April 13, 2021
Superintendent Lacewell Announces New DFS’ Statewide Office of Financial Inclusion And Empowerment
Honorable Tremaine Wright to Serve as Director
New Office Moves DFS’ Priority of Economic Justice Forward
Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell today announced DFS’ new Statewide Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment. This new office will strengthen the mission of the Department to protect and empower all New York consumers and move DFS’ priority of economic justice forward. The Superintendent also announced Honorable Tremaine Wright, previous representative for the 56th District of the New York State Assembly, has been appointed as the first Director of the Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment.
“The pandemic and resulting economic crisis continue to have a disproportionate adverse effect on communities of color and women and we have much work to do to help facilitate broader financial inclusion and empowerment for all New Yorkers,” said Superintendent Lacewell. “This office will advance the Department’s strategic financial inclusion initiatives, beginning with an inventory of services available from community organizations, advocacy groups, and industry across the state. The office will also pilot and develop policy initiatives designed to help further financial inclusion and empowerment. Tremaine Wright’s extensive background and expertise as a consumer advocacy leader and government representative will be a critical asset for the Department and for New Yorkers.”
Originally proposed in his 2020 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo directed the creation of a Statewide Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment to meet the financial services needs of low- and middle-income New Yorkers across the state. There is currently no single-stop state resource where New Yorkers anywhere in the state can find help for their financial access and empowerment needs.
“Lack of access to affordable banking products have traditionally led to exclusion and predatory lending within low-income communities and communities of color,” said former Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright. “I look forward to joining the DFS team and supplementing their ongoing work with advocates and everyday New Yorkers to advance DFS' economic justice initiatives designed to identify and remove barriers to accessing financial services.”
As Director, Ms. Wright will develop and implement policy and programs for the new Statewide Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment, the state’s first office focused on community wealth-building. The office will work with stakeholders across the state to identify and develop strategies to increase household and community wealth, particularly for historically underserved populations, and to help connect consumers with local services. It will coordinate existing work and initiatives across the state with community partners to develop and incubate novel ideas and approaches to economic empowerment and justice, and be a source of New York-related data analysis and research.
The new office will:
- Maintain a centralized list of financial services counseling providers - across housing, student loan, debt and general financial literacy - throughout the State.
- Coordinate state and local services aimed at expanding access to credit and opportunities for wealth building.
- Incubate new programs to expand access to safe and affordable banking services, credit and financial education; coordinate public-private partnerships.
- Foster provision of high-quality, low-cost financial products statewide.
Before this appointment, Ms. Wright was elected to the New York State Assembly on November 8, 2016. She served the 56th Assembly District of Brooklyn, N.Y., which represents the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Northern Crown Heights neighborhoods. She was Chair of New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus and Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Foster Care.
Prior to being elected to the New York State Assembly, Ms. Wright practiced law at Brooklyn Legal Services and private law firms. While working as an attorney at major law firms, Ms. Wright served as a pro bono lawyer for the Volunteers of Legal Service's Incarcerated Mothers Project. Through this project, Ms. Wright advised mothers regarding their parental rights to protect their families. As a volunteer with the City Bar Association’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP), Ms. Wright assisted small business owners and organized the Tompkins Avenue Merchants Association (TAMA).
Ms. Wright also owned and operated Common Grounds A Neighborhood Coffee House from March 2006 to September 2015. Ms. Wright holds a J.D. from University of Chicago Law School, and B.A. from Duke University.