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Issue Position: Financial Literacy and Empowerment

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

A robust economy depends not only on the availability of high-quality jobs, but also on the ability of individuals to make knowledgeable decisions about their money. Families today need financial literacy skills and information to thrive and reach their goals, free of excessive debt burdens and risky financial products. As General Treasurer, Gina will develop a robust, statewide financial empowerment program for all Rhode Islanders. By bringing together financial experts in the Office of General Treasurer, in nonprofits and in businesses and other institutions across the state, Gina will ensure access to high-quality financial education and opportunities for all Rhode Island citizens.

Many Rhode Islanders can benefit from financial education and training. Some of the housing crisis -- and subsequent economic collapse -- can be attributed to people taking out mortgages that they didn't understand and definitely couldn't afford. Many Rhode Island citizens do not take advantage of the financial tools and support available to them. Some do not know these tools exist; while others are unaware that they qualify. It is imperative that we empower all citizens of Rhode Island to control their financial destiny.

Gina's mother is an expert at making "a quarter out of two nickels," and her family thrived from her ability to save, invest wisely and lead the family to live within its means. Gina has applied those lessons in her professional life, as she helps start-up companies navigate their way to profitability, and in her personal life, as she and her husband paid down student loans and started saving immediately for their own children's college education.

As General Treasurer, Gina's priorities will include:

Expanding Financial Literacy

Gina will bring the financial expertise of the office of General Treasurer out into communities across Rhode Island. She will partner with existing institutions-- leading companies, RIEDC, nonprofits, educational and philanthropic entities -- to deliver high-value financial education for people at all levels of income. This initiative will provide a broad array of services for people in all stages of life, starting with teaching young people in schools how to save and manage money, visiting college campuses to teach students about the dangers of credit card debt and certain student loan programs, helping parents learn how to reach their financial goals for themselves and their children, and alerting older citizens to the dangers of reverse mortgages, certain insurance products or other high-risk financial products.

Accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

Approximately 25,000 Rhode Islanders who are eligible for the earned income tax credit do not apply for it -- even though the average earned income tax credit claim per household was approximately $1,900. An EITC program coordinated by the General Treasurer's office will guide eligible citizens to apply for the credit and shepherd them through a process that is now quite complicated.

Providing Banking Services

Gina will focus on ensuring the expansion of financial services to citizens who are currently underserved. Right now, more than six percent of the Rhode Island population is unbanked, and nearly 13 percent is "underbanked" -- the highest rate in New England. By leveraging the opportunity to contract with the state of Rhode Island for banking services, Gina will work with local banks and national banks to decrease the number of unbanked and underbanked households in Rhode Island. Together, they will increase the supply of starter bank accounts that work for low-income households, raise awareness among unbanked consumers across all languages about the benefits of account ownership and curtail the proliferation of check cashers and predatory payday lenders.

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