Education policymakers on MSU Extension resources: The FHE team goes to the Capitol

On Friday, May 20, representatives from 15 state legislative offices attended a coffee and donuts informational session at the state Capitol. The session was held by the Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) team to educate the group about the post-foreclosure toolkits that Michigan State University (MSU) Extension provides. Toolkits were also distributed to all offices to advertise the effective and impactful resources that MSU Extension produces for families and individuals starting over after home foreclosure.

In a brainstorming and planning meeting between a few members of the FHE team and Eric Walcott, MSU Extension public policy specialist, the team discussed reaching out to legislators to market the “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit. Eric, having previous experience working in the Legislature, suggested hosting an event to draw attention to the new resource. He shared that often state departments hold educational sessions to provide legislators and their staff members with timely resources and information.

The FHE team wanted to not only share the MSU Extension resource with the legislators and their staff members, but also educate them that they could use it to support constituents who call their offices with questions about personal financial recovery. Team members received the approval of Mike Kovacic, director of stakeholder relations for the college of agriculture and natural resources; Dave Ivan, their institute director; and MSU. They also secured the support of Sen. Darwin Booher, who co-sponsored the event. Then the planning began. Jean Lakin, Sarah Carter, Erica Tobe, Eric Walcott, Bill Hendrian, Scott Matteson and Mike Kovacic contributed to the planning of the event.

The event consisted of a short, half-hour presentation to legislators and their staff members, followed by a brief question-and-answer period. Each legislative office, whether or not an office representative attended the event, received a packet. The packet included MSU Extension FHE team information (including infographics of the results of their programs, a team roster and current program offerings), district foreclosure data (for offices that RSVP’d to the event), a free “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit and marketing kicker cards to promote the resource in their communities. Bill Hendrian, Scott Matteson, Eric Walcott, LaShawn Brown, Beth Martinéz, Brenda Long, Erica Tobe, Mike Kovacic and Jinnifer Ortquist attended to host and answer questions.

The “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit is a research-based, resource guide for residents who have experienced foreclosure, housing instability or both. It was designed to provide an educational support after traditional foreclosure counseling services end as a way to rebuild financial standing. Eight stand-alone units address core financial concepts (budgeting, credit and debt management, exploring housing options and more). One unit addresses emotional recovery after foreclosure and stress-management skill building. Visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/mimoneyhealth/startingover to access the resource. The material will be available soon in Spanish, and a series of noncredit online courses will be available to participants statewide.

“Staff members that I spoke with were very receptive of the material, interested in the information, and appreciated that it was free for the general public to use.” Erica said. “I think promoting this toolkit to legislators in the manner that we did was a good way to be accountable for the funds that we have received to support our work in this programming area, and provide them with useful information that they can use with the residents in their districts. In addition, it was a great way to market MSU Extension, and the work of our FHE team. We had several staff members attend the event, and they were able to connect with their respective legislative offices, and create connections for future programming opportunities! The legislative staff members that we spoke with were very excited to see the information presented and seemed to appreciate the short, succinct manner that we presented the material. I think most participants left the presentation understanding how they can use the information in the future and appreciated the applicability of the resource.”

If you have any questions about this event or the materials, please feel free to contact Erica Tobe, MSU Extension specialist, at tobee@msu.edu or Eric Walcott, MSU Extension public policy specialist, at walcott3@msu.edu.

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