HARRISBURG, Penn.–Credit unions joined with private partners and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to announce a new partnership aimed at reducing recidivism among those convicted of crimes through a financial literacy program.
During the press conference yesterday at the headquarters of Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, Gov. Tom Wolf, along with the Department of Corrections, the Department of Banking and Securities, and the Board of Probation and Parole, joined by representatives of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the Pennsylvania CU Foundation to announce the program.
The parties announced that five Financial Reality Fairs will be held on one day–Oct. 14–in Pennsylvania. The Reality Fairs will take place in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Erie, and Reading, and are to be part of what is being called a “pioneering program designed to reduce inmate recidivism.”
“Every year more than 20,000 people are released from our state prisons to return to their communities. One of the core challenges they face is a lack of knowledge about and access to financial services including bank accounts, credit reports, insurance and budgeting,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “To help them succeed in the community and less likely to return to prison, it is vital that they understand these basics of money management. This program will guide reentrants through banking basics, establishing credit, avoiding predatory lending, and will make sure these individuals have the financial tools necessary to achieve a self-sustaining independence.”
According to the Pennsylvania CU Association, the Financial Reality Fair is an interactive financial literacy tool, providing a hands-on experience for re-entrants to identify post-release work options and starting pay expectations. Participants will complete a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, and food – as well as discuss unexpected and emergency expenditures. Volunteers from credit unions, community groups, and state agencies provide participants with financial counseling.
“We are pleased to be partnering with Governor Wolf and several state agencies to bring our unique financial education program, Financial Reality Fairs, to Corrections’ re-entrants across Pennsylvania,” said Patrick Conway. “I would like to thank our credit unions who have volunteered to deliver the program as well as the state agencies who are partnering with us to deliver it. Next Saturday will be a very worthwhile day for everyone who participates.”
“Housing questions are important to address so we best support any person’s transition to life outside prison,” said Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency Development Director Holly Glauser. “These financial reality fairs do a good job of replicating the very real questions former inmates need to work through by including elements like housing and budgeting. PHFA is pleased to be a part of these worthwhile events.”
Agencies and organizations involved in the endeavor said they plan to make these Financial Reality Fairs annual events.