Combatting Poverty and Building Assets
Poverty, one of the most pernicious problems facing America, sharply divides society and creates a vast underclass. For some low-income and newly-arrived individuals seeking financial stability, the financial tools middle-class Americans take for granted are simply out of reach: car loans, home equity loans, or even having access to a bank. For those even less fortunate, the challenges of everyday life – commuting to a job, finding shelter, and even eating – present drastic challenges. Affordable housing, predatory debt practices, and food insecurity are just a few of the issues we address in this area.
Asset Building and Access on Fair Terms to Financial Institutions
For low-income and newly-arrived individuals and families seeking financial stability, access to mainstream banking and financial services is essential. Savings and checking accounts, low-interest loans, credit and remittance services, and financial education are crucial to the asset-building process.
We believe that transparency and fair dealing on the part of financial institutions, and improved access to mainstream banking and financial services, are essential. We work to inform immigrant consumers about the US financial services system and to educate financial institutions about the needs of immigrant communities.
Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Annette LoVoi (National), John Pickens (Alabama), Shay Farley (Alabama), Malcolm Rich (Chicago), Bob Kettle (Connecticut), Sharon Hill (Georgia), Rob Rhodes (Georgia), Victor Geminiani (Hawai’i), Benet Magnuson (Kansas), Christy Kane (Louisiana), Jessie Haynes (Louisiana), Maru Cortazar (Mexico), Becky Gould (Nebraska), Darcy Tromanhauser (Nebraska), Renée Steinhagen (New Jersey), David Tipson (New York), Sue Berkowitz (South Carolina), Rebecca Lightsey (Texas), Ann Baddour (Texas), Katie Mosehauer(Washington State)
Consumer Debt and Predatory Lending
Payday and auto-title loans provide a short-lived influx of ready money, but with APRs of 600 percent and higher, are generally designed from the outset to trap consumers in a never-ending cycle of mounting debt.
Having well documented the baleful effects of predatory lending on vulnerable people, we believe that consumers deserve fair, transparent options. The Appleseed network’s advocacy on the issue has taken a variety of forms depending on the jurisdiction, from zoning laws to keep out payday and auto title lenders to a pilot program with a credit union offering immigration loans to help people convert from green cards to citizenship.
We work to end due process abuses occurring in consumer debt litigation and ensure that the judicial system isn’t serving as an extension of debt collection agencies. We urge judges to refuse to allow their courts to be used as venues for exploitative practices.
Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: John Pickens (Alabama), Shay Farley (Alabama), Benet Magnuson (Kansas), Christy Kane (Louisiana), Jessie Haynes (Louisiana), Renée Steinhagen (New Jersey), Sue Berkowitz (South Carolina), Rebecca Lightsey (Texas), Ann Baddour (Texas)
Land handed down informally one generation to the next is termed ‘heir property.’ In the absence of a will at the time of the landowner’s death, the disposition of the land is governed by state laws directing that it go to some combination of spouse, children and siblings. These ‘tenants in common’ each then own a fractional interest in the entire parcel of land dependent upon their degree of separation from the original owner. This clouded and fractionated title opens the door to forced sales, blight, loss of historic family properties, housing insecurity, and insider sales at courthouses.
The problem drew sharp attention in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when many low-income families did not have legal proof of ownership of their property, and thus could not at the outset qualify for government assistance to repair storm damage to their homes.
Appleseed has provided critical assistance to the drafters of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act; this model law, as enacted by several states, helps keep families from losing their heir property and helps protect against abusive practices in foreclosure actions.
The ability to afford housing impacts far more than just having a decent, safe place to live. Affordable housing is associated with better health, improved childhood development, and educational achievement because it frees up a family’s budget for more nutritious food, access to medical care, and quality childcare, and it provides stability where family members can thrive.
We believe that decent, affordable housing should be available and attainable. We support the Fair Housing Act, intended to combat discriminatory housing patterns that can promote and maintain racial segregation.
Millions of low-income families lack access to healthy food choices and the resources necessary to purchase adequate amounts of food. One need look no further than the burgeoning rolls of food stamp recipients or the lines at charity food pantries to get an idea of the scope of the problem.We believe that access to food is a fundamental human right and we advocate at the local, state and national levels for improved access to nutritional food for low-income individuals.
We support two of the most effective anti-poverty programs around, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Both SNAP and the EITC provide critical support to a wide range of households, including workers, families, people with disabilities, immigrants, and seniors.
Remittance Transfers (Wiring Money Electronically)
Remittances, or money sent electronically – often to friends and family abroad – help reduce poverty. More money is sent through remittances than through foreign aid. But wire transfers abroad are often expensive – generally priced as a percentage of the amount being sent – and until recently their true cost was fairly opaque. This lack of transparency and error resolution had long hindered consumers’ ability to send money home.
Much of that changed in late 2013 with landmark federal consumer protections that were enacted by Congress and implemented by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The result of more than 10 years of effort by the Appleseed network, the new rules require remittance providers to give consumers clear information up front about the price and delivery of the transfer, as well as remedies if the transfer goes wrong.
Appleseed’s Relevant Experts: Annette LoVoi (National)