How banks can grow their portfolio and assist communities in need 

By Hannah Flanders

As the disbursement of wealth in the United States becomes increasingly polarized by the year, there is a growing need in neighborhoods throughout the country for new sources of capital and greater access to financing. To accommodate this need, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) were developed to expand economic opportunity to low-income and low-wealth communities.

What is a CDFI?

A CDFI is a private financial, non-profit institution that often receives federal funding through the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Ranging from banks and credit unions to loan funds and venture capital providers, these institutions are CDFI certified for their efforts in empowering underserved communities.

With the help of the CDFI Fund, established by the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994, CDFIs specialize in lending to individuals, organizations, and businesses in under-resourced communities. In addition to low-interest rate loans, CDFIs have the ability to provide clients financial education and business coaching in specific aspects of our economy.

What Sets CDFIs Apart?

To become a CDFI, the financial institution must first be certified. Certification requires the institution to have a primary mission of promoting community development, principally serve one or more eligible target markets as well as be accountable to the target markets served, and to not be either a government entity or controlled by a government entity, among other conditions.

All CDFIs, with the assistance of federal funding and investments made for the purpose of community development, have the ability to take greater risk on lending to individuals, businesses, and communities that meet the CDFI’s specific funding source requirements. Because of this, CDFIs are able to expand the opportunities given to Native Americans, people of color, women, military-connected families, and many other underbanked individuals who may slip between the cracks of mainstream financial services.

CDFIs in Wisconsin

As of March 2022, there are 20 certified CDFIs in the state of Wisconsin, and throughout the U.S., CDFI institutions have increased by over 70% in the last 11 years to 1,395. In Wisconsin, CDFIs are represented by two banks (such as Bay Bank, Green Bay), one bank holding company (Bay Bancorporation, Green Bay), four credit unions, and 13 loan funds (such as Forward Community Investments, Inc., Madison). In addition, qualifying institutions may also be defined as either a venture capital (such as RFLF 2, LLC in Chicago, Ill.) or a depository institution holding company (such as American Bancorp of Illinois, Inc. in Oak Brook, Ill.). These 20 Wisconsin CDFIs play a critical role in establishing economic growth and opportunity for disadvantaged communities throughout the state.

Banks in Wisconsin eligible for certification are not only better suited in supporting underserved communities into mainstream banking, but also help grow their loan portfolio in their ability to serve all members of their community. Additionally, CDFI-certified banks are eligible for a range of program awards which assist in financing specific activities.

“With the recent health crisis, economic crisis, and social justice crisis there has never been a more needed time for quality loan programs to start and grow all businesses in Wisconsin, the U.S., and our world,” says Wendy Baumann, president and CEO of Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), a Wisconsin CDFI and WBA Associate Member aimed at assisting women, people of color, veterans, rural populations, and lower wealth individuals. “We need different lending institutions with different expertise and products to meet all the demands and foster a vibrant small business sector in both urban and rural communities.”

Working Alongside CDFIs

There are many other ways, besides becoming certified, that banks work in tandem with CDFIs. “Most [CDFI] clients are unable to meet the credit requirements of the commercial banks,” says Gary Mejchar, co-executive director/development at First American Capital Corporation (FACC), a WBA Associate Member and CDFI promoting economic development in Wisconsin’s Indian Country. “In turn, FACC welcomes referrals from banks for prospective borrowers not yet ready to meet the banks’ credit requirements.”

Additionally, working alongside CDFIs provides banks with the opportunity to enhance their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) performance and become involved in new ways within their community. These activities include providing technical assistance, collaborating to invest in loan pools and consortiums, and providing funds for lending. For the full list of ways your bank can become more involved with CDFIs, visit fdic.gov/resources.

Establishing working relationships between banks and CDFIs is becoming increasingly critical to each institution’s ability to provide development opportunities to those who need it most. “CDFIs, SBA Microlender Program intermediary lenders, and banks are integral elements of the continuum of credit available to entrepreneurs, micro- and small-business owners in Wisconsin,” continues Mejchar. “In fact, a growing number of FACC borrowers are growing capacity, capital, and collateral to ‘graduate’ from our Native CDFI portfolio and qualify for forming business banking relationships statewide.”

In assisting local, Wisconsin CDFIs — or by becoming certified — banks allow themselves greater opportunity to commit to distinguishable change in underserved communities throughout Wisconsin. By increasing their ability to support low-income and low-wealth individuals, families, and businesses, banks across the state will help lead the way to sustainable, economic equality.

Vieau and Endres on Farm

By Cassandra Krause

Ask anyone from out of state what the first thing that comes to mind is when they think of  Wisconsin, and they’re likely to respond “farms” — and for good reason. Wisconsin farmers work hard to put food on tables across Wisconsin and the globe. Fondly known as “America’s Dairyland,” Wisconsin is also a leading producer of cranberries (the state fruit), soybeans, potatoes, ginseng, corn — the list goes on and on.  

According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), agriculture is a major economic driver, contributing $104.8 billion annually to our state’s economy. The state is home to 64,100 farms on 14.2 million acres (the average farm size in Wisconsin is 222 acres). For those working in the industry, farming is not just a profession, but a way of life — one that poses unique stressors and challenges.

Tough Times Made Tougher by the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. farmers were already dealing with damaging weather conditions, increased global competition and tariffs, and falling commodity prices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), citing data from the Federal Reserve, reported in July of 2021:

Clear signs of financial distress had emerged among U.S. farmers even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Investment in equipment was down, farmer debt was up, and so was borrowing against land. By the end of 2019, the delinquency rate on commercial loans hit a six-year high, and the delinquency rate on farmland loans was at its highest level since 2013.

When COVID-19 began rapidly spreading and parts of the global economy shut down, the food system was hit by major supply and demand shocks. For example, when demand for milk from restaurants and schools plummeted due to closures, producers were forced to dump milk. Meanwhile, milk supply on grocery store shelves was sparse for consumers purchasing for their homes, and prices rose.

Sara Kohlbeck

Sara Kohlbeck
is the director of the Division of Suicide Prevention at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a researcher on farmer suicide in Wisconsin.

Especially on small farms, many families rely on income and benefits from jobs outside of the farm and were hurt by job losses due to the pandemic. In addition to the financial stresses of running a family farm, interpersonal issues often come into play between spouses and family members who work together. This is particularly evident when it comes to succession planning and the legacy of a longstanding family tradition.

A 2018 survey from the National Farm Medicine Center, headquartered in Marshfield, showed that 29% of farmers suffered from depression and 35% suffered from anxiety. The National Farm Medicine Center conducts a wide range of research ranging from topics such as child rearing and women on farms to veterans who become farmers. More can be found at marshfieldresearch.org/nfmc.

Sara Kohlbeck is the director of the Division of Suicide Prevention at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and is researching farmer suicide in Wisconsin for her doctoral dissertation. “Just about every farmer I talked to mentioned finances as a stressor,” said Kohlbeck of interviews conducted for her research. A small, organic farm may be one hailstorm away from being wiped out, and a larger farm may be millions of dollars in debt — the farmers’ entire livelihood can be at stake. While suicide is a relatively rare outcome (about 190 farmers are reported to have died by suicide from 2004–2018), Kohlbeck emphasizes that, “even one is too many.” Suicide rates are disproportionately high among farmers (about 2% of total suicides in Wisconsin, while farmers make up about 1% of the labor force), pointing to a larger mental health concern.

Resources for Farmer Wellness

Wisconsin Farm Center and Farmer Wellness Program
Farmcenter.wi.gov

  • Farm Culture Training for Ag Lenders and Ag Service Providers
  • Online Farmer and Farm Couple Support Groups
  • 24/7 Farmer Wellness Helpline | 888-901-2558
  • Tele-counseling | 888-901-2558
  • Counseling Vouchers | 800-942-2474

DATCP’s Farm Center started during the farm financial crisis of the 1980s, when farmland values dropped up to 60% in some areas of the Midwest. At its onset, the Farm Center strengthened relationships between ag lenders and farmers. It has since expanded its consulting and referral services to include financial consulting (reviewing balance sheets and cash flow, analyzing profitability and viability, analyzing debt structure, etc.), transition/succession planning (financial stability, operating agreements, tax implications, etc.), and farm mediation (dispute resolution).

The Farm Center’s Farmer Wellness Program began with $200,000 of funding in the 2019–21 biennial state budget and is now in addition funded by USDA grant money and other sources.

Vieau and Endres on Farm

Penn Vieau and Karen Endres are hosts of the “Rural Realities” podcast and recently brought their wellness messages to the stage at the WBA Agricultural Bankers Conference.

The Farmer Wellness Program offers services including a 24/7 Wisconsin farmer wellness helpline (888-901-2558), tele-counseling, and counseling vouchers. It also hosts online farmer and farm couple support groups. All of the resources are free of charge to Wisconsin farmers and their families. The services are there for those who are experiencing anxiety or depression, or just need a welcoming ear to talk to. Karen Endres, Farmer Wellness Program coordinator at the Wisconsin Farm Center, explained that the program was designed with the “4 A’s” in mind: affordability, accessibility, acceptability, and awareness. “Our most important resource is our mind,” said Endres. “We need to do a better job of taking care from [the neck] up.”

Endres noted that rural areas lost some of their sense of community during the pandemic as people were no longer seeing each other at coffee shops, card clubs, and so forth. The Farmer Wellness Program’s farmer support groups have served to combat the isolation felt by many farmers and have the added benefit of connecting farmers from around the state who may not otherwise have met but have much in common. Every session is facilitated by a licensed mental health provider with experience serving farmers and/or a trained peer leader.

The helpline, tele-counseling (via phone or Zoom), and vouchers for in-person counseling sessions all connect farmers and their families with licensed mental health professionals. The counselors can help bring control to farmers in navigating challenging situations. One farmer caller who sought mental wellness counseling for the first time through the program said, “please tell every farmer there is hope.”

Shifting the Mindset

Endres teamed up with mindset coach and former banker Penn Vieau to produce the Farm Center’s ‘Rural Realities’ podcast, which provides expert advice that can help farmers reduce stress, improve finances, implement effective farm family communication skills, and more. Vieau recently addressed the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) Agricultural Bankers Conference on the power of a positive mindset and is scheduled to speak at the upcoming WBA Building Our Leaders of Tomorrow (BOLT) Summer Leadership Summit, June 9–10, 2022 in Wisconsin Dells. He discussed how the stigma of mental health in farming communities can be a barrier to getting help. “Stress does not equal crazy,” said Vieau. “When stress is too much to bear, talk to somebody.”

A 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation study revealed that a majority of farmers/farmworkers think the media (72%), people in their local community (58%), and their friends (56%) attach at least a fair amount of stigma to mental health.

How Bankers Can Support Farmer Mental Health

Agricultural bankers are part of rural communities and have strong ties to the farming industry — many grew up on or live on farms themselves. MCW’s Kohlbeck said bankers may be coming into contact with farmers more often than their doctors. “We’re not expecting them to be therapists, but in some ways, bankers can be nontraditional helpers,” she said. She said the most important ways bankers can help are 1) sharing resources and 2) understanding the red flags and what to do about them.

Karen Endres

Karen Endres
Farmer Wellness Program Coordinator
Wisconsin Farm Center

Endres underscored, “bankers are relationship people, and they want to do what’s best.” She recommends the Farmer Wellness Program’s online farm culture training for agricultural service providers. It is a free, virtual course to help ag lenders and other service providers understand the unique stresses and challenges of farming, handle difficult conversations, and recognize signs and symptoms of stress with farm clients. More information and the link to register are available at farmcenter.wi.gov.

One piece of advice Vieau offered the attendees of his presentation was to create a “personal board of directors” for their mental wellbeing — in other words, identify a group of close contacts to serve as trusted advisors and consultants. He pointed out that a banker is most likely already on a farmer’s “personal board of directors,” so the banker has a unique opportunity to share a flyer or card for the Farm Center’s services. “Bankers are always offering a value-add, like sharing trending reports,” said Vieau, and likened the practice to hospitality staff offering tips on local attractions. He said it’s a great idea for bankers to use the resources and information offered by the Farm Center for themselves personally and as an added service for their clients.

To learn how to spot the signs of distress in farmers, bankers and community members may participate in gatekeeper training for lay people. The Wisconsin Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is one example of an organization that offers free, one-hour training sessions online and in person.

The Outlook

All of the experts interviewed for this story agreed that more can be done to build more supportive communities and policies for farmers. “Instead of expecting farmers to reach out, we need to reach in,” said Kohlbeck. “Farmers are proud. For policies on things like climate change, don’t put the onus on farmers to solve the problems on their own.”

Penn Vieau

Penn Vieau
Professional Speaker and Coach

Vieau noted, “we spend a lot of time with [corporate] executives doing leadership training, and we need to do the same to break the stigma with farmers, who are independent businesspeople.” He highlighted that this focus is also important in encouraging the next generation of young people, who prioritize mental wellness in their careers, to become farmers.

Similarly, Endres expressed the need for everyone to look out for our farmers, who are stewards of the land and grow our food. She encourages community members to talk to one another and direct those who could benefit from a resource or service on how to access it.

“If one person shares a resource and saves a life, that’s a pretty great day,” concluded Endres.

If you are thinking about suicide or are concerned about the wellbeing of someone you know, call the Wisconsin Lifeline at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), the Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Helpline (888-901-2558), or 911.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

For 130 years, advocacy has been at the core of WBA’s mission and a key focus of the banking industry. While advocacy is not directly in the job description of most banking positions, bankers have long recognized that being actively engaged in all aspects of advocacy helps preserve the franchise value of banks.

I’m incredibly proud of how many bankers took time out of their busy schedules to send letters, make calls, participate in hearings in Madison, travel to Washington, D.C., attend public meetings of elected officials, and personally contribute to the industry’s political action funds throughout this last year! All of these efforts were critically important to augment WBA’s own work in achieving policy success for our industry. Recently, we mailed each member the WBA Advocacy Report which highlights the industry’s advocacy accomplishments this biennium. It was a very active session with WBA working hard on both offense and defense!

In that same mailing, each member received a copy of our Advocacy Toolkit which contains our annual fundraising request for political funds from you, your team, and your bank. With the number of banks in the state shrinking, it is more important than ever for everyone to step up and contribute to this industry effort. I recognize that the money side of advocacy is not always the most appealing; however, it is critical to make sure those who support banking are elected to office in Madison and in Washington, D.C. Our goal for this calendar year is to raise $300,000 — a feat we have not accomplished in the last four years. Ideally, we would welcome every banker contributing as even small dollar contributions help make a big difference. I personally give at least $4,000 each year, and I encourage executive management to give generously this year as well since our livelihoods depend on the success of this great industry. In 2021, 152 bankers earned the Silver Triangle award by contributing at least $500 to our advocacy efforts. I encourage new members to consider joining at the Silver Triangle level and urge existing members to double, triple, or quadruple their donation amount. Your contribution to any combination of the Wisbankpac, ABW, or the issue advocacy fund would dramatically move WBA closer to achieving its calendar year fundraising goal.

In addition to personal contributions, I encourage each bank to consider making an issue advocacy contribution. This is a corporate contribution, payable to WBA, that we use to join with our business coalition partners to create pro-business public policy messages. These dollars are also extremely helpful to achieve our advocacy goals. I welcome and encourage corporate contributions of any amount; and for those whose bank give at least $5,000, we are hosting three special outings in Kohler, June 20–21, that two individuals may attend.

Finally, the WBA advocacy team is very willing to come and speak in person to your staff and/or board of directors on our current advocacy work. I promise this is not going to only be a sales pitch for money (although we will mention political giving at the end). Our team is able to structure the presentation in a manner to which you prefer and can include talking about policy issues affecting the banking industry here in Wisconsin and in DC, as well as redistricting, key legislative races, regulatory initiatives, and other similar topics. Contact me anytime to schedule this type of presentation.

If you did not receive the Advocacy Toolkit in the mail or would like additional fundraising templates/materials to share with your staff, please let me know. Thank you for all you do to advocate for the banking industry!

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

Each year, bankers throughout Wisconsin go above and beyond in their mission to provide for their communities. As we near the end of Wisconsin Bankers Association’s (WBA) fiscal year on May 31, we want to be sure to recognize the efforts our member banks accomplish in pursuit of bettering the financial education and responsibility of their communities.

Alongside the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) in its mission to empower financial decisions through education and research, I highly encourage all WBA-member bankers to track and submit their data to help WBA and WBF better understand the financial education-related activities Wisconsin banks and their bankers are involved with each year.

New this year, bankers are able to submit their presentation summaries online at wisbankfoundation.org/education/.

The two summary forms aim at highlighting the achievements of both individuals as well as the bank for their financial education presentations and activities from June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022. These activities often include volunteer hours with Junior Achievement, Teach Children to Save presentations, and bank tours — events that many bankers take part in during the month of April as part of Power of Community Week.

The individual summary is intended to capture one event or presentation. Therefore, bankers who have or expect to engage in multiple financial education-related activities from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022 should expect to also submit multiple summaries. Because each summary reflects a single event, all co-presenters should be listed on the same form.

Exceptional individual efforts are recognized by WBF with either a Certificate of Recognition or Certificate of Excellence based on the number of presentations given. These awards, along with the top two banker awards, are presented each year at WBA’s LEAD360 Conference in the fall.

The bank summary form is intended to capture information related to the bank’s entire financial education initiatives. Based on the level of a bank’s total activity, member banks may earn the Excellence in Financial Education Award. This award is also presented each year to the winning banks at WBA’s LEAD360 Conference.

In addition to the Excellence in Financial Education Award, banks are strongly encouraged to apply for the prestigious Financial Education Innovation Award. This award is given to one bank each year that has financial education initiatives or programs that are very creative, reaching a wide audience. The 2021 Financial Education Innovation Award was presented to Bank Five Nine at WBA’s Bank Executives Conference in February for their efforts in creating an innovative approach to financial education. Banks may apply for this award by completing the final portion of the bank-wide presentation summary form application online.

You all do great work in the financial education space in your communities so take the time to get recognized for your outstanding work! Completing the forms this year is even easier now that they are online. You may submit forms at any time but the final deadline is July 31, 2022. I look forward to learning more about your efforts this past year and recognizing the incredible work Wisconsin bankers do each day. Please reach out to Hannah Flanders at hflanders@wisbank.com or me if you have questions regarding the completion of the two summary forms.

Individual Financial Education Summary FY 21–22

Bank-wide Financial Education Summary FY 21–22

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

I have learned of recent activity by a California law firm contacting Wisconsin banks alleging the bank’s website is in violation of the California Unruh Act. The law firm, Pacific Trial Attorneys, engaged in similar activity in Wisconsin back in 2018.

The letter alleges the firm has been retained by a blind consumer to file suit against the bank, claiming the bank’s website is not fully accessible to blind users. The letter cites a California court case which held “disability access laws apply to commercial websites, including online-only businesses.”

If your bank receives such a letter, it is important to contact your legal counsel immediately. This law firm has a history of sending these letters to banks and other businesses and then promptly filing lawsuits against the bank/business, as is threatened in the letter. I suggest you not treat these letters as a “fishing expedition” but, rather, take them very seriously and work to respond with the advice of your counsel, promptly.

The letter references a violation of California law. Bank’s counsel need be in review of bank’s products and activities to identify whether the California law is applicable to the bank. While in review of bank’s website, I recommend you also consider whether bank’s website is in violation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Guidelines) as the California claim could potentially change from a violation of California law to a claim regarding violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

I also suggest you work with your website vendor to be sure your bank’s website complies with any relevant law, including the Guidelines and, if not, how quickly it can be changed to comply.

I further suggest that if it is not already in your legal contract with your website vendor, you should add provisions to your contract to put the burden of ensuring your bank’s compliance with the Guidelines on the vendor. And, if any legal demand or litigation is initiated against the bank claiming a violation of ADA or the Guidelines, that the vendor is wholly responsible.

I understand that receiving these kinds of letters from plaintiffs’ law firms is not only frustrating but can be a significant distraction from normal operations. However, as more commerce is done electronically including through bank websites, it is important to not lose sight of relevant law, including ADA-related guidelines, to the same degree you follow applicable requirements for physical access to your bank. There is not going to be any legislative change that would wholly exempt bank websites from any compliance with guidelines around providing access to the public including persons with disabilities. Consequently, it is very important for you to promptly respond to any such letter you receive.

Both the ICBA and ABA have materials on their respective websites available for members on the topic of ADA digital accessibility. WBA first wrote on the topic of ADA digital accessibility in the January 2017 issue of Wisconsin Banker.

Finally, WBA is collecting letters received by its member banks. If you have received a letter, we would appreciate your sending a copy to WBA’s Scott Birrenkott at sbirrenkott@wisbank.com. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please contact Scott, Heather MacKinnon, or me.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

The Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) offers many opportunities for bankers around the state to get involved and shape the future of their industry. From serving as advocacy officers and taking part in Power of Community Week service activities to joining one of twelve WBA committees or sections — there are options for every member of your team.

WBA will be accepting applications for the 2022–23 committees and sections for a few more days! Ranging from marketing, human resources, and mortgage lending to financial crimes and government relations, WBA offers committees that not only tie into your bankers’ specialties but offer the chance to explore their interests as well.

As members of WBA committees, bankers directly impact what legislation WBA staff lobby for and what educational programs, trainings, and conferences are offered to the membership. Your efforts in diversifying our knowledge and ideas not only help WBA staff better understand your needs but allow us to provide WBA members with information, resources, and events that are relevant to them.

Along with the benefit engaged bankers provide the banking industry, WBA committees offer growth and leadership opportunities, peer networking, and special discounts on select educational programs.

WBA is your association. Your expertise and ideas directly aid us in making the greatest impact on your association and industry. I encourage you to volunteer for a WBA committee by March 14 to get involved with WBA and your professional peers for the benefit of our entire industry!

Apply Today!

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

*March 7, 2022 update: Gov. Tony Evers has launched Wisconsin Help for Homeowners Program.

I wish to remind Wisconsin’s bankers of the availability of the Wisconsin Help for Homeowners (WHH) Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) Program as another tool to assist homeowners struggling with a financial hardship as of January 21, 2020, due to the coronavirus. Program funding is available from the Treasury through the Homeowners Assistance Fund established under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The State of Wisconsin, through its WHH partners, will accept and process applications from homeowners within the state of Wisconsin. Homeowner income eligibility requirements are limited to households whose incomes do not exceed 100% of the area median income or 150% of the area median income if the homeowner meets the definition of Socially Disadvantaged under 24 CFR 124.103. Eligible expenses are those that were due on or after January 21, 2020, as described in the Wisconsin Homeowner Assistance Fund and Need Assessment Plan. The plan has recently been approved by the Treasury. The state has implemented the WHH HAF, and applicants can now apply. Funds are limited to $40,000 per applicant.

The State of Wisconsin, through its WHH partners, will be using the Common Data file (CDF) to share borrower information with loan servicers. If unable to utilize the CDF another mutually agreeable format will be used. A borrower general release and information sharing agreement is also required to be executed. All payments to servicers on behalf of borrowers will be disbursed using ACH.

If a bank is its own servicer, the bank could execute a collaboration agreement, and other required documents under the WHH HAF program, and work directly with WHH partners to process WHH HAF program payments on behalf of their borrowers. If a third-party is the servicer, the bank should alert its third-party servicers of Wisconsin’s program so that the servicer can execute the required documents in preparation for assisting affected borrowers.

To participate, several documents need be executed by servicer or borrower, including: a Collaboration Agreement, WHH Contact Information Form, WHH Borrower Consent Form, DOA-6460 New Supplier Form, DOA-6456 Authorization for Electronic Deposit Form, and a W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) Certification.

Upon receipt of the above documents, the Collaboration Agreement will be signed electronically by the state’s identified contact and a fully executed copy of the agreement shall be sent to the servicer. Program documents, in addition to those linked above, need be obtained from Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Tamra Fabian at tamra.fabian@wisconsin.gov. Fabian is leading the intake of the Collaboration Agreements.

More details regarding Wisconsin’s Homeowner Assistance Fund Program, may be found at: homeownerhelp.wi.gov.

Nearly 100 Employers Have Joined Statewide Effort to Encourage Employees to Save Automatically at Work 

America Saves Logo Wisconsin Saves Logo

In an increasingly competitive labor market, Wisconsin business owners are working to set themselves apart from other employers by offering a financial wellness benefit to employees: the ability to save automatically through their paycheck using the established practice of split deposit.  Nearly 100 small to mid-size employers in Wisconsin representing approximately 14,000 employees are now part of a statewide campaign to encourage workers to save automatically through their paycheck.  The Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative encourages the use of split deposit in order to prepare for unexpected expenses including home repairs and car maintenance as well as fun opportunities like last minute travel.

The campaign was launched in April 2021 and is led by Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary-designee Cheryll Olson-Collins; President and CEO of Wisconsin Bankers Association Rose Oswald Poels; Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Cooperation (WWBIC) President Wendy Baumann; and America Saves, the leading national campaign in promoting savings.

The 99 employers are: Adams Transit Inc. ■ Aloekui Handmade Soap ■ Amcor Flexibles North America, Inc. ■ Apache Stainless Equipment Company ■ Apple Tree Educational Svc LLC ■ AppleTree Credit Union ■ AstroJun LLC ■ Badger Globe Credit Union ■ Bank of Kaukauna ■ Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce ■ Bierock ■ Blumenfeld & Associates ■ Bluff View Bank ■ Breaking Barriers Mentoring Inc. ■ BSI ■ Cesarz Charapata & Zinnecker Funeral Home ■ City of Mayville ■ Class A Cleaning ■ Clinicare Corporation ■  Community First Credit Union ■ Cream City Caramels and Confections ■ CultureCon ■ Dairy State Bank ■ Dane County Credit Union ■ DCC ■ Don Johnson Motors ■ Edmund Mitchell Corporation ■ en.courage Nutrition ■ Evergreen Credit Union ■ F&M Bank – Kendall ■ First Community Bank ■ First State Bank ■  Fond du Lac Credit Union ■ Food is Fuel LLC ■ Fort Community Credit Union ■ Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce ■ GreenLeaf Bank ■ Heartland Credit Union ■ Hometown Pharmacy ■ Horizon Electric Company ■ Hurley Burish, S.C. ■ Indianhead Community Action Ag ■ Jan Pro Cleaning ■ Johnsville  ■ Kathy’s 2nd Chance Plants ■ Johnsville ■ lac courte oreilles ojibwe college ■ Lawrence University ■ Lee Hemp Farm, LLC ■ Los Parbulitos Daycare ■ MACHA ■ Madison Development Corporation ■ Madison Innovation Labs, LLC ■ Marie Hunt Beauty ■ Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry ■ Marquette County ■ Mound City Bank ■ Mount Horeb Area School District ■ North Shore Fire Department ■ Organic Valley ■ Office of the Wisconsin State Treasurer ■ PCM Credit Union ■ Pindel Global Precision ■  Port Washington State Bank ■ Qlink  ■ Ripco Credit Union ■ Royal Credit Union ■ School District of Bayfield ■ School District of North Fond du Lac ■ Schuk Law, LLC ■ Securitas ■ Serigraph, Inc. ■  Specialty Coating Systems, Inc. ■ Summit Credit Union ■ TechLogix Networx ■ The American Deposit Management Co. ■ The Galleria of Tile ■ The Human Service Center ■ The QTI Group ■ The Stephenson National Bank & Trust ■ The Wisconsin Credit Union League ■ Town of Grand Chute ■ Train Up a Child Learning Center, LLC ■ UnitedOne Credit Union ■ Valley Packaging ■ Vesta Memory Care ■ Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin ■ Village of Frederic ■ Village of Saukville ■ Waukesha County Business Alliance, Inc. ■ Westbury Bank ■ Westby Coop Credit Union ■ WICPA ■ WiLS ■ Wisconsin Bankers Association ■ Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions ■ Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce ■ Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation

Recognizing that employers can serve as a powerful source of information for their workers, Wisconsin Saves helps support small to mid-size employers as they promote the ease and benefits of split deposit to their employees.  Often, these businesses have limited resources to focus on issues outside of their core business.  This effort empowers employers by equipping them with easy-to-use resources for their employees.

“Our goal with Wisconsin Saves is to help more Wisconsinites build emergency savings and save for the future,” said DFI Secretary-designee Olson-Collins.  “We know that saving automatically is the easiest and most effective way to save.  That’s why we enlisted the support of employers from all over Wisconsin to help promote saving automatically through split deposit.  This helps financially prepare more Wisconsinites for unexpected expenses and build financial security.”

Employers can sign up to participate in the Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative at autosave.wisconsinsaves.org.

America Saves is a campaign managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America that uses the principles of behavioral economics and social marketing to motivate, encourage, and support low-to-moderate income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. America Saves encourages individuals and families to take the America Saves pledge and organizations to promote savings year-round and during America Saves Week. Since its inception, over 12,000 organizations have participated in America Saves Week to promote savings to their communities. Learn more at americasaves.org.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

Monday, February 21 marked the beginning of Wisconsin Saves Week. Proclaimed by Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the event occurs as part of the national America Saves Week and encourages Americans to establish financial responsibility and achieve stability through setting and achieving savings goals.

In countless ways, bankers already provide exceptional avenues for Wisconsinites looking to achieve financial wellness through daily activities. That is why I encourage each of you to raise awareness of the America Saves pledge. Tips, resources, and tools provided by America Saves following the completion of the pledge will help keep individuals on track to achieve their savings goals.

Each day of Wisconsin Saves Week, co-led by several Wisconsin organizations including the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA), centers on one of five critical areas of financial wellness to build financial resilience. The daily topics are as follows: Monday, February 21: Save Automatically; Tuesday, February 22: Save for the Unexpected; Wednesday, February 23: Save for Retirement; Thursday, February 24: Save by Reducing Debt; and Friday, February 25: Save as a Family.

In addition to promoting saving habits to Wisconsin communities, the Wisconsin Saves Automatic Saving Initiative, which launched in May of last year, will assist you in encouraging your employees to save automatically and establish emergency savings accounts — a necessity underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your bank can sign up as an employer participant, and you can encourage your business customers to do the same. WBA is one of nearly 100 Wisconsin employers that has signed up to enable staff to automatically designate part of their payroll to go into a separate savings account. By signing up, Wisconsin businesses offer split deposit as an additional employee benefit, which can help to recruit and retain talent in the current competitive job market.

As always, sharing these resources with your employees, customers, families, and friends to create a better financial future for everyone is critical. We cannot predict the unexpected, but we can — and do — help others financially prepare for it.