On August 24, 2023, the AR Asset Funders Network hosted a briefing, A Look at the Wealth Gap in Arkansas & The Actions You Can Play for ALICE. Moderated by Karen Murrell, the event explored the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau debt findings for philanthropy, nonprofits, elected officials, and financial institutions.

U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Desmond Brown and Diane Standaert and Arlo Washington of PEOPLE TRUST Community Loan Fund offered expertise and insight on how to remove barriers to wealth and mobility in Arkansas. Speakers showcased new information on consumer experiences in Arkansas, particularly in rural communities and communities of color. This event amplified the impact of medical debt, elevated trends and gaps in mortgage lending, and showcased opportunities to create transparency in small business lending.

A few key highlights:

✅ Arkansas boasts the lowest percentage of unbanked rural households in the region, at just 2%, compared to the national average of 6%.

✅ Nearly 30% of rural Arkansas consumers carry medical collections—surpassing the national average of 17%.

✅ Medical debt hinders rural households’ access to credit, compounding other financial responsibilities like mortgages and auto loans. Despite 38% of Arkansans residing in rural counties, only 26% of home purchase loans in 2021 went to these areas.

AR Asset Funders Network aims to catalyze grantmakers to invest in systemic change and more responsive programs and policies that consider the multiple barriers faced by consumers in Arkansas. Further, AR AFN desires to empower and inspire stakeholders to work collaboratively to take action on behalf of Arkansans – specifically ALICE Arkansans (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).

Matuschka L. Briggs, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Diane Standaert, U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Desmond Brown, U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Arlo Washington, People Trust Community Loan Fund & Federal Credit Union
Karen Murrell, Asset Funders Network