Reflections on the 2015 PolicyLink Equity Summit


Sheryl Lane, EARN’s Director of Public Policy & Alumni Engagement had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles for the 2015 PolicyLink Equity Summit for a whirlwind two days that included 61 workshops, caucuses, institutes and mobile workshops.

Here are a few of her reflections:

Race Matters! The Toxic Inequality: Challenges and Solutions for the Race Wealth Gap workshop emphasized that race is stronger than any other indicator for predicting wealth due to present and past discriminatory practices and policies. At EARN, we will continue to advocate for the removal of barriers that prevent true financial inclusion for all, especially communities of color, which represents 90% of EARN Savers, and to champion policies and create programs that create and expand financial mobility. To learn more about this issue read here.

Targeted Intervention! Ending Mass Incarceration: Are we Making Progress? This workshop illuminated the realities behind the alarming statistic that the United States represents just 5% of the world’s population, however, it holds 25% of its inmates which disproportionately impacts low-income communities and people of color. We can support our allies who are focused on transforming the criminal justice system and we can design financial capability programs that specifically assist the incarcerated, previously incarcerated including those on parole and probation, and their families. The letters that EARN receives from those who are incarcerated shows us that many are interested in learning how to save. To read more about this issue read here.

Criminalization of Poverty. Fines, Fees and Incarceration: The Financial Toll of the Justice System within Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color workshop showed how excessive fees and fines for juvenile detention, nonpayment of court ordered child support and traffic citations keep people in debt, detained, and destitute. These are big issues that must be solved at all levels of government and which needs greater awareness as we seek to increase upward mobility for those in our country who are struggling to get by.  Learn about justice system policy reforms here.

Upon deeper reflection, I realize that the challenges before us are meant to do just that, challenge us to do more and to more effectively confront the myriad of issues plaguing our communities. EARN recently partnered with the City of San Francisco to connect low-income residents receiving services from City and County agencies with the EARN Starter Savings Program so that they can build savings to withstand financial emergencies. Those of us focused on access to financial security, must continue to be aware of all of the issues impacting the individuals and families we serve so that we can create meaningful programs and influence policy that will result in secure futures.

Lastly, let’s not forget to equip the clients and constituents we serve with information, tools and resources to lead and advocate for themselves, like we’ve done through EARN’s Policy Ambassador Leadership Program. Together we can effectively promote PolicyLink’s conference theme: “all in for inclusion, justice and prosperity.”

Special thanks to the Walter and Elise Haas Fund for inviting me to be a part of their delegation.