Progress on Financial Empowerment in Colorado

Colorado is nationally recognized for its financial empowerment work. In the past few years alone, we have capped allowable costs on payday loans, required out-of-state lenders to follow our laws, and developed new, low-cost lending options. The ongoing need for these and other laws underscores the value of Colorado’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE). Though one of the state’s newest and often overshadowed achievements, its work is critical to supporting long-term financial health throughout our state.

Created by SB21-148 and housed within the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, the OFE exists to provide proactive coordination and support to the many financial empowerment efforts happening across the state. More specifically, the OFE is responsible for:

  • Expanding access to safe and affordable banking products
  • Growing access to safe, affordable, and low-cost credit
  • Increasing the availability of free financial counseling and coaching for individuals
  • Supporting community wealth-building strategies

This work remains more important than ever as loan default rates rise, credit card debt grows, and the percentage of unbanked or underbanked (meaning an individual does not have either a bank account or they do have a bank account but also use alternative financial services like payday loans) is near 20 percent. Through the OFE’s work to provide better financial tools and resources, these and other financial challenges impacting Coloradans can be addressed before they even begin.

The OFE has only been in existence for a few short years, and is still growing into its own. But in that time, the OFE has made important progress by:

  • Working with other agencies and departments to embed financial empowerment priorities throughout state government. These efforts, for example, led to the incorporation of financial empowerment goals into the state’s new Digital Access Plan.
  • Hosting webinars to share financial empowerment resources. This has included hosting webinars focused on increasing financial security for survivors of domestic violence and how to help people complete their Federal and State of Colorado taxes and take advantage of all the credits they’re eligible for.
  • Offering $3 million in funding for community groups providing free financial counseling and coaching.
  • Leading Bank On Colorado. This coalition of state, community, and private sector partners is working to increase access to safe, affordable bank products. As of early 2024, 30 bank account options across Colorado were certified by Bank On as having met established affordability and safety standards.
  • Beginning to convene stakeholders to better, coordinate, plan, and implement community wealth-building strategies

The OFE is making valuable progress in building the statewide infrastructure necessary to ensure the financial well-being of Colorado families and communities. As the OFE’s work continues into the coming years, and its many efforts converge and grow, we know that this important office will have a lasting impact on our state.