Financial Capability Month

On March 31, 2021, the White House issued a proclamation on National Financial Capability Month, which has been recognized every April since 2003 in the United States. The proclamation noted  the COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on minority and low-income communities, and that financial education builds financial capability, helps families access assistance, build resilience, and benefit from a stronger and more equitable economy.

The Financial Literacy and Education Commission

The proclamation further highlights the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC), a 23-member body of federal agencies, chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury, was created to coordinate and improve financial education for all Americans.  FLEC developed the National Strategy for Financial Literacy. The National Strategy, which was updated in 2020, outlines a series of outreach and education goals for the public and private sectors aimed at helping Americans improve their understanding of financial issues such as credit management, savings, and homeownership.

FLEC’s vision is of “sustained financial well-being for all individuals and families in the US”. To achieve this vision, the National Strategy seeks to foster a culture in which households take periodic stock of their financial situations; individuals seek information and ask questions before entering into financial transactions and everyone has the information and tools needed to help manage debt, save to meet financial goals, and plan for secure financial futures. FLEC is also charged with the administration of the website for this purpose. This website has been used to share general information about resources for financial relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Direct Express® and Financial Capability

The Direct Express® cardholder population is diverse, but primarily comes from among the 63 million US adults that the Federal Reserve identifies as unbanked or underbanked. Cardholders, at least at the beginning of their involvement with the program, may not be familiar with how to best use a network-branded prepaid debit  card and may lack basic money-management skills.

The Direct Express® program puts financial literacy front-and-center of its program by integrating the new Financial Education Center for cardholders to gain skills and knowledge to use their card in ways that best serves their needs. . This focus on financial capability is supplemented by 24/7 customer service, which many cardholders use for advice.  In addition, many cardholders rely on the DXSM mobile app on their smartphones for managing their card account.

In this way, Direct Express® seeks to supplement the capability that a network-branded prepaid debit card gives beneficiaries, in terms of convenience, safety, and reliability, with a robust approach to improving cardholder financial literacy.