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Program Spotlight: Financial Capability for New Americans

Since 2018, the IRC in Denver has offered financial capability services to refugee clients through the Financial Capability for New Americans program (FC4NA). Thanks to the generous support of Wells Fargo and other funders, this program has been invaluable to many families financially impacted by the pandemic.

Most refugees arrive to Denver with neither savings nor financial assets. Moreover, they lack understanding of the complex U.S. financial system that quickly becomes a major factor in their lives. Due to a lack of credit history or subprime credit scores, income volatility, and general inability to access traditional financing, refugees and similar populations are vulnerable to financial mismanagement and predatory lending, which can lead to devastating and long-lasting effects for their families. The need for appropriate and easily accessible financial capability services for new arrivals has never been more pertinent to meet the impending increased demand.

In 2018, the IRC in Denver began the process of launching robust financial capability services—complete with accessible, asset-boosting consumer loan products—that are now seamlessly blended into its existing refugee resettlement and workforce development programs. Integrating financial coaching and small-dollar loan products is an economic empowerment model that has proven effective in increasing household income and net worth. FC4NA supports refugees in gaining not only the necessary knowledge to manage personal finances and credit histories, but also the tangible tools and experiential opportunities to ensure they begin their lives in the U.S. on sound financial footing. FC4NA affords refugees and immigrants access to poverty alleviation interventions that transform both near- and long-term prospects for financial wellbeing, with positive effects in other domains for entire families and communities. In the midst of the global pandemic, FC4NA aids people who have experienced economic destabilization in protecting their financial futures and offers vital information and coaching that enhances their ability to make the best possible choices as they cope with job losses, reduced income from employment, and related impacts.

In response to COVID-19 and the financial loss many families faced as a result of quarantine and job loss, the IRC implemented targeted interventions to assist families in crisis across 11 U.S. offices, including Denver. Families were supported through: 1) direct cash assistance; 2) financial navigation, including connecting clients to unemployment assistance; and 3) financial coaching services, aimed at debt reduction and credit building. From July 2020 through April 2021, the IRC assisted 7,017 clients across the network, including 351 clients in Colorado.

IRC in Denver's Financial Education Coordinator, Tutu Mulatu, meeting with a client.

One IRC in Denver client states, “I came to the U.S. in 2017 and did not have any credit file. I also had more than one financial need that I could not cover by myself. A friend referred me to IRC Denver’s Financial Capability team, and I did not wait, I contacted them directly and they were very quick in responding to my requests. They even scheduled me for an orientation meeting to talk about all the great financial services the IRC Denver could provide to me. Now I am 3 years after that meeting and I have a +700 credit and I am currently paying back a loan I took recently from IRC Denver to support some legal processing cost I needed. I can't be grateful enough to the Financial Capability team and the IRC Denver team, they helped me and keep helping me until today as a single woman to stay independent and standing on my feet. God Bless you guys!”

As a supporter of the IRC’s mission to welcome refugees here in Colorado, we thank you and assure you that IRC’s services make a real difference in the lives of many newcomers!