Citywide initiative provides free credit-building workshops, financial coaching, and credit resources
BOSTON – Boston Builds Credit, a citywide initiative aimed at closing the racial wealth gap by increasing the credit scores of Bostonians, today announced the launch of a new public information campaign. Boston Builds Credit is a partnership between the City of Boston, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and LISC Boston, that removes barriers to success and financial opportunity by empowering individuals and families to build credit and create wealth through free credit-building workshops, financial coaching, and a collection of other credit resources.
Boston Builds Credit launched in 2017 as the nation’s first citywide credit building initiative to raise awareness of the importance of credit in achieving financial stability, destigmatize the negative feelings around credit, and promote resources available to the community. Recognizing the economic instability amidst the pandemic and rising inflation, Boston Builds Credit believes now is a critical time for City of Boston residents to learn about credit, improve their credit score, save money for the future, and reach their financial goals.
“We are now in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had devastating economic impacts on Bostonians, particularly in our Black and Latinx communities, which have historically been denied access to building wealth due to institutional racism and discriminatory policies,” said Segun Idowu, Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion for the City of Boston. “As we continue our recovery, now is the perfect time to emphasize the importance of building a financial foundation for your future. Boston Builds Credit has the free resources to help people understand how to get where they want to be.”
As part of the public information campaign, the City of Boston celebrates Boston Builds Credit Awareness Day on May 17, capping the day with a virtual resource night and workshop in collaboration with Union Capital Boston. The awareness day will feature social media promotion and is celebrated amidst a recently launched advertising campaign on billboards, MBTA buses and trains, and mobile platforms. The advertising campaign is primarily targeted to Dorchester, East Boston, Mattapan, and Roxbury, as Federal Reserve Bank research shows these neighborhoods have the highest rates of debt in collection and the lowest credit scores in the city. Dorchester, East Boston, and Roxbury also have 57% of the city’s check-cashing locations, but only 12% of the city’s commercial bank branches.
“While there is a stigma around zero or low credit, there is also a lack of community awareness of the importance of credit as a lever for economic justice, and the free resources that are available to individuals to improve their financial standing,” said Bob Giannino, President and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Boston Builds Credit is a critical initiative that not only provides free counseling and information but also develops guidelines and standards for credit products, aiming to change the underlying credit system, which has embedded assumptions that are discriminatory and contribute to the racial wealth gap.”
Spring marks the end of tax season when many residents have recently or will soon receive tax refunds. These extra funds can serve as a foundation to help combat the financial effects of inflation, the labor shortage, and supply chain issues. Strong credit can help individuals and families with job opportunities, homeownership, apartment rentals, car loans, and support for their small businesses. Throughout May and June, Boston Builds Credit is hosting additional credit-building workshops, with topics including an introduction to financial coaching and credit building, understanding credit and identity protection, avoiding predatory schemes, budgeting, and more.
With support from United Way, the Mayor’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) has established a collection of strategic, equity-driven, financial opportunity initiatives, partnering with a group of community-based organizations to support Boston’s most vulnerable residents and households. The Boston Tax Help Coalition provides free tax preparation and tailored ancillary asset building services to maximize tax time and provide a window for low income taxpayers to access wealth building strategies. Bank On Boston, also launched in 2017, helps Bostonians achieve economic mobility through better access to reliable and non-predatory financial products and services. Boston Builds Credit and Bank On Boston are working together to develop a new set of standards for non-predatory credit building products.
OFE’s Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment offers free, one-on-one coaching to zero, low- and moderate-income residents using a three-pronged approach, providing residents with access to financial coaching, workforce development assistance and income supports. United Way provides flexible support to the center, allowing staff to provide tax service on evenings and weekends and offer the Financial Check-up.
Through this key Boston Builds Credit tool, individuals can receive a financial assessment through a credit report analysis and FICO score evaluation, and work with a financial guide to design a simple one-year credit building plan tailored through referrals to other services, based on the taxpayer’s needs and interests. Financial Guides also provide savings strategies as well as make immediate recommendations to taxpayers about how to use their tax return to pay down debt and help improve their credit score.
More information about Boston Builds Credit, including resources and a calendar of workshops and events, is available at bostonbuildscredit.org.