The Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Coalition, a group of municipal governments including the City of San Antonio that is dedicated to helping low-income residents achieve long-term financial stability, was recognized with the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) Assets & Opportunity Award on Sept. 20, 2012. The award, the only one of its kind, honors groups and individuals who are advancing the field of asset-building in the United States and increasing the use of financial products and services that allow low-income families to buy a home, pursue higher education, start a business and move up the economic ladder.
"The City of San Antonio is proud to be honored for our work as member of the CFE Coalition," Mayor Julián Castro said. "We realize the critical role that asset-building programs and community resources play in helping hard-working families save for the future while creating long-term opportunities for themselves. By expanding these resources for our residents, we are helping to boost economic growth throughout San Antonio."
San Antonio is one of 12 cities that comprise the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Coalition. The group was launched in 2008 by New York City's Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and San Francisco's then-Mayor Gavin Newsom to bring together local governments interested in advancing programs that increase financial security for struggling households, such as affordable and accessible financial products and services, financial education and counseling, and asset protection. In addition to San Antonio, the coalition includes Chicago, Hawai'i County, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Newark, New York, Providence, San Francisco, Savannah and Seattle.
San Antonio's financial empowerment programs are coordinated with the Family Assistance Division of the Department of Human Services. The City's Family Assistance programs promote family financial strengthening, economic self-sufficiency, asset building and asset protection. Programs include Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) free tax preparation, emergency utility/rental/mortgage payment assistance, foreclosure prevention counseling, financial literacy education, and long term case management to help improve the financial well-being of low income residents. Financial empowerment programs stabilize families in financial crisis, provide opportunities to increase assets through accessing tax credits, encourage savings and expand financial education across the community.
The award was presented to coalition co-chairs Jonathan Mintz, Commissioner of the New York Department of Consumer Affairs, and José Cisneros, Treasurer of the City and County of San Francisco, at CFED's Biennial Assets Learning Conference in Washington, D.C. Keynote remarks were given by Newark's Mayor Cory Booker, a CFE Coalition member, and Bill Corr, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The award has been presented two times previously, to Citigroup and the Ford Foundation.
Andrea Levere, president of CFED and a presenter of the award, along with former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell, noted that the CFE Coalition in a few short years has "single-handedly created the field of municipal financial empowerment, bringing together local government leaders from across the country with non-profits, foundations and financial institutions to provide low-income households with the support and tools they need to achieve financial security. Through its formidable coalition, Cities for Financial Empowerment has demonstrated the power of city governments to bring innovative ideas to reality and create measurable change for all residents."
The CFE Coalition has also launched its own non-profit organization - the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, which supports municipal efforts to improve the financial stability of households by leveraging opportunities unique to local government.