JOHNSTON, RI – In an effort to better protect and educate consumers, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today joined Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray and local librarians at Johnston’s Marian J. Mohr Memorial Library to announce a new partnership to improve financial literacy in Rhode Island. The partnership, to be run through public libraries across the state, seeks to broaden access to financial education tools and assistance to consumers on topics ranging from managing credit card debt to student loans.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the nation’s first federal agency with the sole focus of protecting consumers in the financial marketplace. Senator Reed, a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, was a leading advocate for the creation of a strong, independent CFPB. Reed is also the co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Financial Literacy Caucus, which seeks to improve collaboration across federal financial literacy initiatives. In addition, he has long-championed federal support for our nation’s public libraries; Reed authored the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, which among its provisions requires the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a partner in the CFPB’s effort, to coordinate with other federal agencies to fully leverage the role of libraries and museums in meeting the education needs of Americans.
“Whether it is assisting unemployed Rhode Islanders or engaging young people in reading programs, our libraries are always there for us, so I’d like to thank Rhode Island’s libraries for once again stepping up to fill a pressing community need,” said Reed. “Financial literacy is a lifelong endeavor, and that is why libraries are the perfect partners for expanding access to financial literacy resources in our communities. I commend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for having the foresight to partner with them, and I’d like to thank Director Cordray for making Rhode Island part of this important new effort.”
“Senator Reed and the Bureau share the same goal of wanting to educate and empower consumers to help them make responsible financial decisions. So today I am glad to announce an important partnership with Rhode Island’s Office of Library and Information Services to make this state’s already trusted libraries into neighborhood centers of financial education,” said CFPB Director Cordray. “This builds on a national pilot project we announced in April. At that time, we had partnered with nine libraries across the country. In just two months, that has grown to more than 50 library systems, which includes nearly 400 library branches. Adding Rhode Island to this partnership means another 48 public libraries that include 70 branch locations. That is about one million more people who will have access to free financial education materials, resources, and trained librarians.”
In addition to IMLS, the new partnership with public libraries to improve financial literacy and consumer education also includes partnerships with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System, and the American Library Association. The project was originally launched as a pilot with nine library systems including: Brooklyn, NY; San Francisco, CA; Orlando, FL; Georgetown, SC; Florence, SC; Pelham, AL; Menominee Nation, WI; and Columbus, OH. The partnership announced today with Rhode Island represents the CFPB’s first statewide collaboration.
"Libraries are in the business of providing access to free, objective, reliable information resources so all citizens have opportunities to gain knowledge and skills throughout their lives. By unveiling vetted financial information tools and resources, the CFPB will help libraries deliver more fully and effectively for our patrons when it comes to personal finance matters," said Jenifer Bond, President of the Rhode Island Library Association. "Rhode Island’s small size, strong library networks, and existing foundation of financial literacy initiatives will make it easier for the CFPB’s program to roll out statewide. The Rhode Island Library Association is on board to make sure this program becomes a mainstay of offerings in our libraries and meets the wants and needs of our communities. Together we’re sparking much needed conversations about financial education, empowerment, and know-how in RI."
“The Office of Library and Information Services is pleased to be collaborating with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help bring financial literacy tools to Rhode Island consumers through our statewide network of libraries,” said Karen Mellor, Acting Chief of the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services. “With knowledgeable staff and a welcoming environment, libraries serve as community learning centers. The new set of tools provided by the CFPB will enable libraries to connect young people, seniors and families with trusted financial resources that will assist them in making informed decisions.”
In addition to the partnership announced today, Director Cordray announced his agency will soon release a new toolkit to assist libraries in building local partnerships for financial and consumer information.
Rhode Island libraries are no rookies when it comes to financial literacy programming and resources. For the past three years, libraries across the state have participated in April’s Money Smart Week Program, a public awareness campaign started by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago that features information, seminars, and other activities to promote financial literacy. Among other benefits, this partnership with CFPB will help libraries expand this programming from one week in April to year-round activities to benefit their local communities.
With strong backing from Senator Reed, Congress created the CFPB in 2010 to help ensure the financial products and services that Americans depend on every day -- including credit cards, mortgages, and student loans -- work better for the people who use them. Since the CFPB opened for business in 2011, it has helped hold financial institutions accountable for mistreating consumers and worked in coordination with our federal regulators to return roughly $3.8 billion to consumers. The agency has also fined wrongdoers more than $141 million, all of which has gone into a Civil Penalty Fund that may be used to compensate wronged consumers and, to the extent compensating consumers is not practicable, to pay for consumer education and financial literacy programs.