To empower New Jersey’s most economically vulnerable residents, Assembly Democrats Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex), Bill Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester), and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (Mercer, Hunterdon) sponsor legislation seeking to establish financial empowerment centers in Camden, Newark, Paterson, New Brunswick and Trenton under a three-year pilot program. The measure was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday.
“Addressing gaps in financial literacy for residents of all ages and stages through public education initiatives is crucial for economic prosperity,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “Too many families in New Jersey are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to pay the bills. What this legislation would do is improve the accessibility of resources, so that more people are armed with the tools they need for financial success.”
Under the bill (A-3062), the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) would partner with municipalities and local non-profits to facilitate financial literacy programs and personal financial coaching at each of the centers.
Programs would be targeted to help individuals open or transition to a safe bank account, establish good credit, manage debt, and increase savings. Metrics and standards to track the results of counseling efforts for the duration of the pilot would also be implemented.
“The unfortunate reality is that a lot of our residents concentrated in the depressed cities of our state were never given the skills to manage their finances,” said Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester). “By creating a coalition of support with this legislation, however, we could begin to tackle the cycles of debt that have captured whole communities to change the outlook for them and generations to come.”
Monies awarded to New Jersey following the settlement of the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint against Equifax, Inc. would fund the pilot program.
“This pilot is going to be tremendously important in evaluating how state programs and partnerships could work to boost financial literacy among our most vulnerable residents,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Budgeting can be daunting; however, with the right mix of information and individually tailored counseling, we have an opportunity to transform people’s economic potential.”
Following the pilot program’s completion, a report detailing the efforts and results of the program would be submitted to the DCA Commissioner whose subsequent findings, on implementation and effectiveness, would be reported to the Governor and Legislature.
The measure will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.