Ventanilla: A Window of Opportunity
Mission Asset Fund (MAF) and the Mexican Consulates of San Francisco and San Jose have joined forces to support the economic empowerment of Mexican nationals across northern California and the State of Hawaii. This covers individuals across Northern California, including those in the Counties of Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey and in Hawaii. Modeled after New York City’s Ventanilla de Asesoría Financiera—meaning “Financial Empowerment Window”—the program provides customized financial empowerment services and resources at the two Consulates.
Since January of 2017, MAF has provided financial presentations, workshops, and coaching sessions to approximately 2,000 individuals per month at each site. By the end of the first year of the Ventanilla program, MAF served 30,000 clients —more than doubling our goal.
By establishing partnerships in both the nonprofit and public sectors, MAF has extended a variety of financial education services to meet our communities’ unique needs.
- We dedicate staff for mobile consulate trips once a month – making sure that hard-to-reach communities like Kona, Hawaii and Pescadero, CA are getting access to the services they need.
- We provide on-site access to Lending Circles, a 0% interest loan program, that helps people build their credit.
- We invite outside presenters to regularly lead workshops (talleres) on topics supporting entrepreneurship in immigrant communities, including organizations from SFEDA. We coordinated content and presentations for two Financial Education weeks in March and November.
- Our partnership with the Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) led to the development of a handout in both English and Spanish to help clients in the Bay Area determine the best checking account options to open. During Financial Education Week, OFE brought in speakers from the IRS to talk to Ventanilla visitors about Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITINs. OFE also helped us coordinate referrals to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) providers across the Bay Area, a service that offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency.
- We worked closely with the San Jose Consulate, which has launched a collaboration with CONDUSEF in Mexico to provide an overview of financial education and products based in Mexico. This was immensely helpful because everyday we have families that come to us with questions about managing their finances in both the U.S. and Mexico. Because of the Ventanilla collaboration, we were able to provide clients with information through our FEAPI, CONDUSEF, and the Consulate. Without the Ventanilla, these families would have struggled to find the answers to their questions from the Consulates alone or from financial providers in Mexico.
Under the current administration, many immigrants are in emergency planning mode because they are concerned about deportation. MAF sprung to action and created a Financial Emergency Action Plan for Immigrants (FEAPI) to help immigrants protect their finances in the case of an emergency like detention, deportation, or family separation.
We provided this toolkit in the Bay Area at the Consulates, and at mobile consulate visits throughout California and Hawaii. To capture an even wider net of people to help, our team is currently building the FEAPI into an app to increase engagement with our community.