Thursday, March 19, 2015

Assets & Opportunity Network Technical Assistance Fund: Strengthening and Integrating Financial Capability in Miami


Catalyst Miami applied to the Assets & Opportunity Network Technical Assistance Fund last year seeking tools and advice to take their already strong services to the next level through staff development and greater integration strategies for their services internally and externally. An Assets & Opportunity Network Lead Organization, Catalyst Miami is a leader in their community for healthcare access and financial capability services. In order to leverage their strengths, build staff competencies and better meet clients where they are, Catalyst Miami sought assistance on:
  • ·       Strengthening their onboarding process and training of staff financial coaches
  • ·       Mapping potential partners to help fill gaps in services
  • ·       Identifying tools to help inform internal planning process to integrate financial capability and healthcare access services

Assets & Opportunity Network staff shared a number of tools and resources from the field with Catalyst Miami staff and walked them through their applicability to help them in their efforts. A few of these resources included:
  • ·       Center for Financial Security’s Financial Coaching Training Survey Brief
  • ·       CFPB Your Money, Your Goals Toolkit- specifically the community mapping tool
  • ·       Planning Guide Community Mapping Tool
  • ·       Integration Resources on CFED’s website

For others looking to do this work, here a few other resources may also be helpful to you:
  • ·       Integrating Financial Capability Services 101 webinar recording
  • ·       Integration brief: Meeting clients where they are
  • ·       Integration brief: Gaining and retaining employment
  • ·       Asset Funders Network Financial Coaching Report
  • ·       Planning Guide for Integrating Financial Capability Services- Coming Soon!

Assets & Opportunity Network staff were able to walk Catalyst Miami through these tools and resources and discuss their applicability to their work. We discussed strategies, lessons learned from the field, and sustainability of their efforts. However, it’s Catalyst Miami’s dedication to this work and their commitment to continuous improvement that makes us confident that they will be successful in refining their financial coaching training process, as well as improving efficiencies for their internal client referrals between their financial capability and health services and with community partners. Since this work, Catalyst Miami and been convening community partners to discuss financial capability service delivery in their community and provide training opportunities with CFPB’s Your Money, Your Goals toolkit. And we’re excited to see what else their able to accomplish!  

Technical assistance efforts such as this one with Catalyst Miami are what make the JPMorgan Chase Technical Assistance Fund unique; by using these individual experiences to extract important, generalizable lessons, we can utilize and share them to continue to build the capacity of other organizations across the field.

Also in This Series

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New Data Show 3.2 Million Americans Benefit from Volunteer Tax Preparation

New Data Show Volunteer Tax Preparation Provides a Significant Benefit to Lower-Income Taxpayers

Nearly $4 billion in refunds reached every state in the US

This morning, the Taxpayer Opportunity Network released its new breakdown of national IRS data on the 2014 tax season, which shows that volunteers helped over 3.2 million taxpayers get $3.89 billion in tax refunds. The data reveal that the economic impact of volunteer tax assistance benefits residents of every state in the country, helping them achieve their financial goals and boosting local economic activity.
CFED and the Taxpayer Opportunity Network find that millions of Americans receive an economic boost from tax credits generated by Volunteer Tax Assistance, including $1.1 billion in Earned Income Tax Credits, $900 million in Child and Additional Child Tax Credits, and $82 million in Education Credits. Furthermore, since filing an accurate tax return is critical to obtaining mortgages, small business loans, college financial aid and even citizenship, the efforts of volunteers help millions have access to the financial mainstream.
Demand for community-based volunteer assistance is rising, in part because IRS customer service has been dramatically reduced to absorb about $1.9 billion in cuts to the Service’s annual budget since 2010. As indicated in the National Taxpayer Advocate’s report to Congress, these volunteer programs need significantly more funding to help fill the gap created by IRS budget cuts, as the IRS estimates 19 million taxpayers would use volunteer tax assistance if it were readily available.
Facts about Volunteer Tax Assistance:
  • The vast majority of volunteer tax preparers participate in the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. They must pass IRS certification tests annually to demonstrate their competency.
  • VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other convenient locations across the country. Find a VITA location near you.
  • Currently, an estimated 96,000 IRS-certified volunteers are helping over three million taxpayers across the country file their taxes and get their refunds.
This is the first time the Taxpayer Opportunity Network and CFED have used IRS data to understand the power of volunteer tax preparation. The Taxpayer Opportunity Network aims to help Americans save and build wealth, stay out of poverty, and create a more prosperous future through tax policy and community-based tax assistance.
Access the full volunteer tax preparation data for the 2014 tax season here.

Join the Taxpayer Opportunity Network if you are a tax assistance volunteer, if you work at an organization that operates a tax assistance program, if you are involved in advocacy for tax policy or if you are considering getting involved.
General membership in the Taxpayer Opportunity Network is free and any interested individual may join this national network of practitioners and advocates. The Taxpayer Opportunity Network seeks to advance policies that create a “right-side up” tax system for American taxpayers.
Benefits of membership in the Taxpayer Opportunity Network include:
  • Updates about learning and advocacy opportunities made available through the Network.
  • News about the latest developments in the field of tax preparers serving low- and moderate-income taxpayers.
  • Valuable resources for volunteer tax preparers, VITA/TCE program managers, tax site coordinators, LITC volunteers and others interested in using tax assistance as a gateway to opportunity.
  • Discounts to Taxpayer Opportunity Network-hosted convenings.

For more information about these data or to speak with an expert, please email

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Responsible Wage Ordinance Passes Unanimously!

By: Cynthia Hernandez, South Florida AFL-CIO
On Thursday, February 26th, the City of Miami Commissioners unanimously voted to pass the “Responsible Wage Ordinance.” The Coalition for Responsible Wages, a diverse group of faith, labor, community-based organizations, immigrant rights groups and university researchers came together to fight for an ordinance that will raise the wages of Miami’s construction workers and their families.

The Responsible Wage Ordinance will address multiple challenges: the ordinance will strengthen working families; decrease unemployment and poverty; reduce crippling tax deficits, prohibit wage theft practices, ensure safer workplace conditions, and promote more robust economic development. The Responsible Wage Ordinance is "a rising tide that will lift all boats." Beyond wages, the ordinance is designed to build Miami's workforce capacity by expanding skills training and apprenticeship programs. The Responsible Wage Ordinance also introduces new safeguards and accountability measures for public projects. The ordinance decreases the waste of public tax dollars and increases the transparency of the contracting process.  

Research shows that every dollar spent on responsible wage projects generates $1.50 in economic activity--that’s money spent at local businesses such as restaurants, shopping malls, and grocery stores – resulting in larger tax receipts and spurring additional job creation that keeps local communities and businesses economically sound.

In the end, supporting the Ordinance means that commissioners are prioritizing Miami’s economy and working families by creating a more sustainable economic model that keeps our economy and community moving forward. The City of Miami deserves a growing middles class, an expanded skilled workforce, increased economic activity, greater tax receipts, and more accountability of public spending.  

The only opponents to the ordinance were the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), who argued that the ordinance would negatively impact small businesses and contractors as a result of added wage and compliance requirements. However, research findings show that small business contractors have benefited from the Miami-Dade County’s Responsible Wage Ordinance which has been in place since 1990.  Specifically members of ABC have been awarded over $40 million dollars in construction projects from January 2013-December 2014.

Having a Responsible Wage Ordinance in place will ensure that workers in the City of Miami are paid correctly and avoid wage violations because contractors will have to submit their payroll information. “"Having worked in the construction industry for over 35 years I have seen the abuses of crooked contractors cheating employees and their families out of well-earned wages and benefits. This ordinance will assure tax payer money goes to qualified responsible contractors by extending the 25 yr. old Miami Dade County Ordinance to City of Miami Capital Improvement Projects,”  said Mark Schaunaman, of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 487.

It is important to highlight the great importance of working in coalition in order to create changes and wins for Miami-Dade's working families. The various testimonies from community organizations, faith based organizations, university researchers, and small business owners,  made it impossible for the opposition to argue that the ordinance was merely a "union" issue.  The Responsible Wage Coalition exemplified that this was a community issue.  Working together we showed our elected officials that this was not just a "union" ordinance, but rather a community ordinance.  And that Miami deserves a growing middles class, an expanded skilled workforce, increased economic activity, greater tax receipts, reduced tax deficits, and more accountability of public spending. Miami’s working families should be our elected officials’ priority and passing the Responsible Wage Ordinance was the responsible thing to do.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

MEMO: King v. Burwell: What’s at Stake for Florida

Center for American Progress Logo

For Immediate Release
March 3, 2015

MEMO: King v. Burwell: What’s at Stake for Florida
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Center for American Progress
DATE: March 3, 2015
SUBJECT: King v. Burwell: What’s at Stake for Florida

On March 4, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell, a lawsuit that seeks to strip premium tax credits from people who live in states with a federal insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Repealing this pillar of the law, which helps make health coverage more affordable for consumers, would have severe consequences.

King v. Burwell affects everyone, including more than one million Floridians
The stakes could not be higher. The sudden elimination of a key component of the ACA would cause a complete meltdown of the American health care system. A decision for the plaintiffs would take away health insurance coverage from nearly 9 million Americans and cause premiums to spike for millions more.
In Florida alone, nearly 1.2 million people would lose an average of $3,290 in tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, with many of these people losing their insurance entirely. All told, more than 1 million Floridians would become uninsured. For more information about how the case affects Florida, read our fact sheet.

At, learn more about the facts of the case and the Floridians who would lose health care coverage
“I couldn’t have even imagined what that would have cost me out of pocket—more than I could ever afford.”
— Celia from Miami
Since 2005, Celia Maluf of Florida had been unable to find affordable health coverage. A self-employed Pilates instructor and therapist, Celia could only find private insurance that cost upwards of $900 per month. So she went without coverage for nine years, luckily avoiding any serious issues with her health. In 2014, Celia decided to find coverage from the Florida marketplace. After signing up for a silver plan, Celia had a minor accident in her home that required a trip to the emergency room. After receiving treatment for the fall, Celia’s largest hospital bill was for $57. “I couldn’t have even imagined what that would have cost me out of pocket—more than I could ever afford.”

This year, Celia re-enrolled for another silver plan and receives tax credits to help her pay for the cost. For around $200 per month, Celia feels assured she will be covered for any health incident—minor or major—and has made a point of getting an annual wellness exam. “I’m just so worried about having my coverage taken away. I finally have health insurance I can afford, and now I have the risk of losing it. I can’t imagine going back to having to worry about suffering from anything worse than a cold.”

Hear from legal, policy, and medical experts on what King v. Burwell means for Florida
On February 24, Vice President for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress Michele Jawando; Celia Maluf, a self-employed fitness instructor from Miami; Leah Barber-Heinz, CEO of Florida CHAIN; and Mona Mangat, a physician with Doctors for America, joined a press call to highlight what is at stake for Florida.
  • Leah Barber-Heinz, CEO of Florida CHAIN: “The Affordable Care Act is saving lives in our state as the law intended. … It is unfathomable to me that the Supreme Court would take away something so vitally important from so many hardworking families.”
  • Dr. Mona Mangat, practicing Florida physician: “Doctors and other health care workers know that health insurance tax credits save lives, and we feel it is vital that the Supreme Court uphold the law.”
The audio of the call can be found here.

Watch Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Ian Millhiser explain what the case is about and why the plaintiffs’ argument is wrong.

For more information, contact Benton Strong at or 202.481.8142.


The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is "of the people, by the people, and for the people."