Financial Empowerment for New Americans Project
by Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO)Region 1 · Burlington, VT
Community Ambassadors provide financial and health support through a hotline and “house parties” to New Americans including asylum seekers. In Financial House Parties, where participants meet in small groups in their own homes, over dinner, and with a “Community Ambassador” – a well-known and trusted member of their community who has been trained in financial education. COVID-19 required an innovative shift, and a “financial hotline” was established for New Americans to ask a range of financial questions directly to ambassadors who speak their language. Ambassadors support New Americans through a wide-variety of needs during the pandemic, from unemployment and stimulus funds to health, safety, housing, food, COVID testing, vaccinations, and more.
Local Need Addressed
This initiative addresses the need to reduce racial and health disparities, and ensure New Americans get the support they need to not only settle but grow and prosper.
- 40.2% of VT households did not have emergency savings in the past year, and the average credit card balance for a single Vermonter was $7,462.
- New American clients face additional challenges. How confidently a New American navigates finances in the U.S. depends on several factors including life experiences prior to immigrating, fluency in English, generational role in their family, and religious and cultural beliefs about how money should be earned, saved, borrowed, and spent, among other factors.
- New American clients frequently have limited experience with credit and banking. Language barriers combined with cultural differences make finding employment challenging, putting them at high risk for predatory lending. This lending prevents them from establishing credit, and keeping their financial goals out of reach.
With the on-set of COVID-19, many government agencies and nonprofits work quickly to get information and resources to community members.
- It quickly became evident that though organizations were attempting to share information in multiple languages, much of the information and resources were not being received or accessed consistently by New Americans.
- New American communities needed more than interpretation, they need help navigating the systems of support.
- It is clear that effective outreach goes beyond translation of written materials to working closely with New Americans on understanding what resources are available, providing direct support in applying for these resources, and following up when issues or questions that arise in the process.
Community Ambassadors have engaged in 374 calls and 270 hours with New Americans July 20 to Feb 21.
Community Ambassadors have hosted 30 house parties with 158 New Americans before COVID hit.
interpreted classes participants
The average class size was 5.1 participants with each participant attending an average of 3.6 classes.
This project is peer based and led by New Americans.
This project is being done by and for New Americans so that they can help resolve racial and health disparities.
The culturally responsive format of Community Ambassadors understands where they come from and what they know, and provides an educator they can trust. CVOEO will be working with refugees, immigrants and asylees with low and moderate incomes—vulnerable and underserved populations—to improve financial well-being as a proven pathway out of poverty.
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