NJCPA Encourages Gov. Murphy to Sign “Financial Empowerment Center” Legislation

 – August 18, 2021
NJCPA Encourages Gov. Murphy to Sign “Financial Empowerment Center” Legislation

Statement by Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA, CEO and Executive Director, New Jersey Society of CPAs

With such challenging times upon us, the ability to make informed decisions regarding our finances is more important than ever. That’s why the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJCPA) encourages Governor Murphy to sign legislation that would establish “financial empowerment centers” to help boost the financial literacy of residents in some of New Jersey’s poorest communities. The bill had overwhelming, bipartisan support as it moved through both houses of the state Legislature earlier this year.

The legislation calls for the creation of a pilot program for empowerment centers to provide residents with counseling on everything from how to open a secure, low-cost bank account to the importance of establishing and maintaining good credit. The first centers would be opened in Camden, New Brunswick, Newark, Paterson and Trenton, according to the bill, which lawmakers sent to the Governor’s desk in late June.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Nelli Pou (D-35), Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-5), Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29), Assemblyman William F. Moen, Jr. (D-5) and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-15), would not only benefit those residents but their communities and the state as a whole. To finance the initiative, the measure calls for using funding the state received in a 2019 settlement of complaints against the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax following a 2017 data breach that affected more than 147 million Americans, including 4 million New Jersey residents. We look forward to any opportunities to assist with the creation of centers to host forums, programs, financial coaching and other services.

The NJCPA has long recognized the need to be a resource for certified public accountants as well as the general public regarding finances, taxes, student loan debt and other issues impacting residents of New Jersey. We know first-hand about helping students, adults and retirees in the areas of budgeting, planning and taxation. We believe many adults — especially those who live in underprivileged communities — could benefit from the program’s focus on bank accounts, credit scores, decreasing non-mortgage debt and increasing savings.

For years, we have been a strong supporter of financial literacy. From establishing a consumer resource center on our website and producing property tax and disaster recovery guides to hosting tax call-ins with CPAs, we understand the value of keeping New Jerseyans more financially informed. Better educated communities make for a better educated New Jersey.