[News Release] Prepare + Prosper Announces Four Nonprofit Partners Ready to Offer FAIR Financial Solution to Financially Underserved In Twin Cities Neighborhoods

Media Contact:
Stacy Opitz, Prepare + Prosper
stacy@prepareandprosper.org / 651-262-2162

Saint Paul, MINN. (March 15, 2019) –Twin Cities-based nonprofit Prepare + Prosper, known for annually serving 12,500 low- and moderate-income families with free tax preparation, financial services, and coaching, has announced that four nonprofit Twin Cities organizations will offer the three-part FAIR (Financial Access in Reach) Financial Solution to their customers. FAIR, which was launched as a pilot program with Sunrise Banks in July 2018, is designed to help financially underserved individuals build credit and savings and rid themselves of high-cost fees and interest by using products designed especially for them.

The four nonprofit distribution partners for the FAIR Financial Solution are: Build Wealth MN; Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties; EMERGE Community Development; and Lutheran Social Services Minnesota – Eastside Financial Center.

The FAIR Financial Solution is designed for financially underserved individuals (oftentimes called unbanked or underbanked) who often do not have access to fairly priced and designed products and often rely on costly services such as check cashers, payday loans, and bank accounts that charge excessive fees. FAIR is unique in providing a scalable approach to solving the financial inclusion gap by bundling consumer-designed financial products with fairer fees, coupled with financial coaching.

Further, unique to FAIR is that these products will not rely on bank branches for delivery, but instead will be offered to people where they work or receive services, such as nonprofit organizations and employers. This delivery model is based on the input of more than 150 financially underserved consumers who participated in listening sessions, which shaped the FAIR design and structure.

David McGee, executive director of Build Wealth MN, which serves clients in North Minneapolis, is excited to offer FAIR to the organization’s clients. “Build Wealth MN’s mission is to strengthen communities by empowering families to build wealth through economic development and we are excited to add FAIR products to our toolset as we work with families to help them gain financial independence,” said McGee. “Not only are the FAIR products necessary for our clients to transact, save and build credit, the fee structure and guided support will help customers use the products to their fullest benefit. I have been a part of FAIR since its inception and I am proud to be able to offer the service to our clients so seamlessly.”

On the east side of the metro area, clients of Eastside Financial Center will also be able to apply for the FAIR Financial Solution. “Our community, like far too many throughout the region and country, has a plethora of costly financial services which reinforce the widening wealth gap. The FAIR Financial Solution is an exciting and welcome answer to help us move families toward financial health. We have been at the FAIR table since the beginning because we and our community are hungry for innovative solutions, and we’re delighted to be among the first out of the gate to test FAIR’s unique delivery model,” said Eva Song Margolis, Eastside Financial Center.

The Problem
Too many people’s financial situations are volatile and many lack access to financial products that work for them. One in three Americans has no savings, according to Pew Charitable Trusts, making it difficult to withstand an emergency. According to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) “National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households,” 33.5 million households in the United States are excluded from the financial mainstream. Of those households, 44 percent are households of color, as compared to 19 percent that are white households. In the Twin Cities, there are 194,432 financially underserved households. Alarmingly, the most recent Prosperity Now Scorecard data broken down by race found that 54.8 percent of households of color were financially underserved in the Twin Cities, as compared to 15.4 percent of white households.

There are many reasons traditional banking doesn’t work for everyone. Research from the FDIC and Prepare + Prosper show that many who are financially underserved do not trust banks, want to avoid unpredictable fees, or don’t have enough money to maintain an account. There is also a perception that bank accounts are not for households with low incomes. More than half of those included in the FDIC report said they believe banks are “not at all interested” in serving households like theirs. According to the 2017 Market Size Study presented by Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), underserved consumers spent $173 billion in fees and interest.

“The financial inclusion gap is a big problem in the U.S. and in Minnesota. It negatively impacts people’s economic footing, well-being, health, and more, and not enough people are talking about it,” said Tracy Fischman, executive director of Prepare + Prosper. “People need financial products and a system that works for them and not against them as they strive to be financially successful.”

The Solution
To help families gain financial well-being, the FAIR Financial Solution, issued through Sunrise Banks, includes tools to:

  • Transact through a checking account – No account overdraft fees, no monthly minimum balance requirement, $25 to start and a $3 monthly fee.*
  • Save through a savings account – Start with $25, no monthly minimum balance requirement.*
  • And build credit through a credit-building loan – There is no credit score requirement to get started.

Another key aspect of the FAIR Financial Solution will be enhancing technology and tools to support customers in working toward their goals and building financial confidence along the way. The technology and tools will be centered around human behavior and may take the shape of texts, apps, or social motivators to support continual savings and credit building.

The FAIR Roll-out
The initial 100 participants in the FAIR pilot project will be selected from Prepare + Prosper customers, as well as those served by partnering distributors. Plans call for FAIR product offerings to expand throughout the Twin Cities and Minnesota to 500 people in 2019 and beyond.

*Please consult service fee schedule for a detailed listing of all bank fees for this account.

About Prepare + Prosper
Prepare + Prosper is a nonprofit focused on building brighter financial futures for low- to moderate-income individuals and families. It provides free tax preparation; financial services, products, and coaching; and works to advance policies and practices that directly benefit the people it serves. In 2018, 588 volunteers prepared taxes for 12,385 taxpayers who received $23.9 million in refunds; 1,322 of those taxpayers committed to saving $1.9 million of their refunds. For more information, visit www.prepareandprosper.org, Facebook, and Twitter.

About Build Wealth MN – Build Wealth MN, Inc. (BWM) is a nonprofit organization with the mission to strengthen underserved communities by empowering families to build sustainable social and economic wealth. In partnership with private entities, state and local government, foundations and other social service organizations, BWM’s goal is to help families embrace a new approach to giving, spending, saving, banking, investing and creating generational wealth instead of generational poverty. www.buildwealthmn.org

About Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties – Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties (Community Action) is a nonpartisan, locally-run, nonprofit organization that brings together community resources to reduce poverty. Established in 1964, Community Action is the only continuously funded anti-poverty program in the country. Its  mission is to reduce the causes of poverty and its impacts on people’s lives. www.caprw.org

About EMERGE Community Development – EMERGE operates a broad spectrum of workforce development and social enterprise businesses in the Twin Cities with the goals of better jobs, better lives, and better communities. Originally formed in 1995, EMERGE today offers adult and youth workforce and other services, ranging from basic job search coaching up to long-term intensive career training, tailored to the specific needs of the participant. www.emerge-mn.org

About Lutheran Social Service Minnesota – Eastside Financial Center – The Eastside Financial Center (EFC) in Saint Paul is one of many Lutheran Social Services Financial Counseling locations in Minnesota. The Eastside location offers unique services that integrate financial and employment support in addition to the other LSS Financial Counseling services that are available statewide. Many EFC staff are bilingual, and services are available at this location in English, Hmong and Spanish. https://www.lssmn.org/financialcounseling/financial-wellness-services/eastside-financial-center-services.

About Sunrise Banks – Sunrise Banks, N.A., based in St. Paul, Minnesota, seeks to radically change the way urban communities and people thrive by empowering them to achieve financial wellness. Sunrise is certified by the U.S. Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), a designation earned by approximately 100 banks nationwide. Sunrise Banks is also a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, a public benefit corporation and is a certified B Corp for its demonstrated commitment to transparent corporate governance and positive community impact. Visit Sunrise Banks at SunriseBanks.com, on Twitter @SunriseBanks, or on Facebook. Member FDIC.

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[News Advisory] File Your Taxes for Free at Prepare + Prosper

Media Contact:
Stacy Opitz, Prepare + Prosper
stacy@prepareandprosper.org
651-262-2162

 High-res photos of tax preparation services: https://www.flickr.com/photos/prepareandprosper/albums/72157682440667155

 File Your Taxes for Free at Prepare + Prosper

Nonprofit offers free tax preparation and financial services during the 2019 tax season

St. Paul – January 17, 2019 — With tax season right around the corner and new federal tax laws to navigate, Prepare + Prosper (P+P) encourages low- and moderate-income individuals and families to file their taxes for free with an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer to get their maximum refund and save money.

From January 26 until April 15, P+P’s IRS-certified volunteers work one-on-one with taxpayers to help them claim all the credits they’ve earned. The nonprofit also provides financial services to help people save some of their refund, get connected to financial coaching, and answer money-related questions.

“Tax time can be a significant money moment for individuals and families with low- and moderate-incomes,” said Tracy Fischman, P+P executive director. “For 48 years, we’ve been providing high-quality, free tax preparation and financial services to help people maximize their tax refund’s impact on their financial future.”

This tax season new federal tax laws take effect, and what that means for individual taxpayers depends upon their unique situation. Also new this year is a redesigned 1040 tax form and six new accompanying schedules.

Despite the government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service has indicated it will process tax returns beginning January 28, 2019 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled. Like the past two years, federal tax refunds will take longer for those receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). In mid-February, the IRS will begin processing refunds that include the EITC and ACTC, and federal refunds are expected to appear in bank accounts during the last week of February.

“Now more than ever, it’s important that people use a trusted and qualified tax preparer to help them navigate the new federal tax code, a differing Minnesota state tax code, and a new 1040 form and accompanying schedules,” said Fischman. “Prepare + Prosper is here to answer questions and remind people that a free tax preparation service is the best way to file if you qualify and that no one can speed up your refund.”

In 2018, 588 P+P volunteers prepared taxes for 12,385 taxpayers who received more than $23.9 million in refunds and, 1,319 of those taxpayers committed to saving $1.9 million of their refunds.

Who is eligible for free tax preparation?

Individuals with an annual income of $35,000 or less and families and self-employed taxpayers with an annual income of $55,000 or less in 2018 are eligible for free tax preparation.

Where are the free tax preparation sites located?

Appointment sites

  • Prepare + Prosper main office: 2610 University Avenue W., St. Paul
  • Creekside Community Center: 9801 Penn Ave. S., Bloomington
  • Minneapolis Urban League: 2100 Plymouth Avenue N., Minneapolis
  • ResourceWest, 1011 1st S., Hopkins

Walk-in sites

  • East Side Neighborhood Services: 1700 2nd NE, Minneapolis
  • Hallie Q. Brown Community Center: 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul
  • Hope Community Center: 611 E. Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis
  • Merrick Community Services : 1669 Arcade St. N., Ste. 4., St. Paul
  • Sabathani Community Center: 310 E. 38th, Minneapolis

When are tax sites open?

P+P tax sites are open at varying times January 26 through April 15. For a complete list of times or to make appointment, go to www.prepareandprosper.org or call 651-287-0187. P+P also offers audit assistance, and the main office is open year-round.

What other services are offered at the tax site?

Taxpayers can open a savings account, purchase a U.S. savings bond, get a copy of their credit report, and signup for P+P’s free financial coaching program and FAIR financial solution. Taxpayers can also apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) at the P+P main office.

What languages are available?

Spanish and ASL interpreters are available at the P+P main office.

About Prepare + Prosper

A nonprofit organization, Prepare + Prosper and its volunteers work with low- to moderate-income people to build financial well-being through free tax preparation and financial services, products, and coaching, and by changing systems to create economic opportunity. In 2018, 588 volunteers prepared taxes for 12,385 taxpayers who received $23.9 million in refunds; 1,319 of those taxpayers committed to saving $1.9 million of their refunds.

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[News Release] Saint Paul native, national nonprofit leader joins the Board of Directors of Prepare + Prosper

Media Contact:
Stacy Opitz, Prepare + Prosper
stacy@prepareandprosper.org / 651-262-2162

Photo: https://flic.kr/p/RoGTAj

Saint Paul native, national nonprofit leader joins the Board of Directors of Prepare + Prosper

ST. PAUL, MN (December 12, 2018)Jeremie Greer, Saint Paul native and vice president at the national nonprofit Prosperity Now, has joined the Board of Directors of Prepare + Prosper (P+P), a nonprofit organization that works with low- to moderate-income people to build financial well-being through free tax preparation and financial services, products, and coaching, and by changing systems to create economic opportunity.

Greer is vice president of policy and research at Prosperity Now, a Washington DC-based nonprofit that helps make it possible for millions of people, especially people of color and those of limited incomes, to achieve financial security, stability and, ultimately, prosperity. Greer oversees the organization’s Federal Policy, State & Local Policy, Applied Research and Racial Wealth Divide teams, which are responsible for developing and executing the organization’s policy and research agendas and advocacy strategies.

As a newly appointed member, Greer will provide leadership, direction, and oversight to help P+P fulfill its mission.

Greer holds a Bachelor’s of Social Work from the University of St. Thomas and a Master’s of Public Policy from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

About Prepare + Prosper

Prepare + Prosper is a nonprofit focused on building brighter financial futures for low- to moderate-income individuals and families. It provides free tax preparation; financial services, products, and coaching; and works to advance policies and practices that directly benefit the people it serves. In 2017, 532 volunteers prepared taxes for 12,648 taxpayers who received $24.7 million in refunds; 984 of those taxpayers committed to saving $1.54 million of their refunds. For more information, visit www.prepareandprosper.org, Facebook, and Twitter.

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