Written By: AFCPE Government Relations Task Force
As members of the AFCPE® community of professionals, we are in a unique position to observe first-hand the impact public policy has on our clients and the people we work with. I have had the opportunity on a few occasions to travel to our nation’s capital to participate in visits to the offices of our elected representatives in both the House and Senate. I’ve always enjoyed those visits, but nearly every meeting is centered around the following three elements:
- Data. What are the trends? What do the numbers tell us? Are foreclosures increasing? Are average rent payments increasing? Has federal funding (grants or programs) made a measurable difference? How does our district or state compare to others?
- Stories. What are the people experiencing? What could be better? Where are the frustrations?
- Impact. How have the economic challenges of individuals and households impacted the community? Is the unemployment rate higher? Are personal bankruptcies or foreclosures increasing?
On one hand, I’m encouraged and motivated to provide the data and stories that really bring the issues to life. I spend the majority of my workweek across the desk from people who struggle to navigate through various areas of their financial lives and simply want an environment where they do not get taken advantage of. However, I’m always surprised at how many “wow, we had no idea” statements occur during those meetings from congressional staff. In other words, my visit and experience truly matters.
Of course, it’s not feasible to take bi-weekly trips to Washington DC, and there are more efficient and cost-effective ways to make your voice heard. So, what exactly is advocacy? There are many definitions out there, but here’s one that is clear and concise:
- Advocacy is defined as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others, according to Bolder Advocacy. There are many kinds of activities that comprise advocacy work, including:
- Organizing and building coalitions with others
- Educating legislators through letters, meetings, and phone calls
- Providing factual information on issues
- Educating the public about the legislative process
- Supporting regulatory and red-flag efforts
- Encouraging non-partisan voter mobilization (i.e. encourage citizens to vote)
What are some good ways to become more aware of issues and proposals that you might want to get involved in? On a local level, it’s more likely that you will learn about such items through word of mouth, social media, local newspapers and media, and other community outlets. However, on a national level, I encourage you to consider exploring the following websites and perhaps even signing up for their listservs:
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Federal Trade Commission
- Consumer Federation of America
- AARP Advocacy
- Prosperity Now
In Congress, check out:
- House Financial Services Committee (https://financialservices.house.gov/)
- Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (https://www.banking.senate.gov/)
There are currently many pressing issues facing consumers, and we appreciate all of the AFCPE members who took the time to complete our Government Relations Task Force survey in April. These were the top five personal finance issues identified by our community:
- The impact of inflation
- Rising interest rates and rising debt levels
- Access to affordable housing
- Cost of medical care
- Lack of a financial safety net (a.k.a. an emergency fund)
The majority of the respondents also believe that AFCPE can and should encourage its members to stay engaged in local and national advocacy efforts aimed at protecting consumers. There will of course always be issues that are split along partisan lines, and everyone is encouraged to make your voices heard every election cycle by casting your vote for both local and national candidates. However, we feel that there are many issues that should be considered bipartisan in nature and acted upon in the best interests of the majority of people in the United States. Examples would be the solvency of programs such as Social Security and Medicare; increased federal resources towards the ongoing problem of fighting financial fraud and cyber-crimes; and stiffer penalties for companies who defraud consumers through illegal and unethical business practices.
For over 30 years, AFCPE has set the highest standards for the field of financial counseling and education. With nearly 2,000 members across the country, we have the collective voice to make a difference and shape policy that will help and protect citizens. Please be encouraged to get involved, share your thoughts, and strive for a fair and just financial playing field.
AFCPE Government Relations Task Force