This blog post was jointly written by Janice Parker with Navicore Solutions and Jody Blaylock with Heartland Alliance and the Illinois Asset Building Group.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Consumer Bureau) is a U.S. government agency that makes sure that we are all treated fairly by banks, lenders, and other financial companies. Created in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the Consumer Bureau has provided over $11.9 billion in relief to more than 29 million consumers nationwide. They receive and resolve consumer complaints, including more than 34,000 complaints filed by Illinoisans about issues related to student loans, mortgages, payday loans, and more.
A little-known fact about the Consumer Bureau is that they provide robust financial education toolkits to help local nonprofits provide high-quality financial empowerment services. They also offer a range of tools and guides to directly help consumers navigate important financial decisions, such as saving for college.
One of these toolkits –Your Money, Your Goals – Focus on Reentry toolkit – was recently used as part of a broader re-entry program in the Peoria County Jail. With the help of the Consumer Bureau’s toolkit, incarcerated individuals learned critical money management skills that will set them up for a successful return to the community.
A collaboration between Navicore Solutions and the Jobs Partnership, the Re-Entry Program addressed the holistic needs of individuals incarcerated in the Peoria County Jail. The missions of both organizations aligned perfectly: Navicore’s mission is to strengthen the well-being of individuals and families through education, guidance, advocacy and support, and Jobs Partnership believes that relationships are key to changing and improving lives.
The Re-Entry Program provided individuals at the Peoria County Jail a variety of life skills classes to improve their abilities to successfully re-enter the community and not return to jail. Classes were conducted every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon for seven consecutive weeks. The classes focused on three areas: job skills, behavioral issues, and educational needs – including financial education and money management. Navicore saw this as a great opportunity to use the Your Money, Your Goals – Focus on Reentry toolkit. Janice Parker, certified consumer credit educator, provided financial education workshops, specifically using two of the modules: Managing Money and Understanding Credit Reports and Credit Scores.
The participants enjoyed the workshops and every participant indicated they had gained valuable knowledge about money management and credit reports. Individuals who completed the 7-week program participated in an inaugural graduation ceremony held at the jail. The success of the program and graduation gained publicity – see the local media coverage here, here, and here.
The Consumer Bureau impacts all of our lives – they regulate the marketplace and make sure financial companies treat us fairly. But the Consumer Bureau’s impact and value to communities is even deeper than many know: they are equipping people across the country, and here in Illinois, to have more control over their financial lives.