State League Family Economic Success Initiatives
Since 2008, the YEF Institute has engaged cities throughout the country in the Bank On Cities Campaign, a national initiative to connect unbanked families to mainstream financial services and financial education. By helping low-income families gain access to free and low-cost checking and savings accounts as an alternative to high-cost check cashers and predatory lenders, municipal officials provide these families with a pathway to financial stability and safe, affordable financial products. More than 100 communities are at some stage of replicating the Bank On San Francisco model developed in 2006.
Recently, some state governments have sought to expand the Bank On model throughout their states. Four cities are part of Bank On Indiana, of which the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns is a steering committee partner.
The Louisiana Municipal Association (LMA) partners with the Louisiana Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy to help member city officials promote financial education for local residents. The month of April was set aside as Financial Literacy Month to highlight Louisiana Saves, a statewide campaign to promote financial knowledge, which LMA supports by providing member cities with a sample mayoral proclamation and news release. Louisiana Saves is designed to reduce dependency on community resources, reverse the trend of high credit card debt, and empower Louisianans to meet their financial goals through healthy money management. The campaign was developed by the New Orleans-based Institute of Community Development in conjunction with the Consumer Federation of America.
LMA is also sponsoring the Louisiana Business and Technology Center's Mobile Classroom Initiative to provide financial literacy education to more than 200 high school students.
Statewide Bank On Initiatives
State municipal leagues can play an important role in supporting statewide Bank On initiatives by providing information to member cities and participating in state policy discussions. As noted above, local Bank On programs connect unbanked residents with mainstream financial services as an alternative to check cashers, payday lenders and other high-cost fringe financial service providers. Statewide Bank On initiatives exist in California, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, and Washington State.
Bank On California was the nation's first statewide initiative to expand access to mainstream financial services for low-income families and individuals. Bank On California seeks to connect 100,000 Californians with free or low-cost bank accounts in its first two years. The initiative estimates that one in five Californians does not have a checking account. The cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, and Fresno are the first tier of cities participating in Bank On California.
Seven cities currently participate in the Bank On California initiative launched in December 2008. Four cities - Aurora, Carbondale, Rockford and Springfield - participate in Bank On Illinois, which was launched by the State Treasurer in October 2009. Development of a statewide Bank On initiative is also underway in Connecticut, Maine and North Carolina.
The Campaign to End Childhood Hunger
In 2009-10, the YEF Institute worked with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and state municipal leagues to increase participation in federal nutrition assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and school breakfast and lunch programs. In addition to helping low-income families stretch their food dollars and remain financially secure, increasing participation among eligible residents also brings additional federal dollars into local economies.
The YEF Institute partnered with state municipal leagues in Florida and Colorado to highlight opportunities for city officials to connect with state-based anti-hunger groups that are part of FRAC's Campaign to End Childhood Hunger. Articles in the Florida League of Cities' Quality Cities magazine and the Colorado Municipal League's "CML Newsletter" raised awareness about city roles in promoting access to federal nutrition assistance programs and highlighted resources that can support local outreach efforts.