Thank you all for joining us today as we announce the launch of our ROADS to Financial Independence initiative. A large part of our work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau involves empowering consumers to take control of their financial lives. This first-of-its-kind initiative aims to improve the financial well-being and economic security of individuals with disabilities who are currently working or transitioning into the workforce.
We are pleased to make this announcement today at the headquarters of ServiceSource, one of the initiative’s partner organizations. I would also like to thank all of the other participating organizations and individuals who are joining us via webcast today. Their efforts will ensure that people with disabilities have the information, services, and tools to take greater control of their financial lives.
Through the collaboration between the Consumer Bureau and the National Disability Institute, the ROADS initiative, which stands for “Reach Outcomes. Achieve Dreams. Succeed.” will bring together disability and financial empowerment organizations in six communities across the country. In each community, we will work together to integrate financial counseling with employment, independent living, and other support services that are being provided to individuals with disabilities. Financial counselors will help these consumers work towards goals to improve their financial health. Lessons gained from the six communities will help inform the work the Consumer Bureau and others do across the country to improve the financial well-being of all American consumers.
The 57 million Americans who live with disabilities are confronted daily with significant obstacles as they go about their lives, such as lower rates of participation in the labor force. The unemployment rate for adults with disabilities is nearly twelve percent – more than double the national average. For many of those who do find jobs, the hours they get are often sporadic, and the pay can be insufficient.
Lack of work affects many areas of people’s lives. A study examining financial challenges among people with disabilities found that limited employment opportunities have negative effects on people’s mental and physical health, their housing options, and their participation in the community. This leads many people with disabilities to live on the margins of society, when in fact they have a great deal to contribute to the betterment of our society.
Another problem is that many people with disabilities find they are excluded from mainstream financial services altogether. They are more than twice as likely as other consumers to use nonbank services like payday loans or check cashing to meet their financial needs, which can be more costly and less beneficial in other ways as they try to manage their money responsibly. We also know that four out of five people with disabilities have no emergency fund that they can turn to in a time of crisis.
The first step in expanding a person’s financial capability is to make sure they have a clear understanding of the money and assets they already have. Thus the financial counseling made available in this program begins with a full financial assessment. From there, the participants will work with a dedicated financial counselor who will help them set goals such as improving credit scores, reducing debt, and increasing savings. The counselors will also provide guidance to help program participants open bank accounts, create a budget, and set and achieve personal financial goals. With enhanced financial capability and concrete plans of action, consumers with disabilities will be empowered to take further steps to become more financially stable.
At the Consumer Bureau, we are very focused on exploring ways to empower consumers to take control of their financial lives. The ROADS initiative we are announcing today can play an important part in setting people with disabilities on the path to financial independence. People with disabilities, like all consumers, deserve to be treated fairly and have access to the information and tools they need to enhance their financial well-being. We will learn things as we partner with you on this initiative that will help us in all the rest of our work, and we deeply appreciate your commitment to achieving these same goals. Thank you.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.