LOS ANGELES - The Select Committee on Financial Empowerment convened yesterday in Bell Gardens to discuss strategies to help working families thrive during tough economic times. This is the first time at the state level, that a legislative committee has focused on exploring the broad public policy and legislative opportunities to expand savings, and asset ownership in California.
Committee Chair and Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) opened the informational hearing and spoke about the need for the legislature to understand the impact that assets have at every stage of life and develop an agenda devoted to providing Californians with lifelong opportunities to build savings for education, entrepreneurship, homeownership, retirement and security against medical emergencies.
"The Select Committee is dedicated to addressing the issues that are affecting hardworking Californians, namely: high asset poverty, rising college costs, foreclosures, unemployment, and a lack of retirement savings," said Assembly Member Lara. "Policies that promote and reinforce long-term financial stability and independence are our priority, and I look forward to engaging with Californians and my bipartisan group of colleagues."
In addition to policy experts providing state-level solutions ripe for implementation, the Select Committee heard testimony from elected officials on local innovation that has spread across the state and country. San Francisco County and City Treasurer Jose Cisneros outlined local initiatives aimed at building and protecting the assets of City residents: Bank On, Payday Plus SF and Kindergarten to College savings accounts.
"I thank the Assemblymember for convening this Select Committee and for his leadership on financial empowerment issues," said Treasurer Cisneros. "I appreciate the opportunity to share San Francisco's successes providing bank accounts to the unbanked, a better small dollar loan than payday lending, and universal college savings accounts to all San Francisco Unified kindergarteners. I look forward to a continued conversation about these issues across California."
The need for policies that promote wealth building is clear: thirty percent of Californians lack enough savings to survive for three months if they lost their job. Asset poverty is twice as pervasive as the income poverty rate and arguably more consequential.
"I applaud Assemblyman Lara and the state legislature for not only having this important conversation, but for leaving Sacramento and bringing it to the people," said Olivia Calderon, California Legislative Director of the New America Foundation. "The Select Committee on Financial Empowerment is a positive force that will help put California back on track to rebuild and grow the middle class."
The Committee will give asset creation and wealth preservation policies an official forum through informational committee hearings and policy briefings. It will publish issue briefs, quarterly newsletters, and a year-end report to summarize its legislative activities and provide potential policy recommendations.
The New America Foundation's California Asset Building Program has championed "assets" in all policies -- health, education, banking and taxation -- to increate access to health care, create kids' savings accounts, help taxpayers save their refunds, incentivize savings for college, entrepreneurship, and retirement, remove savings barriers, and curb predatory lending.
For media inquiries, please contact Elizabeth Wu at 510.295.9859 or email@example.com.