New Orleans Visiting with friends at the Interfaith Worker Justice confab at Tulane last evening, Jeff Zinsmeyer, a long esteemed colleague came up and said hello. We sat down and visited for a little along with Henry Allen of the Discount Foundation based in Boston. I had stumbled onto a project of Jeff’s, while writing Citizen Wealth last year in Buenos Aires, called Doorways to Dreams, where he was listed as executive director.
I was curious where his work and mine had overlapped once again. Though it turned out that he had left D2D several months ago, there were interesting connection because both Citizen Wealth and Jeff’s old organization focused on asset building. It turned out that we even may have been talking to Bernie Wilson at H&R Block at the same time in 2007 without realizing it.
We were trying to craft a solution to the problems of refund anticipation loans (RALs), the unbanked lacking accounts, and how we could move refunds directly to lower income workers and their families. For awhile before the H&R Block palace coup that hurled Bernie to the moat and the bosses above him, it looked like the H&R Block bank had crafted a solution that had eluded Citi and other, bigger operators. They had managed to get Homeland Security to give them a written opinion that solved the problem of opening new accounts created under the Patriot Act.
Jeff, I learned, had moved along a path of lesser resistance to fashion a way to move part of the tax refund not to an account that was flexible to use, but to a U. S. Savings Bond, which protect assets while gaining interest return. He told me the take-up rate on the offer was very high in tests (over 60%), despite the fact that it was obviously not want people wanted, many lower income families still embraced forced savings when they could rather than quick money.
By way Citizen Wealth: Winning the Campaign to Save Working Families is now wending its way to a bookstore near you. It’s literally so hot off the presses that I have finally seen a copy but it’s cooling down on trucks rolling towards you. I think I can say the same for Amazon and the rest where the book is now available on-line.