Building Strong Communities Through A Holistic Approach
During May Heritage Month, we’re showcasing two organizations working to build community and intersectionality through their work
Financial well-being is fundamental to creating thriving individuals and communities. But decades of exclusionary policies have created wealth gaps that leave many families unable to participate in aspects of the economy such as wealth creation and stable housing. Communities of color face greater obstacles to financial inclusion in part because they may have limited access to financial services and information. Trusted community institutions like the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) in Oakland, CA help to bridge the information gap through a holistic financial wellness approach to address challenges ranging from tax assistance to affordable housing.
At Capital One we are continuing our efforts towards the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI, also known as API) communities this month. As one way to bring the issues important to these communities to the forefront, we are proud and excited to highlight our steadfast support and partnerships with nonprofits and grassroot organizations building more inclusive communities by delivering vital services and help solve core issues like affordable housing, income generation and financial education.
In our Newsroom, we are shining a spotlight on two existing Capital One nonprofit partners providing foundational capabilities for diverse populations to transform financial outcomes. The East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) — a nonprofit community development organization with over 47 years of experience in building healthy, vibrant, and safe neighborhoods in Oakland and the East Bay in California — empowers underrepresented groups through a community development approach that addresses affordable housing and financial health. Later this month we will also amplify the work of Renaissance Economic Development Corporation (REDC) — a nonprofit organization working to transform low-to-moderate income and immigrant communities in New York City by providing low-interest small business loans, training and counseling services — helping small businesses serve as the heartbeat of local neighborhoods.
Building Strong Communities
In 1975, two University of California Berkeley graduates purchased and preserved a deteriorating warehouse in Oakland Chinatown which they eventually transformed into a multi-service Asian Resource Center. Today, their dream has evolved into the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) whose community development efforts have included the development of over 2,200 affordable homes, and more than 300,000 square feet of space for nonprofit organizations and community serving businesses.
For six months out of the year, EBALDC offers another critical service to educate individuals on income and wealth building opportunities. Recognizing that tax refunds often represent the single largest non-salary cash injection to low and middle income (LMI) households, EBALDC began its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2003 to provide free tax preparation services to area residents. In 2021, VITA volunteers prepared over 760 returns and secured $1.2 million in refunds for the community. Since the program’s inception, EBALDC’s VITA program has additionally helped area residents regain $26 million in tax refunds.
Over the years, EBALDC has paired the VITA program with a Savings Initiative, creating a culture of savings that educates clients and encourages them to set aside part of their refund. The program has been so successful in helping people not only access their refunds, but also save a portion of it, that when clients walk into EBALDC’s VITA site, they pass by a four-feet tall vinyl tree overflowing with leaves. Upon closer inspection, they see that each leaf includes the name of a filer who has saved part of their refund. The walls throughout the site promote savings in three languages: English, Spanish, and Chinese and show pictures of past winners of savings raffles that run throughout the tax season. The success of the EBALDC’s Savings Initiative has twice been nationally recognized.
Through the VITA program, local volunteers receive training provided by the IRS and EBALDC to provide tax preparation for low-income individuals and families. For many volunteers, it’s their way of giving back to the community. “VITA is kept alive by volunteers who join this highly-intensive six- month program to help prepare taxes for area individuals and families. It’s challenging from a staffing perspective to bring on temporary help,” says Elizabeth Maggio, EBALDC’s Associate Director of Economic Opportunities. “Capital One’s support allows us to recruit preparers who can provide services in many languages including Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Malay, French, and Arabic. We meet people where they are and do taxes in the language they best understand. We also help them navigate the digital landscape of tax preparation. With the funding, we make financial savings a fun event through initiatives, swag bags, and raffles.”
Maggio explains that in addition to the emphasis on savings, VITA tax filers are introduced to another of EBALDC’s financial wealth-building programs, SparkPoint Oakland – a free financial coaching program. SparkPoint Centers are an initiative of the United Way Bay Area who in 2009 partnered with EBALDC in Oakland to create the first of 23 centers. Alongside other volunteers, Maggio’s enthusiasm to help low-income individuals file taxes is something that she hopes the clients will carry forward on a path of financial well-being.
Maggio tells the story of Lorena, a single mom who started out with more than $25,000 in debt and had been living in a shelter with her young son but wanted to turn her life around. She worked diligently towards her goals for three years with an EBALDC financial coach and just purchased a condo and completed her Bachelor’s degree.
“It’s that kind of accountability to the vision of what clients want for themselves that makes a difference for their future,” says Maggio.
“Clients who work with us save money through the tax credit, but we also incentivize them by matching savings. We couple that with financial coaching so that clients can feel like banking isn’t scary and financial goals are achievable,” adds Maggio. “Many times, people come to us because they’ve already spent their expected tax refund, but year by year we reinforce financial habits that help improve their situation. We promote new ways of handling money and slowly help them attain their vision of what they want for themselves. Little by little, it changes people.”
As a Capital One grantee, EBALDC’s programs help clients throughout their full financial journey.
“Providing a pathway to financial well-being starts with connecting people with accessible and reliable information through a holistic lens,” says Ritin Dhawan, Managing Vice President of Product Management and member of Origins Business Resource Group Executive Steering Committee at Capital One. “EBALDC has been a foundational part of the community for more than 45 years, and Capital One’s support seeks to keep its myriad of services and community support available — be it in housing, financial well-being or other services. What makes EBALDC such a trusted institution has been their ability to provide culturally and linguistically responsive services that reflect the local Oakland community.”
“These tax preparation sessions are like Sunday dinner,” says Maggio. “We not only have repeat clients every year, but clients who bring family members year after year.”
In addition to Capital One’s steadfast support, EBALDC received a 2021 Blueprints to Buildings program award, which includes grant support and a line of credit. Capital One’s Blueprint to Buildings was launched in 2015 to support nonprofit developers build affordable rental housing by providing grants and loans to fund pre-development expenses such as architectural, engineering, or environmental fees. There are mission focused nonprofit developers who build affordable rentals and other vital community resources throughout our communities. Yet they lack the deep pockets to fund the prolonged and expensive pre-development process. The funds are slated to cover the predevelopment costs of EBALDC's Lake Merritt Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Senior Housing Project, which will be a mixed-use 97-unit affordable housing development targeting senior households (55+). Based in Downtown Oakland, the development aims to alleviate the high rates of displacement among low-income households in the Bay Area, where nearly half of all five-county Bay Area residents are low income or very low income. Developers have otherwise saturated Downtown Oakland with high-end complexes where the average rent hovers at $2,772.
Just like EBALDC’s founding had been rooted in the preservation of what was left of then-1970s Oakland Chinatown, EBALDC’s proposal to build the Lake Merritt Bart Senior Housing Project is something of a visionary full circle. Prior to the development of the BART station and headquarters in the 1960s, the City of Oakland dislocated generations of Chinese Americans and demolished existing buildings including an orphanage for girls and a Chinese church.
Flash forward to present day, once built, the senior housing development will serve as the affordable anchor for a larger multiphase, multiblock transit-oriented development (TOD) in partnership with Strada Investment Group and the BART, that will strengthen the existing neighborhood with an extensive suite of community benefits. One of EBALDC’s main goals for the project is to reclaim Chinatown’s legacy and create a new identity as an anchor place for a 21st century Chinatown. In total, the development will feature 519 total new residential rental units, 226 units (or 44% of the total) of which will be dedicated to below market affordable residents. Of the 500,000 square feet of the office space, 92,100 square feet dedicated to below market users, and 27,400 square feet of the ground floor will be food-oriented commercial space. The development will feature a publicly accessible “Paseo” – a public area that will offer spaces for gathering, play, rest, and food.
“We hold a vision of an Oakland that works for everyone, particularly the residents who have made it the vibrant, diverse, inclusive city it is today,” says Maggio. “Capital One’s support allows us to help bridge the growing gap between those who are prospering and those who are not. VITA programs enable neighbors to support neighbors in a tangible way. EBALDC’s Economic Opportunities Division provides area residents individual coaching and access to resources that enable households to build resiliency and attain long-term financial prosperity.”
Capital One is listening to, partnering with, and investing in people, small businesses and communities to foster an enabling environment that helps them fulfill their full potential. Investments made to EBALDC are part of Capital One’s Impact Initiative, an initial $200 million philanthropic commitment to advance socioeconomic mobility.
About Capital One
Capital One Financial Corporation (www.capitalone.com) is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A., and Capital One Bank (USA), N.A., had $304.2 billion in deposits and $421.3 billion in total assets as of June 30, 2020. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients through a variety of channels. Capital One, N.A. has branches located primarily in New York, Louisiana, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 100 index.
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