Monday, November 29, 2010 NEW YORK CITY AWARDED NATIONAL LEAGUE OF CITIES’ 2010 GOLD AWARD FOR MUNICIPAL EXCELLENCE The National League of Cities (NLC) announced today that New York City has won a 2010 Gold Award for Municipal Excellence. The Award, in the category of cities with a population of more than 500,000, went to the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Financial Empowerment Centers as an outstanding program that improves the quality of life in America’s communities. DCA’s network of more than 20 Financial Empowerment Centers provide free, one-on-one, multilingual professional financial counseling to New York City residents.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER JONATHAN MINTZ ANNOUNCES EXPANSION OF THE CITY’S FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT CENTERS SERVICES TO INCLUDE COUNSELING IN CHINESE, HOMEOWNERSHIP AND FORECLOSURE PREVENTION COUNSELING AND COUNSELING FOR HOMEBOUND NEW YORKERS Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today announced three new Financial Empowerment Centers which will offer free, one-on-one professional financial counseling to New York City residents. The new Financial Empowerment Centers, which are administered by DCA’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) in partnership with Credit Where Credit Is Due (CWCID), Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City (NHS), offer specialized counseling to homeowners in need and, at AAFE, expand financial counseling services to Mandarin and Cantonese speaking New Yorkers. The new centers are made possible through a partnership with NeighborWorks America. The City’s network of Financial Empowerment Centers help clients with money management, budgeting, credit counseling, negotiating with creditors, finding affordable banking services, debt management, government benefit screenings and referrals to other services and organizations.
Friday, May 14, 2010 CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER JONATHAN MINTZ ADDRESSES NEW YORK STATE CHECK-CASHING INDUSTRY BY CALLING FOR IT TO EXPLORE WEALTH BUILDING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES The following is the text of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz’s remarks as prepared for delivery at the Financial Service Centers of New York 18th Annual Conference & Exposition “Thank you for inviting me to join you today. I’m here today to talk about the Bloomberg Administration’s approach to meeting the financial services needs of consumers with low incomes – a market that you all have long recognized for its potential, and that the many banks have long ignored. There are over 825,000 adults in New York City who live in households where no one has a checking or savings account – and hundreds of thousands of others have banks accounts but primarily rely on check cashers like yourselves and other non-banks to conduct their core financial transactions.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 STATEMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER JONATHAN MINTZ ON JPMORGAN CHASE’S DECISION TO QUIT REFUND ANTICIPATION LOAN BUSINESS “JPMorgan Chase’s decision to pull out of the refund anticipation loan (“RAL”) business, along with a growing list of others in the financial services industry, will ideally herald the ultimate and long-overdue demise of these predatory and unnecessary loans,” said Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. “In New York, our enforcement agents find year after year that tax preparers generally need to lie about these terrible loans to sell them, misrepresenting them as “rapid refunds” rather than costly loans that drain much-needed dollars from those who can least afford it. And because these high-priced RALs go to low-income wage-earners, it siphons taxpayer dollars away from the Earned Income Tax Credit, which Congress specifically intended to help working individuals with low and moderate incomes. It’s time to ban these loans once and for all so taxpayers get every penny of the tax refunds our elected officials intended them to receive.”
Thursday, April 1, 2010 MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER MINTZ ANNOUNCE NEW YORKERS CAN FILE TAXES FOR FREE BEFORE THE APRIL 15TH DEADLINE ONLINE OR IN PERSON AT THE CITY’S FREE TAX SITES Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz announced today that, with two weeks left before the April 15 deadline to file taxes, more than 2,100 New Yorkers have already used the City's first ever free online tax preparation site to file their 2009 tax returns. Using the free tool, New Yorkers can claim refunds like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Care Tax Credit (CCTC). Of the 2,100 users, over 900 have filed directly through the City's website www.nyc.gov and 1,200 have used the City's drop-in locations, which provide free assistance from certified tax specialists. New Yorkers who earn $58,000 or less annually - about 2.7 million people - qualify to electronically file their federal and state tax returns for free on the City's new online tax preparation service. In 2008, New Yorkers claimed approximately $2.3 billion in total EITC tax credits. During the 2009 tax season, the City's 311 phone system fielded more than 35,000 EITC-related inquiries.
Monday, March 29, 2010 MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES NEW NYC SERVICE INITIATIVE TO PROVIDE FREE LEGAL SERVICES TO HOMEOWNERS IN DANGER OF FORECLOSURE Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford, Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo and Commissioner of Department of Consumer Affairs Jonathan Mintz today launched a new NYC Service initiative to provide free legal support for New Yorkers at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. The program will increase the availability and effectiveness of free legal representation for those facing foreclosure by training and dispatching 300 volunteer attorneys to expand legal services provided by non-profit organizations. The free legal services program is a component of Mayor Bloomberg’s 2010 State of City pledge to launch the most ambitious home foreclosure prevention effort of any city in the nation. The program will be implemented by NYC Service, the City’s comprehensive initiative to promote a new era of service in New York City and direct volunteers toward the areas of greatest need. The Mayor also was joined at the announcement at the Queens County Supreme Court by Justice Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts, who is responsible for access to justice issues; Michael Hickey, Executive Director for the Center for New York City Neighborhoods; and Hilary Gingold, an attorney who will be participating in the program and has extensive experience working on a pro bono basis on foreclosure proceedings.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER MINTZ WARNS BANKS AGAINST USING TEXT MESSAGING TO ENROLL CUSTOMERS INTO OVERDRAFT PROTECTION SERVICES Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today warned firms not to undermine new federal regulations with aggressive solicitations to enroll New Yorkers into overdraft protection services. This message comes after the Department learned the marketing firm SoundBite Communications has promoted its “text message solution” to financial institutions that will need to obtain consent from their customers beginning July 1 before enrolling them into overdraft services. In a letter to the firm, Commissioner Mintz cautioned against aggressive marketing strategies that defy new federal regulations of overdraft protection and threaten the financial security of consumers. In a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Commissioner Mintz also asked that the Federal Reserve to prohibit financial institutions from using text messages to obtain consent from their customers before enrolling them into overdraft services, a tactic that would eliminate the consumer’s opportunity to make informed choices about overdraft protection services.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS DECLARES DECEPTIVE OVERDRAFT ENROLLMENT TOP FRAUD OF THE YEAR Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today declared deceptive enrollment in so-called “courtesy overdraft” protection a top fraud of the year. Banks who continue to automatically enroll customers into such costly services without their permission after July 1, 2010 will be violating federal law. Fees for these services, which average $27 per $20 purchase, cost Americans more than $38 billion in fees in 2009 alone and were assessed without most customers’ knowledge or permission. DCA cautions consumers about the deceptive marketing tactics that banks may use in upcoming months to re-enroll them in these nontransparent practices and calls upon banks to offer real-time overdraft choices instead. In an effort to provide New Yorkers with a safe banking option and no overdraft fees, particularly the 825,000 without mainstream bank accounts, DCA has also created NYC SafeStart Bank Account, the City’s first banking product available to all New Yorkers.
Thursday, February 25, 2010 MORE THAN 825,000 ADULTS IN NEW YORK CITY DO NOT HAVE BANK OR CREDIT UNION ACCOUNTS ACCORDING TO NEW CITYWIDE STUDY Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today announced that more than 825,000 adult New Yorkers do not have bank accounts, but instead use fringe financial services like check cashers to pay bills, cash payroll checks, buy money orders and conduct other financial transactions. To help New Yorkers transition from using high-cost fringe financial services, DCA has created NYC SafeStart Bank Account, the City’s first banking product available to all New Yorkers.
Thursday, January 21, 2010 DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER JONATHAN MINTZ KICKS OFF TAX SEASON BY ANNOUNCING THE CITY’S FIRST EVER FREE ‘TAX REFUND SUPER SATURDAY’ EVENT Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today announced the City’s first ever free ‘Tax Refund Super Saturday’ event. ‘Tax Refund Super Saturday’ will be held at the CUNY Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets) on Saturday, January 23 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., kicking off the City’s 8th Annual Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Coalition Campaign. The Saturday event will offer free tax preparation for New Yorkers who have dependent children and earn less than $50,000, and City residents who have no children and earn less than $18,000. Tax preparers will check if City residents qualify for the EITC, the NYC Child Care Tax Credit and other tax credits that could put money back in their pockets. The average EITC refund alone is $2,700. Tax preparation will be provided by Beehive, Food Bank for New York City, Ariva and the National Association of Black Accountants. The event will also include free one-on-one financial fitness check-ups in English and Spanish, free group workshops on credit, homeownership and other important financial topics, provided by the Financial Planner’s Association, Phipps Community Development Corporation, Credit Where Credit is Due, The Financial Clinic and Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.