Rubicon Programs Partners with Travis Credit Union To Help Contra Costa ‘Crave 2 Save’

By Jonathan Bash August 15, 2017

47 Percent of All Americans Have Less Than $400 in Their Savings Account 

 

RICHMOND, CALIF., AUGUST 15, 2017 … In an effort to bring financial stability to Contra Costa County’s low-income residents, Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit fighting poverty in the East Bay, Sparkpoint Contra Costa and Travis Credit Union have partnered to launch their new “Crave 2 Save” challenge for Contra Costa County residents.

“At Rubicon, our job is to support our community in building financial, social and human capital,” said Jane Fischberg, President and CEO of Rubicon Programs. “You can’t break the cycle of poverty without saving for the unexpected. For many families, one car repair or dental emergency can be the difference between economic stability and debilitating debt.”

A savings account can save much more than money. 47 percent of all Americans have less than $400 in their savings account and are unprepared for life’s emergencies. Without a savings account, many people must turn to high-interest payday advance loans and credit cards for relief. The small debt eventually balloons to be unmanageable thanks to outrageous 450 percent APRs.

“Travis Credit Union exists to create value in the communities we serve and we believe a family’s ability to save for their future is the foundation of financial success,” said Barry Nelson, President and CEO of Travis Credit Union. “Through the Crave 2 Save program with partners like Rubicon we will break the cycle of poverty.”

So what’s the challenge? Eight nonprofits in four counties across the Bay Area will compete to enroll as many people into savings accounts as possible by December 31, 2017. The two nonprofits from the winning county will split a $75,000 prize that will fund each of the organization’s work to end the cycle of poverty.

To earn points for the two nonprofits, Crave 2 Save participants must open a free new Travis Credit Union savings account, mention the Crave2Save Challenge using the tracking code “CCC1,” meet savings targets that add up to $400, and attend a free financial education seminar. All participants will be entered to win a $100 giveaway at their local branch.

For more information on Crave 2 Save, visit www.traviscu.org/crave2save or call Rubicon Programs at 510-412-1725.

Rubicon Programs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to transform East Bay communities by equipping people to break the cycle of poverty. The organization serves the people of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, and provides services that help low-income individuals enter the workforce and develop fulfilling lives.

Travis Credit Union, headquartered in Vacaville, California, is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution serving those who live or work in Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Merced Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties. Currently, Travis Credit Union is the 14th largest credit union in California with more than 189,000 members and more than $2.8 billion in assets. As one of the leading financial institutions in Solano, Contra Costa, Yolo and Merced Counties, Travis Credit Union’s strength lies in its faithful commitment to its members and the community; its solid, secure history; and its long-standing track record of dedicated service.  

CONTACT: Jonathan Bash  |  jonathanb@rubiconprograms.org |  (510) 231-3993  

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Landmark Rubicon Lawsuit Settled, Paves Way for Fair Treatment of Low-Income Drivers

By Jonathan Bash August 8, 2017

Solano County adopts model policies that lessen the burden of traffic fines and fees           

                              

San Francisco, CA - A settlement was reached today in the first lawsuit in California to challenge the suspension of driver’s licenses as a means of collecting unpaid traffic fines. The lawsuit was originally filed on June 15, 2016 against Solano County Superior Court, challenging the court’s practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who could not afford the astronomical price of traffic tickets.

“Having to choose between food and a traffic fine is not a choice at all," said Jane Fischberg, President and CEO of Rubicon Programs, a plaintiff in the suit. “This settlement gives us hope that we are finally moving away from unjust systems that criminalize poverty. We applaud the Solano Court’s good faith effort to make the system more equitable – so that everyone in our communities has an opportunity to achieve economic mobility."

Prior to the lawsuit, the Court routinely failed to notify traffic defendants of their right to demonstrate they were low-income and unable to pay the fines – which the suit alleged was unlawful. The Court also lacked a mechanism for low-income drivers to seek a reduction in the fine or an alternative to payment based on their poverty.

Today, the parties filed a settlement that achieves the goals of the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, the Court will notify every traffic defendant of their right to be heard regarding their “ability to pay.” The Court will update all notifications to traffic defendants, including its website, the oral advisements provided by traffic court judges, and the “notice of rights” handout given to all traffic defendants. The new notices explain the traffic defendants’ rights to ask the Court for a lower fine, a payment plan, or community service if they are indigent.

Further, the Court agreed to change its procedures for assessing a defendant’s ability to pay. For traffic defendants who are homeless, receive public benefits or are low income, the Court has agreed to consider alternative penalties that do not involve payment of a monetary fine – such as community service.

"We hope that Solano's reforms will be a model for other counties to follow," said Rebekah Evenson, Director of Litigation and Advocacy at Bay Area Legal Aid. "We laud the Solano County Superior Court and Presiding Judge Fracchia for working with us to reform their traffic system in a way that treats low-income drivers fairly and equitably."

“We appreciate that the governor and legislature recently put an end to the harmful practice of using license suspension to punish low-income people who can’t afford to pay costly tickets,” said Christine Sun, Legal Director at the ACLU of Northern California. “Now we’d like to see counties across California follow Solano County’s example and address the exorbitant traffic fines and fees structure that plunges people into a cycle of poverty.”

A 2017 study by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, "Paying More for Being Poor: Bias and Disparity in California’s Traffic Court System," showed that Californians pay some of the highest fines and fees in the country—which can devastate the lives of Californians with lower incomes.

People of color also bear a disproportionate amount of this burden. The study’s Bay Area data revealed that African-Americans are four to sixteen times more likely to be booked into county jail on a charge related to inability to pay a citation. Because of over-policing in communities of color and racial profiling, African-American and Hispanic individuals are more likely to receive traffic tickets than are white and Asian individuals and are far more likely to be cited solely for driving with a license that was suspended for failure to pay or appear in traffic court.

The lead plaintiff in the suit, Rubicon Programs v. Superior Court, is Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit that provides comprehensive employment, career, financial, legal and health & wellness services to thousands of low-income people across the Bay Area. Additional plaintiffs in the suit include the ACLU of Northern California, and Henry Washington, a low-income Hayward resident whose license was suspended because he could not pay a “fix-it” ticket. Plaintiffs were represented by:

Read the final settlement here.

Media Contacts:

 

Sarah Williams, Attorney, swilliams@rubiconprograms.org or (510) 412-1763

Jonathan Bash, Communications Manager, jonathanb@rubiconprograms.org or (510) 231-3993

 

Linda Kim, Bay Area Legal Aid, Lkim@baylegal.org or (510) 250-5218

Bethany Woolman, ACLU of Northern California, bwoolman@aclunc.org or (415) 621-2493

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