Omar, IRC in NJ's Acting Interim Economic Empowerment Manager, gives a presentation about Taxes
IRC in NJ's Acting Interim Economic Empowerment Manager, gives a presentation about Taxes
Photo: IRC in NJ

Highlights from IRC in NJ’s FinCap Program 

2023 was a year of abundant growth and success for The Financial Capabilities (FinCap) Team. Clients continued to receive multi-faceted support through financial capabilities, employment services, and public benefits screening. This year, the FinCap Team expanded to three full-time Financial Coaches—who have all recently participated in Financial Coach training. With additional coaches, the IRC in NJ was able to revive in-person financial literacy workshops that were paused during the pandemic! That makes such a difference for clients looking to learn more about their financial options in the wake of post-pandemic financial wellness.  

Barriers that affect clients

Language & Cultural Barriers 

Many of our clients continue to face language barriers that hinder their ability to receive assistance at banks or other institutions. Additionally, clients are often accustomed to the financial culture in their home countries and their different banking systems. This makes it difficult for them to change behaviors such as keeping large sums of cash, due to living in a cash economy while trying to integrate into a card system. 

Income Volatility 

With high living costs and changing income due to shifts in employment or reduced hours, clients have been struggling with maintaining their expenses. This income volatility and employment concerns affect other aspects of their financial life including credit as they struggle to pay back loans such as IOM. 

Delays in Documentation 

Due to the backups in USCIS, many clients are still awaiting critical documentation such as EADs, which prevent them from accessing financial capabilities services such as bank account openings and cause them to struggle with finding employment due to employers' hesitance towards clients that do not have the physical documentation despite having work authorization. 

This year, the IRC in NJ has refined our approach to these barriers. It all starts with creative solutions!  

Advocacy & Partnerships 

For clients struggling with the language barrier, the IRC in NJ aims to advocate on their behalf to bridge the communication gap such as speaking to other service providers. As part of this, the FinCap team continues to build partnerships, such as with Welcome Home Refugees in Jersey City to host financial literacy workshops.  

Additionally, the FinCap team has started to reach out to neighboring banks in Elizabeth to support clients with accessing banking services while addressing their concerns about limited documentation and language. 

Contextualized Learning:  

Financial literacy courses were expanded to contextualize learning around a variety of concerns and obstacles that clients face. This was seen through the Women in Action (WIA) cohort wherein the learning material was tailored to a group of Afghan women, some of whom learned best through discussion. This program, hosted by the Career Development Team, worked to support Afghan women to reach self-sufficiency. The FinCap Team contributed to this by co-hosting a session on financial literacy with interpretation. This method works as it creates a more comfortable environment for clients and gives them an opportunity to connect with other individuals in their community.  

Bundled Services Model 

The FinCap team continues to collaborate with other programs such as employment, particularly Matching Grant (MG), and Intensive Case Management (ICM), to address client needs and work together for a holistic approach to support clients in overcoming the obstacles they face. 

Click here to read about a client’s experience in the FinCap Program and how the bundled service model has been instrumental in supporting her financial milestones!  

Moving Forward: Our Vision for 2024

The IRC in NJ’s FinCap Team will focus on spreading the word about its services. The goal is to reach clients sooner and work with clients toward building a path of self-sufficiency.  

As part of this vision, the FinCap Team will continue to cross-collaborate with other teams to provide bundled services. That means intentional initiatives and learning workshop opportunities for clients. The IRC in NJ is excited to meet new partners to help clients with their 2024 financial goals.

Lastly, the IRC in NJ hopes to develop a partnership with a VITA program since the IRC in NJ Tax preparation service has been discontinued. However, the IRC in NJ will continue to work with clients to go over eligibility requirements, tax responsibilities, and documentation requirements.

The IRC in NJ is excited to share future highlights and client stories and to further connect with the community!