Latino Financial Literacy Team Provides Unique Programming

Sara Croymans and Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension Educators, Family Resiliency

November 2017

The Latino Financial Literacy Team

The Latino Financial Literacy Team includes: (left to right) Antonio Alba, Extension Educator, Jose Lamas, Gabriela Burk, Francisca Mendoza, and Sara Croymans

The University of Minnesota Extension’s Latino Financial Literacy Program (LFLP) helps Latinos in southern Minnesota understand financial information and systems so participants can make sound financial decisions at every stage of their lives. Team members include: Jose Lamas, Nobles County, Francisca Mendoza, McLeod County, and Gabriela Burk, Dodge County, with support from Antonio Alba Meraz, Mankato Regional Office, and Sara Croymans, Morris Regional Office. Recently, the team has provided programming to address unique needs:

Healthy People in Healthy Homes

A small grant was secured by Antonio Alba Meraz from CLEARCorps to provide education on healthy homes with Latinos in southern Minnesota.  The team partnered with community leaders, community based agencies, schools, and County offices in southern Minnesota to support, promote and deliver workshops titled “Healthy People in Healthy Homes” with low income Spanish speaking audiences.  The Latino Financial Literacy team members were trained to provide workshops that would: increase participants' understanding of physical, chemical and biological health risks in homes, provide a resource list (in English and Spanish) related to housing in southern Minnesota, and integrate Healthy People in Healthy Homes with the RentWise tenant education program. The team provided 17 two-hour workshops in southern MN reaching 172 people in 12 counties. Pre- and post-test evaluations indicate that participants’ knowledge increased. The greatest increase in knowledge occurred on the topics of frequency of radon testing, ways to reduce allergens in the home, impact of humidity on growth of mold, awareness of risks to health in home environments, and where to find resources about health risks in the home. Many participants indicated they would share this information with others. 

Financial Education and Family Asset Protection Partnership

The University of Minnesota Extension and the Consulate of Mexico in Saint Paul signed an agreement in July to provide financial education with Mexicans living in rural Minnesota. With the support of this small grant the LFLT were charged with providing 17 financial workshops in 16 counties that address the following topics: fraud identification and protection, how to manage debt, banking, credit and budgeting. The program uses a family cultural approach and the Spanish language in order to reduce barriers during the learning process. To date, the workshop has been taught five times in four counties reaching 69 individuals.  Response to the workshops by the Latino families has been very well accepted when learning about organizing important papers, credit, banking, budgeting, consumer protection, and managing debt.   Antonio Alba Meraz has been invited by the Mexican Consulate to attend a financial literacy meeting in Los Angeles in December where we will share about the great work being done in Minnesota.

Immigration Issues

The Latino Financial Literacy team has observed that their program participants have been impacted by recent U.S. immigration policy changes. Some undocumented and documented people are fearful of deportation and the potential of families being divided with children being split from parents. Some lack knowledge of their rights. Some families do not have their important documents organized in a central place.  Some believe that no one is safe. As the team provides their usual financial workshops across southern Minnesota they have incorporated education on how to organize important documents, how to document children’s progress in school in case of a move, and how to secure assets. In addition, the team has developed a resource list for participants as they seek assistance, including financial, legal, and mental health. In addition, the team facilitated a session at the Extension Program Conference in early October with Extension faculty from all Centers to discuss how this emerging issue of immigration policy changes are impacting their work across the state and how we might work together to meet the needs of this population. 

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