Financial Systems

Miami, FL
United States

Miami-Dade County, Beyond the Bars Fines & Fees Justice Center

Identifying drivers of debt among communities with low wealth and communities of color in Miami-Dade County to help inform advocacy on economic justice.

In Miami-Dade County (MDC), low-wealth communities, predominantly composed of people of color, have long been excluded from wealth-generating opportunities, access to capital, and seats at the tables of policymaking. This has caused an extreme racial wealth gap: in 2019, Black households held less than 6 percent of the median asset value of white households, Caribbean Black households held 12 percent, and Hispanic households held between 9 and 23 percent. To develop a deeper understanding of the factors that drive debt among communities with low wealth, Catalyst Miami plans to collect data from their base of community members and use these findings to inform organizing efforts around economic justice. 

Catalyst Miami’s approach will begin by convening a steering committee made up of compensated community members who will provide feedback and offer support throughout the project. To uncover the drivers of debt, Catalyst Miami and its partner financial services organizations, Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center and Branches, will survey program clients and conduct focus groups to explore topics in-depth. Catalyst Miami will hold a community workshop series to share the research findings and collectively develop a theory of change and policy agenda. The workshop series will lay the groundwork for forming a grassroots coalition that can assess the feasibility of specific strategies needed to achieve the policy goals. This project will culminate in a final report describing the policy platform and other campaign collateral. 

The final report will be shared with community members and will also inform the work of Catalyst Miami’s partners, including the Fines & Fees Justice Center, People Acting for Community Together, and Beyond the Bars in their municipal debt campaigns. Catalyst Miami also hopes it will inform the MDC commissioner and clerk of courts in efforts to clear debts related to drivers’ license suspensions, as well as the MDC health department as they complete their health equity strategy and workplan. By identifying the most impactful drivers of debt for community members and targeting policies focusing on these issues, Catalyst Miami hopes this project will lead to direct relief for households of color and contribute to narrowing the racial wealth divide.