Earlier this month we were privileged to join with Economic Fairness Oregon (read more about them in our Partner Spotlight here) at Senator Merkley's press conference where he announced new legislation to curtail the predatory practices of on-line payday lenders and offshore lenders. Senator Merkley is bringing his experience leading the fight against predatory lending practices in Oregon to the national stage, as he put it so aptly "We have to bring order to the Wild West of the lending market." The call for responsible lending is near and dear to us, as over 15% of our borrowers are using our loans to pay off high cost debt, including payday loans. See the press release here.
Misha Staggs, Talia Kahn-Kravis, Senator Merkley, Nancy Yuill
In honor of International Women's Day we have a special article on the role of women in our economy and an article highlighting one our women clients and the steps that she's taken to increase her household stability. It's fitting that as we finish our second round of the Women's Borrowers Support Group we reflect on the challenges faced by half the population. From being the "safety net of last resort" to "holding up half the sky", women are key drivers in battle to eradicate poverty and provide a better future for our children.
Our micro-media blitz for the national America Saves week in February created a bit of buzz! Your stories and photos of what savings means to you are still welcome, and we have another addition to the savings stories here. It's never too late to save, and to tell us about it!
Welcome to our newest referring partner, Northwest Family Services. Their mission supports individual success, family stability, and child well-being.
And finally, this month we launch our IDA program for post-secondary education. If you, or someone you know, are interested in learning more, be sure to sign up for one of our orientations on March 21st or 27th.
All the best,
Anita came to Innovative Changes (IC$) in June 2010. She had been struggling to pay her bills and make rent every month. For a while, she was in a cycle of taking out payday loans. The final straw came when she found out that her dog needed surgery and her roommates continually weren't able to contribute to monthly house bills. She didn't want to take out another payday loan, but didn't know where to go. She visited her local bank, Sterling Savings, who couldn't lend her money because of her low credit score, but directed her towards IC$.
"When I found out about Innovative Changes and met with Sarah for the first time, I thought, there's hope out there!" reflects Anita. "I had been deep in a hole of payday loans and was tired of getting calls a dozen times a day from collectors; it was becoming a nightmare. I wanted to start fresh."
Anita took out her first opportunity loan with IC$ and sat down for several budgeting sessions to map out her monthly income and expenses. "Before I budgeted, I was in the red every month," says Anita. "Once I got it on paper, I started tracking my spending and I got to a point where I had $18 left over at the end of the month, and I thought, hey, this is going to work."
|Partner Spotlight: Economic Fairness Oregon
Recently, Angela Martin got a call from someone claiming that they were an "expert" and could reduce her mortgage interest rate to 2%. As an "afterthought" he divulged that the company would charge her over $2,000 for the paperwork and even more in fees. Little did this caller know that on the end of the line was someone who fights against the very existence of predatory and misleading companies like his own every day.
Angela Martin, Executive Director of Economic Fairness Oregon (EFO), says that she was "born fighting for the underdog." At EFO, Angela wears a lot of hats: lobbyist, public policy director, blog writer, and although the EFO team is small (three people), they help thousands of Oregonians get their voices heard and effect policy change to level an unfair economic playing field.
EFO's mission is to "fight to protect all the hardworking Oregonians who play by the rules [and] restore a financial system built to work for the people, not against them." The main issues that they focus on include: debt collection, payday loan regulation, and mortgage servicing accountability. A large part of their work is collecting stories from consumers who have been led astray by predatory products such as payday loans or misrepresented services.
Nancy Yuill, Angela Martin, Senator Merkley
EFO recently had a victory on the home foreclosure front. As of March 5th, the end of the 2012 legislative session, a series of bills were passed that will provide mandatory mediation for homeowners in trouble with their mortgage. Although lenders will not be required to modify loans, this legislation sets a precedent for requiring a fair process at which lenders must sit down at a table with the homeowner and a neutral third party and give straight answers.
Angela reflects that before this bill, "there were no tools in place to make informed decisions. I talked to so many home owners who were told by the lender that the only way we can help you is if you stop making payments on your mortgage. This is not true and it will no longer be legal."
Even more recently, EFO and Innovative Changes collaborated to provide information on people's experiences with payday lenders to Senator Merkley at a press conference at our New Columbia office. Senator Merkley announced legislation to regulate online and offshore payday lender and ensure that financial institutions are promoting healthy banking practices.
|IC$ Celebrates International Women's Day
In early March the world celebrated International Women's Day. It was a great time to reflect on the role of women in our economy. It is widely recognized that when women have equal access and control to financial resources they have a direct and positive impact on poverty reduction and the welfare of children. A recent study by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs also recognized
women's role as the "safety net of last resort" in economic downturns.
Unfortunately, women are still held back by wage inequity and poor access to assets and wealth accelerators. A recent study by the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, "At Ropes End" found single women mothers at great disadvantages across indicators of wages, assets, wealth, education attainment and levels of debt.
Women are the majority of our participants at Innovative Changes. With support from The Portland Women's Foundation and Women Care Foundation, we have recently completed the second round of our Women's Borrowers Support Group. This solidarity group model has taught us the power of peer learning, group motivation and the importance of belonging. Graduates of the program have started emergency savings funds, created plans to pay back debt and setting goals of enrolling in our IDA program to achieve a higher degree of education. Some are now serving as financial coaches, while others are documenting their own stories to share with others. We are fundraising to continue the Women's Borrower Support Group program as it is an important part of our commitment to provide women-friendly products and services. We know that when a woman gets ahead, her whole family benefits. We join the policy advocates at the Women of Color Policy Network in calling for a re-building of the social safety net for women. It's a sound investment in our children and our future.
|Innovative Changes IDAs for Post-Secondary Education: Orientations Fast Approaching!
The IC$ IDA program offers a 3:1 match for those saving to attend an institution of higher education. Our program is the only education IDA open to the public (although we suspect our spots will go fast) and participants must meet IDA criteria specified on our website as well as attend an IDA orientation to be eligible to apply.
If you are interested in the IDA program, or know someone who may be interested, sign up for an IDA orientations today! The orientations will be held on (choose one):
- Wednesday, March 21st from 5:30-7:30pm
- Tuesday March 27th from 6-8pm
To register click here. For more information on our IDA program please visit our website or contact Talia, firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Financial Education Galore!
Upcoming Financial Household Resiliency Workshops:
We are about to offer our next round on FHR workshops. Sign up soon, spots may go fast! Here is the schedule:
Spring FHR Class Schedule:
Wednesday, April 4th 5:30-7:30 pm: Making Ends Meet
Wednesday, April 11th 5:30-7:30 pm: Budgeting and Saving
Wednesday, April 18th, 5:30-730 pm: Hands-On Banking
Wednesday, April 25th, 5:30-730 pm: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit
Our classes will be held near our Lloyd Center office on the 3rd floor of the Lloyd Center Mall (between Nordstroms and the food court), 2025 Lloyd Center.
To Register: visit our website or call or email Misha at (503)-249-5205/ email@example.com.
The classes and the seminar are open to everyone. The classes can be taken individually or as a series. They are $5 each and $15 for all four classes. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify.
We are hiring!
Innovative Changes is hiring fora full time Spanish speaking Loan Program Coordinator. Please see our website for the job description and more information on how to apply!
You Can Help!
You care about helping people achieve and maintain household stability. Now you can join our efforts at Innovative Changes as we expand our reach to serve more clients. Your generous donation will be put to good use!
Be a credit builder:
- $50 covers the cost to deliver and manage a credit builder loan so a borrower can establish and/or increase their credit score.
- $150 provides the capital for credit builder loan for an individual to establish or increase their credit score. (Your donation can be made in monthly installments of just $12.50).
Be a stabilizer:
- $75 covers the cost to deliver and manage a responsible, small dollar installment loan so a borrower can work through a short-term financial need in a manner that sets them up for success.
- $600 provides the capital for a responsible, small dollar installment loan so a borrower can take control and move forward to improving his or her situation. (Just $50 per month).
Be an asset builder:
- $25 sponsors an individual to attend our 4-part household resiliency financial education class on cash flow planning, budgeting, saving, banking, and credit.
- $120 covers 6 months of intensive individual financial coaching for one family.
- $150 Funds the costs of developing and delivering a monthly financial seminar on topics such as tax time preparation, consolidating student loans and talking to your kids about money.
- $500 Enables us to reach more clients with more workshops, coaching and seminars.
Monthly giving program:
Whatever amount you can afford, you can set it up for monthly automatic payments to ease your cash flow. If you have bill pay service with your bank you can set up Innovative Changes to receive regular monthly payments. If you prefer, we can process a monthly ACH transaction on your behalf. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your monthly giving program.
Thank you for your support!
As of 3/15/2012
334, averaging $472.83 for a total of $157,928.20
Revolved amount: $113,618.86
Repaid loans: 153
Financial education clients: