2014 Assets Learning Conference

Unfinished Business: Winning the Battle for Economic Opportunity (ABPN)

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 (Special Pre-Conference Event)
12:30 - 5:00 PM

Room: Georgetown (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)

In a speech commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, President Obama called the growing gap in economic opportunity our country’s “unfinished business.” Since the March on Washington and President Johnson's declaration of the War on Poverty, low-income individuals, families and communities of color have made significant strides towards achieving social and economic equality. However, despite this progress, an enormous amount of work still remains to ensure true economic opportunity for all.

With this mandate in mind, the Asset Building Policy Network (ABPN) will host a topical discussion on closing the racial wealth gap and expanding economic opportunity for all socio-economic statuses on Tuesday, September 16. This half-day event (12:30-5 pm at the Washington Marriott Marquis) will address how low- and moderate-income individuals, families and communities of color are faring in today’s post-recession economy; the ways in which civil rights, advocacy, community development organizations and financial institutions are working to close the racial wealth gap; and federal policy’s potential to help low-income households save and invest in their long‐term economic security.

Session Details

Opening Remarks (3-5 minutes):

  • Natalie Abatemarco, Citi Community Development
  • Andrea Levere, President, CFED

Keynote Speaker (5-10 minutes):

  • Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA; invited)

Opening Plenary:
Moving from Despair with Opportunity: Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

Five years into the economic recovery, communities of color continue to experience severe financial instability. The recent economic crisis hit minority communities the hardest and this economic downturn has only further exacerbated the disparity in wealth accumulation and financial security that communities of color have historically faced. While the task of regaining—and surpassing—the economic footing many communities of color had prior to the recession is difficult, it’s not impossible. This opening plenary will discuss ways in which civil rights, community development and policy organizations, including financial institutions, are working to remove barriers to achieving financial security and closing the racial wealth gap. This coordinated action will turn the focus to helping communities of color move away from just getting by and towards getting ahead.

Panelists (55 minutes panel, 20 minutes Q&A):

  • Judith Bell, President, PolicyLink
  • Lisa Hasegawa, Executive Director, National Coalition For Asian Pacific American Community Development
  • Noel Poyo, Executive Director, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builder
  • Robert Annibale, Global Director, Citi Community Development and Microfinance
  • Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights


  • Cy Richardson, Senior Vice President for Economics and Housing, National Urban League

Research Panel:
Economic Recovery? How Communities of Color are Faring Post-Recession

Two out of every three (61%) households of color are liquid asset poor, meaning they have less than three months’ worth of savings (conservatively measured as $5,887 for a family of four). For many of these households, they do not have the resources necessary to weather a financial storm and are just one unexpected emergency away from financial ruin. As the overall economy slowly improves, questions remain about how exactly communities of color are faring in today’s recovering economy and how they are interacting with the financial mainstream. This session will explore what lies beneath economic recovery within communities of color and will provide comprehensive data about the net worth of households by race and ethnicity at the national origin level, as well as how these communities are successfully and unsuccessfully accessing credit and other financial products and services.

Panelist (25 minutes for research presentations, 30 minutes panel discussion, 20 minutes Q&A):

  • Darrick Hamilton, Associate Professor, Economics and Urban Policy, The New School
  • Joyce Pisnanont, Asset Building Program Manager, National Coalition For Asian Pacific American Community Development
  • Katie Taylor, Senior Director, Housing and Community Development, National Urban League
  • Marisabel Torres, Policy Analyst, Wealth-Building Policy Project, National Council of La Raza
  • William Darity Jr., Director, Consortium on Social Equity, Duke University


  • Solana Rice, Senior Program Manager, State & Local Policy, CFED

Federal Policy Panel:
Moving the Needle: Federal Policies to Close the Racial Wealth Gap

For many low- and moderate-income individuals, families and communities of color, federal policies, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), have had an enormous impact on their lives by helping them to get out of poverty, save for emergencies, or help develop and secure assets. While the EITC has proven to be one of the most effective anti-poverty tools ever created, other federal policies also have the ability to greatly improve the economic opportunity and financial well-being of low- and moderate-income families. This session will discuss specific policies, including tax reform and consumer protection policies, aimed at helping low‐income and asset-poor households save and invest in their long‐term economic security, and how these policies relate to what is happening around asset building across the country.

Panelist (45 minutes panel, 30 minutes Q&A):

  • Jane Duong, Director of Programs & Advocacy, National Coalition For Asian Pacific American Community Development
  • Jeremie Greer, Director of Government Affairs, CFED
  • Joe Valenti, Director of Asset Building, Center for American Progress
  • Rob Randhava, Senior Counsel, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights


  • Chris Brown, Director of Government Affairs, PolicyLink

About the Asset Building Policy Network
The Asset Building Policy Network (ABPN) is a coalition of civil rights, community development and policy organizations, including a financial institution, committed to the following core goals: coordinating savings and asset building policy and advocacy efforts at a national level, developing a shared communications agenda and strategy, and building the capacity of Network members and their networks. The ABPN seeks to improve the opportunity for economic progress for low‐income individuals and families and in communities of color by increasing local access to responsible and appropriate financial products and services that can enable families to save, invest, preserve and build financial assets.

This session is made possible thanks to the generosity of Citi.

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