Financial Inclusion: Helping Families Gain a Solid Financial Foothold

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Our new report, City Financial Inclusion Efforts: A National Overview, highlights the growing commitment of city leaders to address the financial challenges of their residents.

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Mayors and other city leaders see first-hand how families in their communities are struggling to navigate today’s complex financial systems. They hear from residents regularly about how hard it is to pay all of their monthly bills, save money for their children’s education, or navigate unexpected debts that stem from a job loss or hospital visit.

One in 13 households in the U.S. do not even have a bank account – the primary way most Americans conduct their day-to-day financial transactions. City leaders know that these kinds of financial challenges can threaten the well-being of families and erode the economic base of a city.

FI_QuoteCity Financial Inclusion Efforts: A National Overview highlights research that show 65 percent of mayors and other city leaders are taking action to mitigate the financial challenges many of their residents face on a daily basis.

To combat these challenges, mayors, councilmembers and city treasurers across the country are working with community partners to help families build savings and assets, improve credit scores and expand access to safe and affordable financial services. These efforts are typically grouped under the umbrella of “financial inclusion.” BUILDINGBLOCKSsmalltable_web-version_Soren

While some cities have traditionally helped residents purchase homes or offered limited financial education classes, our survey found that more cities are now taking action to address a range of financial needs through numerous innovative financial inclusion programs. And some cities have assembled the necessary building blocks to develop comprehensive local financial inclusion systems.

Though these programs are most common in larger cities in the Northeast, smaller cities in other parts of the country are taking action, too. The report showcases cities throughout the country that are engaged in financial inclusion efforts. Columbia, S.C., for example, has created an Office of Family Financial Stability to meet their residents’ financial needs. Lansing, Mich., and Nashville, Tenn., are providing financial counseling and other services to individuals and families; and in San Francisco, every child entering public kindergarten can get a savings account for college with $50 already deposited.

CITIES_Figure01_web_dThere is tremendous potential for city government to lead the way in securing financial stability for families. By coordinating with local partners and acting as champions for their residents’ financial health, city-led financial inclusion efforts can have far-reaching impacts on local economic development.

About the Author:
Heidi Goldberg is the Director for Economic Opportunity and Financial Empowerment in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Heidi on Twitter at @GoldbergHeidi.