Taking the First Step: Six Ways to Start Building Financial Security and Opportunity at the Local Level

Drawing on the experiences of cities of all sizes across the nation, a new report published by CFED and NLC highlights six no-cost or low-cost ideas for how city officials can get started in helping more families in their community achieve financial stability.  The report, Taking the First Step: Six Ways to Start Building Financial Security and Opportunity at the Local Level, describes the following points of entry for municipal leadership:

  1. Raising awareness about available services and consumer protections.
  2. Increasing access to financial education through provider networks.
  3. Connecting residents to safe and affordable financial products.
  4. Mitigating foreclosures by coordinating services and leveraging resources.
  5. Preventing predatory lending through local ordinances.
  6. Modeling a strong role for employers through benefit structures and human resource policies.

The six financial empowerment strategies described in this step-by-step guide serve as “low-hanging fruit” for cities that have just begun to focus on ways to promote family economic success.  These concrete, low-cost strategies can build on existing city initiatives to empower families by helping them learn financial skills, maximize their earnings and income, save and invest for the future, and protect their assets.

The six strategies featured in the report complement traditional municipal efforts to enhance residents’ economic security through job creation, workforce development services, and housing and community development programs.  Cities can increase the return on their investment in employment and housing and bolster economic self-sufficiency by helping more residents build assets and avoid falling victim to predatory financial practices.  For each of the six strategies, the guide provides background information about why the strategy is important, key first steps city leaders can take toward implementation, city examples, and ideas to enhance and sustain the strategy to greater meet the economic needs of residents.

A concluding section explores opportunities to develop a comprehensive and integrated financial empowerment agenda that is firmly embedded within the way local governments do business, and emphasizes the value of drawing on local experience to advocate for supportive policies at the state and federal levels.

City leaders can download the report by visiting the NLC or CFED websites.  For more information, contact Denise Belser at (202) 626-3028 or belser@nlc.org.