|Home | Spring 2009||
Louisa M. Quittman, Director for Community Programs, U.S. Department of the Treasury
The Community Financial Access Pilot (CFAP) is an initiative of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Financial Education. Endorsed by the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, the pilot is designed to increase access to financial services and financial education for low- and moderate-income individuals. The CFAP helps financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, schools and universities, and others to work together to build effective and sustainable solutions for the financial service needs of low-income people in the community.
Best practices from around the country are shared with participating communities, and lessons learned from the pilot communities are shared so more communities can develop similar initiatives. Through the CFAP, the Treasury Department seeks to demonstrate effective models to reach the 10 million households across the United States that lack bank or credit union accounts. "It's in everyone's best interest to ensure the people living here have financial stability through a bank or credit union," says Ruth Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Human Development Corporation of St. Louis, a CFAP partner.
The current pilot includes the following communities:
At each pilot site, Treasury's Community Consultants assess community needs, facilitate partnerships, and work with local organizations to develop appropriate financial products and implement financial education services that serve the community even after the end of the pilot.
The Treasury Department has found that strong partnerships among financial institutions and community partners (including state and local governments, faith-based organizations, educational institutions, and other service providers) trusted by low-income community residents are among the most critical factors for successful initiatives to expand access to financial services.
Additionally, the Treasury Department believes it is crucial to have strong support throughout each participating organization for the initiative. Therefore, each partner is encouraged to develop its own products and services and contribute to the initiative in a manner that is consistent with its own mission and business plan. Through that approach, institutions are fully vested in the outcome of the initiative for the long term and partners build on what they do well, rather than try to take on unfamiliar roles. Taken together, these elements ensure that collaborating entities are true partners with a common aim of helping community residents—and the communities as a whole—achieve greater financial stability.
"The Jacksonville Financial Access Pilot is helping to increase low-and moderate-income families' access to financial services and financial education," says George Owen of Regions Financial Corporation in Jacksonville. "The pilot also has been the catalyst for a strong partnership between many of the community's financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, the city, and various social services agencies. The Treasury has played a vital role in building this important partnership."
The Jacksonville CFAP works with existing service providers to expand financial services and education in low-income neighborhoods, with a special focus on providing "second-chance" accounts for individuals who have had previous account problems. The University of Florida Cooperative Extension is leading the financial education effort locally by providing the "Get Checking" curriculum, and a number of financial institutions have committed to providing second-chance accounts to individuals who complete the curriculum.
In Mississippi, two approaches serve the rural areas and small towns in the Delta region. In partnership with Delta State University's Center for Community and Economic Development, the CFAP facilitates financial education and access to financial services to AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteers, who work with community organizations serving low-income individuals and communities.
The Mississippi CFAP provides financial education and access to bank and credit union accounts to these volunteers, who then will be able to spread the word around the region about the benefits of accounts. Additionally, the CFAP is providing financial education and access to low-cost financial services to the parents of Head Start students. By reaching parents of economically disadvantaged preschoolers, the CFAP will help parents better manage their short-term financial situation, educate their children about sound financial behaviors, and plan for their children's future, through savings.
The Office of Financial Education encourages financial institutions in the eight pilot communities to get involved by contacting the appropriate community consultant. For more information about the CFAP, contact Louisa Quittman, Director of Community Programs. If you are not in one of the pilot communities, but would like to start your own initiative, visit the Web site.
Source: U.S. Department of Treasury