Accomplishments

For more than a decade, under the leadership of Treasurer José Cisneros, OFE has partnered inside and outside City Hall to equip San Franciscans with knowledge, skills and resources to strengthen their financial health and well-being. At the same time, OFE has leveraged its innovations on the ground to model what's possible across the country.

OFE’s Economic Mobility Lab (mLab) designs and tests financial innovations that have the potential to strengthen the economic security and mobility for low-income workers and families.

Challenge

Nearly half of Americans say they couldn't cover an unexpected $400 expense and nearly two-thirds of American workers struggle to cover a $1,000 crisis.

Innovation

mLab is  innovating to equip workers and families to manage financial volatility and shocks. Leveraging OFE’s in-house research and development capabilities, innovation funding, and a strong network of City, private and non-profit collaborators, mLab is developing San Francisco's next generation of financial empowerment innovations, and sharing learning with advocates, policy makers, service providers, and municipal peers.

Status

mLab is actively leading OFE's experimentation to identify the next generation of financial innovations.

Thanks to the contribution of a strong Bank On San Francisco coalition launched more than a decade ago, the percentage of unbanked residents in San Francisco dropped from 5.9% in 2011 to 2.1% in 2015. However, 16.5% of residents with bank accounts continue to turn to high-cost payday lenders, check cashers and other alternative services to meet financial needs (FDIC, 2015).

Challenge

How do we help 1 in 5 residents who remain unbanked or underbanked secure a safe and affordable bank or credit union accounts to safeguard their money and build wealth?

Innovation

Bank On San Francisco has been reimagined to aid those who face particular challenges accessing the financial mainstream.

Status

Bank On San Francisco is a vibrant flagship service.

Many Americans struggle to navigate credit, debt and savings. And they know it; the National Foundation for Credit Counseling estimates 40% Americans give themselves a C, D or F in their understanding of personal finance (2015). At the same time, residents face an array of predatory practices by financial institutions.

Challenge

How do we meet low-income families where they are to provide relevant and practical financial coaching that helps them improve their financial health?

Innovation

Smart Money Coaching integrates financial coaching into social service delivery, enabling OFE to scale up a high-touch service and low-income residents to achieve positive impacts.

Status

Smart Money Coaching is a vibrant flagship service.

While San Francisco's youth employment programs have been successful in building work-related skills and career pathways, participants lacked financial knowledge and skills, and often relied on check cashers to cash their paychecks.

Challenge

How can we leverage existing summer employment programs to strengthen the financial capability of youth and ensure access to affordable financial services when many are receiving their first paycheck?

Innovation

OFE partnered with the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families (DCYF) and MyPath, a nonprofit focused on paving economic pathways for low-income youth, to integrate access to financial services into workforce programs for youth ages 14 to 24. OFE enlisted San Francisco Federal Credit Union to offer youth a non-custodial account that provided checking, savings and a debit card with no overdraft or monthly fees.

Status

Summer Jobs Connect remains a vibrant public-private partnership of OFE, San Francisco Federal Credit Union, MyPath and DCYF that is now an extension of Bank On San Francisco.

More than 67,000 working households in San Francisco did not get paid by direct deposit, receiving their pay in check or cash. Employees receiving checks often turn to check cashing companies, paying as much as $1,000 in annual fees. Processing checks is also expensive for employers and moving to direct deposit can significantly lower payroll fees.

Challenge

How can we help employees reduce their reliance on costly check cashers and further reduce the number of unbanked households in San Francisco?

Innovation

CurrenC SF was launched to help employers and employees switch to direct deposit, increasing working household's access to affordable financial products.

Status

CurrenC SF is no longer a stand-alone program of OFE, but direct deposit remains an essential component of its engagement with employers, to strengthen the financial health and well-being of employees, through other OFE programs including Bank On San Francisco and Summer Jobs Connect.

One in three San Francisco children are born into families with no savings or assets of any kind; one in two for African America and Latino children. Yet children with a college savings account, even with modest savings, are more likely to attend and graduate from college than those with no account.

Challenge

How do we help low-income families save for their children’s future and aspire to college?

Innovation

Kindergarten to College (K2C) launched as the first universal, public, matched children savings program in the country.

Status

K2C is an active flagship program.

Payday loans are predatory in nature, with annual percentage interest rates (APRs) as high as 400%, or $15 for every $100 borrowed. With repayment required in full within two weeks, borrowers often take out a new loan to pay an old one, creating a debt cycle that is hard to break. By 2007, 36 payday lenders in San Francisco were lending over $60 million annually to residents.

Challenge

How do we help residents avoid predatory loans when they have short-term credit needs?

Innovation

Launched as Payday Plus SF, OFE partnered with six credit unions to offer residents short-term credit of up to $500 at a maximum APR of 18% over a repayment period of 6 to 12 months.

Status

Payday Plus SF's impact proved positive but limited in scale due to the high cost of issuing small loans. While PayDay Plus SF is no longer a stand-alone program, OFE continues to explore innovations to help families manage financial volatility, financial shocks and short-term credit needs.

Fifty thousand households, including half of all African-American and Latino adults, in San Francisco were unbanked, relying on alternative -- often predatory -- financial services to manage their day-to-day financial needs.

Challenge

How do we help unbanked residents open an affordable bank account and reduce reliance on predatory financial services?

Innovation

A first in the country, Bank On San Francisco organized 14 banks and credit unions committed to improving low-income residents' access to affordable checking accounts.

Status

Bank On San Francisco was reconceived and expanded in 2017, based on new national Bank On account standards.

Nationally 15-25% of families eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) do not claim it. In San Francisco, the estimated annual amount of unclaimed credit equaled $12 million.

Challenge

How do we raise local awareness and increase EITC utilization to put this tax credit into the hands of our working families?

Innovation

A pioneering city initiative supported by a coalition of local partners and a city-wide marketing campaign, the Working Families Credit offered a local match to the federal EITC.

Status

The San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) now manages the Working Families Credit.