Doing the Math: "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" Doesn't Add Up

House Republicans unveiled their tax plan on Thursday, prompting debate between advocates and adversaries about whom the plan most benefits. Paul Waldman writes in an opinion-editorial for The Washington Post that the “two competing narratives” about the plan remain unchanged. Critics argue the plan favors the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the majority of Americans; supporters that it promotes economic growth that will trickle down.

Policy Update: Senate Strikes Down Consumer Bureau Rule to Guarantee Class-Action Suits

In July, the House voted to roll back the CFPB's rule (see how your House representative voted here). Now, the Senate has followed suit. On Tuesday, October 24 at 9:46 p.m. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie, thus, overturning the CFPB rule which would have allowed American consumers to file class-action lawsuits against financial institutions (see how your Senator voted here).

While praising federal payday loan rule, Indiana advocates call for further action from state lawmakers

On Thursday, October 5, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a rule that will reduce the harms of payday lending in Indiana. On a press call Friday, October 6th, advocates from the Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network, representatives of faith and military / veterans’ organizations, and a payday borrower spoke in favor of the rule, but noted that the CFPB did not have the authority to change the cost of payday loans. They called on Indiana lawmakers to take further action to lower the interest rate – currently capped at 391% APR. 

Vice President Pence in Indiana to Advocate for the Administration's Tax Plan

The Trump Administration’s proposed tax plan would shortchange working families in Indiana. Andrew Bradley, Senior Policy Analyst, Indiana Institute for Working Families, writes that “added together, the three low- and middle-earning quintiles (making up 60% of Indiana’s population) would only get 11.7% percent of the planned cuts, while the top 1% alone would take home 46.1% of the state’s share of the cuts.”

Whose side are they on? House members vote to protect payday lenders

A majority in the U.S. House of Representatives once again sided with America’s payday lenders, voting to strip the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—American consumers’ watchdog—of the authority to regulate this industry. The vote came Thurs., Sept. 14 during the debate over the Financial Services and General Government bill, which funds some basic functions of the federal government, including the Treasury Department.

Catholic Charities to Offer Free DACA Renewal Workshop

Beyond the economic contributions Dreamers make to the U.S. economy and the fiscal irresponsibility of repealing DACA—it poses an enormous strain on taxpayers—the repeal of DACA should not be analyzed exclusively through an economic framework. Dreamers—many of whom have never known a home other than the U.S.—have been denied the freedom to live in the U.S. without fear based on their place of birth and skin color.

CFPB to Release Proposal on Payday Lending Protections as soon as Mid-September

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a consumer watchdog group, plans to release a proposal that would regulate two categories of loans — short term loans, defined as having a repayment plan of less than 45 days and long term loans, defined as having a repayment plan of more than 45 days. However, long term loans would only be regulated if they have an annual percentage rate (APR) greater than 36 percent or are repaid directly from a borrower’s checking account, wages, or secured by the borrower’s vehicle. The proposal was published as a draft last year with organizations like the Center for Responsible Lending supporting some of its measures and criticizing others. The final proposal may be released as early as mid-September.

The Intersection between Community Health and Community Development

National Public Radio (NPR) recently published a segment titled “Your ZIP Code Might Be As Important To Your Health As Your Genetic Code.” The segment details Kaiser Permanente, a nationwide care consortium’s, Portland, Oregon hospital. When a patient approaches the receptionist’s desk, she is asked to fill out a “life situation form,” which inventories the patient’s non-medical stressors. The questions, which gather information about housing, finances, transportation, and food access, provide Kaiser Permanente a richer picture of the factors that influence their patients’ health so that they can more effectively treat them.

The life situation form is a mechanism for determining the social factors that influence a person’s health and, for years, public health professionals have championed studying and addressing these factors, designated the Social Determinants of Health.

Indiana Ranks Average on Five Indicators of Financial Security

Tuesday, July 25 marked the release of the 2017 Prosperity Now Scorecard. The Scorecard, which ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia along five indicators of financial security, also reports on the policies that enable or constrain states' capacity to perform well along the measures. In 2017, Indiana averaged an outcome rank of 32, down from 30 in the 2016 Scorecard. Data from the Scorecard reveals that economic gains accrued since the recession disproportionately benefit wealthy families and that income and wealth inequality is especially pronounced between white households and households of color.

Return the Favor and Protect the CFPB, Which For Six Years Has Protected You, the Consumer

Today marks the sixth birthday of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a consumer watchdog group formed in response to the 2008 financial crisis. The brainchild of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the CFPB advocates for consumer protections against usury financial products, as well as enabling consumers’ capacity to advocate for retribution against these practices.Pam Banks, senior staff attorney with Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, believes that weakening the CFPB would have devastating effects for consumers.

Building A Lifetime of Financial Security

The Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network (Indiana A&O Network), a statewide asset-building coalition, is planning four lunch-n-learns across the state to discuss concepts from What It's Worth, a book about strengthening the financial futures of families.

The Indiana A&O Network has commissioned a videographer and animator to produce a 20 minute video to show at the beginning of the events to encourage open and honest discussions about financial instability and local solutions to economic mobility barriers for families in Indiana.

Indiana House Members Vote to Roll Back Wall Street Reform

Today, 7 out of 9 members of the Indiana House delegation voted to undo consumer protections put in place after the financial crisis to guard against future economic crashes and bailouts. The legislation in question, the so-called Financial CHOICE Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 233-186.

“We just don’t understand it,” said Kelsey Clayton of Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network. “Elected representatives  are supposed to stand up for Indiana communities but instead they decided to support legislation that explicitly protects payday lenders, cripples the government watchdog, and allows banks to go back to doing the same kinds of deals that forced us to bail them out."

On One-Year Anniversary of Payday Rule, Congress Hard at Work Protecting Payday Lenders

June 2, 2017 – One year ago today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a draft rule aimed at reining in the worst abuses of payday, car title and other high-cost debt trap lending schemes. While these protections are sorely needed in Indiana, where such loans carry APRs reaching 391 percent and many borrowers become trapped in a cycle of debt, Congress is actively working to protect payday lenders.

Specifically, the U.S. House of Representatives will soon vote on the so-called Financial CHOICE Act, which would essentially undo all of the consumer protections put in place after the Great Recession and bank bailout.

Want to get Paid to Save for College? Start a Children's Savings Account

Education level has long been closely associated with economic outcomes and a college degree in particular is seen as an indiscriminate vehicle of economic mobility. While the U.S. Census Bureau finds that a young adult working full time with a high school diploma makes more than an equivalent young adult working full time without a high school diploma ($30,000 a year vs. $25,000 a year respectively), a young adult with a bachelor's degree will, on average, make $49,900 a year. This dramatic wage difference means that a typical American with a bachelor's degree will make 66 percent more in lifetime earnings than the typical American with only a high school diploma.

The Bard Prison Initiative-Offering College Degrees in Prison

In the United States 650,000 inmates are released from prison every year-nearly 68 percent of them are rearrested within three years of release. Although studies have largely found that employment has a significant effect in reducing the recidivism rate, or the rate an ex-offender relapses into criminal behavior, low reading and technological literacy levels and the stigma of being an ex-offender in the eyes of potential employers, largely prevents ex-offenders from getting a job. Initiatives, such as Ban the Box which encourage public and private employers to remove the check box from their hiring applications asking if applicants have a criminal record, do help destigmatize an ex-offender’s criminal history. Unfortunately many states do not widely acknowledge these initiatives including Indiana, which recently passed SB 312: a bill that prevents municipalities from enacting Ban the Box ordinances. Fazed out of the job market, ex-offenders are often left with no other choice but to return to crime to provide for themselves and their families.

Hundreds of Hoosiers Swindled By Experian Credit Scam

Indianapolis, IN – Thanks to complaints from 43,000 consumers around the country - including over 450 from Indiana consumers - the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) investigated and shut down a nationwide credit score scam that tricked Americans out of their hard-earned dollars by marketing and selling credit scores that they claimed were used by lenders to make credit decisions. In truth, lenders did not use those credit scores when deciding whether to make loans. The CFPB also hit the company with a $3 million civil penalty.

Policy Update: Payday Sees Another Defeat, but Indiana Congressmen Challenge Recent CFPB Rules

Indiana saw another close call on predatory lending in the General Assembly, but may face a challenge in Congress on loosening limits on prepaid cards. The payday lending industry attempted a late-in-the-game adjustment to Indiana’s uniform consumer credit code last Monday, March 20th. The language they proposed would have allowed lenders to charge a .395 percent daily “customary fee” to offset the cost of origination, ability-to-repay determinations, and so on. This could have been layered onto the 25 percent interest rate allowed under the statute, bringing the total possible APR up to 169 percent. This proposal was also unusual in that it was not within the statute governing small loans (a.k.a. payday loans), but instead was in the section of code that applied to all forms of open- and closed-ended installment lending. Fortunately, the amendment was not offered thanks to opposition from consumer advocates and members of the House committee in which it would have been heard.

The Health and Wealth Connection

A recent webinar hosted by the Asset Funders Network (AFN) entitled The Health and Wealth Connection: Opportunities for Investment Across the Life Course, explored several variables that when combined, create the social determinants of health. These variables are socioeconomic status, education, physical environment, employment, social support networks, and access to healthcare, which all factor into a community’s overall health. The webinar described this equation simply as “health happens where we live, learn, work, and play.”

Although health is commonly perceived to be confined within doctors’ offices and hospitals, the social determinants of health indicate that health happens everywhere. In fact, access to healthcare is the last step, and least critical, in determining the overall health of a community. 

Network Rallies to Help Stop Payday Expansion

This month at the Indiana Statehouse, Assets & Opportunity Network partners helped spearhead the defeat of SB 245, a bill to authorize new, longer term predatory loans with high interest rates. The bill would have allowed a borrower to take out up to a $2,500 loan at 240 percent APR and repayment terms of 24 months. The bill was amended to a cap of 18 months, $1,750, and 216 percent APR. Nineteen opponents testified against the bill, representing credit counselors, former payday borrowers, non-profit organizations, religious leaders, a former payday loan company employee, veterans’ groups, and more. The bill was defeated in a 4-5 vote. Please help us thank Senators Bray, Melton, Mrvan, Ruckelshaus, and Walker for their key votes to help protect Indiana families.