Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communication and Training Specialist
Financial instability is the root of many of the challenges that community economic development organizations work with on a daily basis when serving clients. You can help your community address economic instability in four ways.
1. Call attention to economic disparity in your community by showcasing data from the CFED scorecard
We all understand our communities and their unique dynamics, needs and opportunities. CFED provides data that allow us to confirm what we know, highlight economic disparity and prove the need for more financial capability services. It also provides a consistent metric for comparison with other communities across the country. Data is always a useful tool to leverage additional funding or adaptations in programs, and CFED provides this scorecard and a host of other information for free.
Explore the CFED Scorecard for Michigan and the rest of the country and explore some of the other resources available to help you navigate your work. scorecard.assetsandopportunity.org/latest/state/mi
2. Bring attention to predatory lending practices and help your community understand that there are alternatives
Predatory loans are intended by design to take advantage of vulnerable populations who feel trapped and without options. The best way you can help your clients protect themselves is to understand the situation yourself, talking to your legislators (and telling them to vote no on predatory product expansion legislation) and sharing alternative products with your clients. While predatory lenders had a prior advantage, many credit unions, organizations and others are fighting against them and offering alternatives that can actually empower people rather than harm them.
A good place to learn more about the subject and alternative products is with Predatory Lending Toolkit available for free on CEDAM’s website: cedamichigan.org/policy/payday
3. Market and attend a Show Me the Money Day event
Show Me the Money Day is a community resource fair filled with opportunities to help your clients access financial education and resources. Whether your organization is hosting an event this year or not, it’s a great idea for you to both market and attend the event in your community. Doing so will provide opportunities to network with peers, discover new resources and provide year-round support to your clients. If there is not an event in your community this year, consider joining forces with new potential partners and hosting an event in 2017!
Learn more at ShowMeTheMoneyDay.org
4. Market free tax preparation sites and educate taxpayers of their rights
With free tax preparation sites across Michigan and free online resources, every eligible person should be able to access services that help them claim all they should when filing their taxes. However, more than simply sharing information about these sites with your clients, help them to understand their rights as taxpayers and identify practices that are predatory should they seek alternative resources. Understanding what resources are available, what fees are reasonable and when to say no will position a person to be well-informed and make good decisions.
MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org is a great place to gain more information about free tax assistance, important tax credits and free tax preparation sites. A Taxpayer Bill of Rights is also available and updated through the IRS: irs.gov/Taxpayer-Bill-of-Rights
Using these free and accessible tools is a great place to start to resolve local challenges and empower your clients. If you already have programs in place, these resources can enhance and leverage their success even further. CEDAM has a host of additional resources beyond these, which you can view at anytime at cedamichigan.org.