Over the past seven years, municipalities have increasingly embraced financial access, capability, and asset building strategies.

In strategic attempts to limit capital drain from communities and to deliver more impactful services to residents on limited or declining budgets, cities have brought into being a whole new field of municipal financial empowerment which at once offers the promise of both scale and sustainability to the asset building field. 

The CFE Fund identifies high-impact, scalable, evidence-based municipal approaches and then invests in replicating them nationally. 

Summer Jobs Connect

Summer Jobs Connect is an ambitious initiative spearheaded by the Citi Foundation and the CFE Fund to support young adults seeking summer employment, enhancing these municipally-led programs by integrating programmatic linkages to safe and appropriate banking products, services, and education. During the second year of the initiative, the CFE Fund is extending and expanding the program by working with eight city governments and their local Summer Youth Employment Program partners to provide additional job positions to local residents, as well as connect them to appropriate banking products and robust financial education to further bolster the financial empowerment of low income youth ages 14-24.

Through the CFE Fund’s leadership, our city partners' efforts, and the Citi Foundation’s support of close to $14 million, including $4.8 million in 2016, Summer Jobs Connect provided over 6,000 young people with summer work experience and financial empowerment services. Beyond a seasonal paycheck, Summer Jobs Connect will set students up for lifelong success by helping them learn positive financial habits and providing access to safe banking products and strategies.


Bank On

The Bank On 2.0 initiative is a national approach to leveraging government programming, funding, and partnerships to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable financial products and services. Building on the successes of local Bank On programs, the initiative incorporates cutting-edge financial empowerment strategies from the CFE Fund and its partners along with innovative financial products and services that are appropriate, affordable, and available at scale through municipal governments. 

Through the Bank On 2.0 Innovation Fund, supported by JPMorgan Chase Foundation, CFE Fund is supporting pilot programs and research that test new, replicable methods of reaching underserved markets through local government infrastructure and leadership. Round one pilot funding is supporting efforts to enhance banking access in rural populations; Bank On Washington is partnering with libraries to create financial hubs that connect rural residents and Native American communities to accounts, and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Savannah Area (CCCS) is partnering with local financial institutions to offer account access and free financial counseling in rural communities in Georgia and South Carolina. Round two pilot funding is supporting the County of Hawaii, who will incentivize residents to receive utility reimbursements through direct deposits in partnership with a local credit union; Near West Side Community Development Corporation in Chicago, who will partner with a local bank to engage public housing residents in automatic rental payments, financial workshops, and account opening; Rural Dynamics, Inc., in Missoula, MT, who will offer financial counseling to Missoula public housing residents as part of the larger Family Self Sufficiency program; and the City of Lansing, MI, who will partner with their Parole Office and Lansing Financial Empowerment Center counselors to help parolees address credit history concerns and open bank account that allow for direct deposit once they get a job. 

More about Bank On 2.0

Bank On 2.0 builds on the grassroots success of a wide array of Bank On and related banking access programs in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and dozens of others across the country. These first-generation banking access programs have already connected tens of thousands of people to safe and affordable financial products at institutions ranging from local community banks to global financial organizations. The CFE Fund and its partners are building a national approach and infrastructure that includes products, services, best practices, resources and other technical assistance to facilitate local municipal efforts to connect unbanked and under-banked residents to safe and affordable mainstream banking services. By developing comprehensive, proven models, Bank On 2.0 will help individuals successfully navigate the financial system to enhance their ability to grow their finances.

The CFE Fund works with financial institutions, local government leaders, federal regulator partners, foundations, and national nonprofit organizations to advance this effort. To this end, the CFE Fund convened these leaders at a national conference  Building a National Platform for Local Programs – in late 2014; read the agenda hereIn addition, the CFE Fund’s National Bank On 2.0 Advisory Board will help create a national approach that can help local governments connect residents to financial services. This work is made possible thanks to a seed grant of $1.15 million from JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and the support of additional pilot project and conference funders including Citi Foundation, American Express, MetLife Foundation, Bank of America, and VISA. 


Financial Empowerment Center Replication Initiative

The gold standard of financial education, Financial Empowerment Centers offer free, professional, one-on-one financial counseling to enable residents to address their financial needs and plan for their futures.  Clients receive assistance with money management, budgeting, reducing debt, establishing and improving credit, connecting to safe and affordable banking services, building savings, and referrals to other services and organizations.  Counselors are professionally trained, and support their clients in navigating complex financial decisions. Financial counseling is integrated into public services including housing services, homeless prevention, foreclosure prevention, workforce development, asset building, financial services access, and domestic violence prevention.

In 2013, the CFE Fund awarded grants to replicate the model in 5 cities through a $16.2 million, 3-year investment by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The five replication cities are:  Denver, CO; Lansing, MI; Nashville, TN; Philadelphia, PA; and San Antonio, TX.

In response to overwhelming demand following the success of the expansion, the CFE Fund has awarded In-Kind Technical Assistance grants to seven additional cities including: Cleveland, OH; Hartford, CT; Hawai’i County, HI; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA. We recently announced a new Request for Proposals to assist a third cohort of cities with in-kind technical assistance; our third wave cohort is Birmingham, AL; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and Detroit, MI.

To read more about the model developed by New York City and success stories, click here


Next Generation Municipal Financial Empowerment Awards

The CFE Fund’s Next Generation Municipal Financial Empowerment Award grows the municipal financial empowerment field by cultivating and supporting innovative ideas from new mayoral administrations. Through a competitive RFP process, the CFE Fund selected five city leaders to receive this award: Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, and Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler.

The award, generously sponsored by Capital One, includes both a planning grant and dedicated technical consulting from the CFE Fund. Together, awardee mayors, their teams, and the CFE Fund will develop innovative local government strategies to address poverty through programs such as financial counseling, access to safe and appropriate banking products, asset-building opportunities, and consumer financial protections. Technical assistance will consist of a robust assessment of the city’s financial empowerment needs and opportunities and a detailed financial empowerment strategic plan to guide cities from inception to implementation.


Organization of American States Partnership

The CFE Fund signed a partnership agreement with the Organization of American States' Inter-American Social Protection Network (IASPN) following a 2 day international conference it co-hosted with the U.S. Department of State in New York. The conference, entitled Partnerships for Financial Inclusion: A Catalyst for Inclusive Growth, included foreign ministers and ambassadors from 25 Latin American and Caribbean nations, along with private sector, public sector, and nonprofit leaders from across the United States. Through this ongoing partnership, the CFE Fund shares best practices and technical assistance and helps foster inter-regional collaboration between domestic and international governments engaged in financial empowerment work. 


SaveUSA Initiative

SaveUSA is a tax time matched savings program designed to explore the viability of incentivizing short-term, emergency savings when filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Funded by a Social Innovation Fund grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, SaveUSA was based on a simple program—tax filers who deposited part of their refund into a designated account, and maintained the deposit for a year, received a 50% savings match up to $500. The program was piloted in New York, NY; Newark, NJ; San Antonio, TX; and Tulsa, OK.

SaveUSA builds off the promising results of the $aveNYC initiative, created and then replicated under the administration of Michael R. Bloomberg in New York City, and was designed to test if the tax time moment—when tax filers with low incomes often receive a significant refund—could be used to encourage filers to save for the short-term as a realistic first step towards longer-term financial stability. The program was designed as a test for a broader policy goal: integrating a tax time savings incentive into the federal tax code.

The results of a five-year, randomized control trial (RCT), conducted by research firm MDRC, provide strong, rigorous evidence that low-income families can save for the short term, and that tax time is the right moment to encourage savings. Recently, Congressman José Serrano (D-NY) reintroduced the Financial Security Credit Act of 2015. Drawing on evidence provided by SaveUSA, the bill would permanently build a matched-savings opportunity into the federal tax code.

The SaveUSA program was supported by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and created in partnership with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment.

The Professionalizing Field of Financial Counseling and Coaching

Over the last several years, large-scale investments in one-on-one financial counseling and coaching programs have grown exponentially.  Private funders, federal agencies, local municipalities across the country, and large nonprofit organizations have been demonstrating that free, one-on-one financial counseling and coaching services can be delivered at scale, through trained professionals, with measurable client outcomes. There’s a growing consensus that the key to demonstrating the value of these investments, and therefore sustaining and growing them, is this growth toward the professionalization of the field.

With this in mind, the CFE Fund, with generous support from Citi Community Development, issued a call for essays related to the importance of national standards in the field of low income financial counseling and coaching in an attempt to document stakeholders’ current thinking, their priorities, and their progress towards professionalizing the field.  To read the call for essays, click here. Abstract submissions are closed; selected authors will be notified in July and invited to expand their submissions into short, structured essays, published in a CFE Fund journal and highlighted at an upcoming national conference on the same topic in 2016.


"Twelve in Twelve" Webinar Series

The CFE Fund's Innovation Center webinar series "Twelve in Twelve: Financial Empowerment Programming Across CFE Coalition Cities" is now complete! Once a month throughout 2013, the CFE Fund series featured one program in each Coalition city. Download any one of the recordings to learn more about how these experts make it happen. This webinar series was made possible thanks to a generous partnership with the Capital One Foundation.


Local Consumer Protection Replication

Announced by CFPB Director Richard Cordray, NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, the CFE Fund was tapped to help local governments across the country develop and enhance their capacity to offer their residents consumer protection and financial empowerment. Hailed as a model for combining local capacity with federal partnership, the NYC DCA protects consumers through licensing, enforcement, mediation, and outreach powers and programs. This initiative is seed funded with generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


Multi-city Financial Empowerment Hackathon

With generous support from Capital One, the CFE Fund hosted a multi-city Financial Empowerment Hackathon, a national effort to create software applications (apps) focused on financial inclusion. Regional Hackathons took place in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco throughout the summer, drawing in over 110 participants. Regional winners then presented their ideas virtually to a panel of judges at a site hosted by Bloomberg LP in New York. Judges selected MEDAPulse, in partnership with the Mission Economic Development Agency from San Francisco, as the winner for an app design that would connect financial counseling follow up goals to pre-scheduled future text messages. After being selected as the winner, MEDAPulse presented this app to CFE Coalition leaders from across the country.


National Disability Institute's LEAD Center


The CFE Fund has joined the National Disability Institute to establish the National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD Center). The LEAD Center, supported by a grant from the US Department of Labor, will focus on improving employment outcomes and promoting the economic advancement of people with disabilities.

The CFE Fund will add its expertise to connect financial stability efforts to employment programming, identifying and integrating targeted financial empowerment strategies within the LEAD Center. 


National Financial Education Networks

Establishing a Financial Education Network (FEN) is a good first step for cities looking to build the financial capability of residents.  FENs enable cities to engage local non-profit community organizations to build, promote, and disseminate their services using city platforms.  Many cities have robust non-profit communities already engaging in financial education linked to borrowing, lending, homeownership or small and microbusiness interventions.  By reaching out to these disparate, often isolated players and establishing a network, cities can harness the capacity of the local non-profit sector while offering their ability to conduct outreach at scale and centralize and coordinate client flow to the available resources. 

The CFE Fund will be launching a set of tools for local communities to launch their own Financial Education Networks in 2013.