans, including Latinos, stripping away the gains we have made in providing quality, affordable coverage to so many hardworking families.

What does this mean for Latinos?

Outside the Supreme Court, NCLR talked with a number of news outlets. One key question we fielded was, “What’s at stake for the Latino community?” According to a follow-up report by the Urban Institute, of the 9.3 million people who would lose tax credits if the Court ruled in favor of King, about 1.5 million are Hispanic and about 1.2 million would become uninsured as a result.

ACA_SCOTUS1Given that Latinos are less likely than other workers to have access to employer-sponsored health insurance—only 38.3 percent of Latinos are covered by employer-based plans—the coverage options offered by the ACA are critical to filling that gap. During the first two open enrollment periods, NCLR and its Affiliate Network, along with other key partners, worked to enroll Latinos across the country. There is still work to be done, but there is no question that these collective efforts have increased the number of insured Latinos.

While the country awaits the Supreme Court’s decision in June, remember that nothing has changed. Tax credits remain intact and coverage purchased via the marketplace remains valid. It’s important for individuals to continue paying their premiums. As a community that has long strived for meaningful coverage opportunities, Latinos, like so many Americans, have much to gain from the ACA. Our community can ill afford—literally and figuratively—attempts to thwart those opportunities.

A Q&A On Child Care and Early Learning

(This was first posted to the Child Care Aware of America blog, Early Directions.)

By Lynette M. Fraga, PH.D.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently spoke with NCLR about their perspective on child care and early learning for Latino children in the United States. In the spirit of National Hispanic Heritage Month, here is the first of a three-part blog Q&A with Peggy McLeod, NCLR Deputy VP for Education and Workforce Development.

Lynette: Set the stage for us. What is the state of child care and early education for Latino children in America today?

Peggy: The positive benefits of preschool appear to be stronger for Latino children, especially for children from homes where English is not spoken. Consider this: In 1991, about 24 percent of 3 to 4-year-old Latino children were enrolled in preschool compared to 37 percent of White and 42 percent of African-American children. In 2005, those numbers rose to 53 percent for Latinos compared with 70 percent of White and 69 percent of African-American children.

However, new data from 2005-2009 show a decline to 48 percent for Latino enrollment while attendance rates remained steady for both African-American and White 4 year-olds. Further, the 2009 data also shows that Latino children are now less likely to attend preschool part day or full day than their White counterparts.  Continue reading

Housing Discrimination a Persistent Problem for Latinos

By Enrique Lopezlira, Senior Policy Advisor, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New House

A new study jointly released this week by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Urban Institute (UI) shows that Hispanics continue to be discriminated against in the rental housing market, although it is carried out more subtly than in the past. Based on more than 8,000 “tests,” the study found that Latino renters learn about 12.5 percent fewer available properties and are shown 7.5 percent fewer housing units than White renters. This type of discrimination not only increases housing search costs for Latinos, but also restricts their housing opportunities.

Since 1970, HUD has conducted a series of nationwide paired-testing studies every 10 years, in order to monitor trends in ethnic and racial discrimination. The studies consist of pairing a well-qualified White individual with an equally well qualified minority individual (Black, Hispanic or Asian) in 28 metropolitan areas, and having each pair respond to the same housing ads. These tests are designed to identify disparate treatment of minorities in the three important steps of the housing search process: making an appointment, learning about available properties, and inspecting homes or apartments.

Continue reading