LOS ANGELES (CNS) —The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering expanding programs to help financially vulnerable residents manage their money, take advantage of tax credits and build a strong credit history so they can cope with a job loss or other financial emergency without falling into poverty.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has proposed that the county create a Center for Financial Empowerment to coordinate programs across various governmental agencies and enlist the help of community credit unions and nonprofit organizations to educate residents.
“Over this past year, the county Board of Supervisors has adopted a number of innovative policies aimed at building prosperity and economic security for all county residents,” Kuehl told City News Service. “We raised the minimum wage in unincorporated areas as well as the living wage for many of our county contractors, and put programs in place to help small businesses thrive.”
However, Kuehl and Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion on financial empowerment programs, say more needs to be done.
Citing research by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, the pair said 15 percent of Los Angeles County residents live at or below the official poverty level, but nearly half of residents are “liquid asset poor,” meaning that they don’t have enough money saved to keep them above the poverty level for three months if they lose a job.
“This motion explores increased help for those trying to stay out of poverty by developing a state-of-the-art financial empowerment center to coordinate a host of programs across the region,” Kuehl said.
County residents pay more than $54 million in check-cashing fees and $88 million in payday loan fees annually, according to the motion.
More than a quarter of county households do not have a checking or savings account, making it the third least-banked region in the country, according to census data.
In addition to paying check-cashing and loan fees that could be better used to support their families, many low-income residents are eligible for an estimated $300 million in federal and state earned income tax credits that they fail to collect.
Kuehl and Solis have proposed a two-year pilot of a Center for Financial Empowerment to begin this September.