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Financial Wellness


Financial Wellness
At the 2019 National Federation of the Blind California Convention

At the 2019 National Federation of the Blind California Convention with my friend Jonathan Lyens moments before speaking about serving as State Treasurer and the benefits of the California Achieving a Better Life Experience (CalABLE) program, whose board I chair. At the lectern is National Federation of the Blind of California President Tim Elder.


Expanding Access to Portable Retirement Savings Accounts for Private Sector Workers

CalSavers, the groundbreaking new retirement savings program, completed its pilot project and opened fully statewide in July. By December, the program had more than 3,200 funded accounts and $1.2 million in assets, all well before the first deadline for employers to comply with the new law in June 2020. See or a schedule of the three-year rollout. In October, CalSavers opened for “gig” workers, the self-employed, and any other self-enrollment. The program will provide access to a simple, portable retirement savings option for the more than seven million hard-working Californians who don’t have access to a retirement plan at work.

Children’s Education Savings Account Platform

In December, ScholarShare 529 announced the launch of its Children’s Savings Account (CSA) platform designed to support local governments and non-profit organizations interested in establishing a local CSA program. The ScholarShare 529 platform is intended to support organizations that currently administer a citywide or regional CSA program or that may implement one through the CSA Grant Program. The ScholarShare 529 platform uses leading-edge technology to empower local governments and nonprofit organizations to deliver a CSA program with minimal administrative burden.

California Kids Investment and Development Savings Program

Established in 2019 with the signing of budget bills Senate Bill 77 and AB 114, the California Kids Investment and Development Savings (KIDS) program provides the ScholarShare Investment Board with $25 million in state funding for the purpose of establishing a children’s savings account (CSA) program. Every child born in California after July 1, 2020 will be getting a CSA with a seed deposit of no less than $25, and parents and guardians will be encouraged to open a separate ScholarShare 529 account of their own in order to help families statewide save as much as possible for future higher education expenses. The program is expected to launch no later than January 2021.

Financial Help for People with Disabilities

CalABLE, a program that provides tax-advantaged savings opportunities for people with disabilities, launched its formal marketing effort of digital ads, videos and tailored publications to bolster its strong grassroots education and promotional efforts. This outreach has led to more than 2,800 account openings and nearly $11.6 million in assets under management in less than a year. The CalABLE team was instrumental in the passage of AB 91 through the state Legislature. Among other tax related changes, AB 91 now allows owners to transfer their (529) college savings programs to a (529A) CalABLE account without any taxes or penalties. This new law conforms with changes added to the Federal ABLE Act in 2017.

No Place Like Home

The STO sold $500 million in revenue bonds for the State’s No Place Like Home (NPLH) program, a groundbreaking effort to use voter-approved income tax revenues earmarked to help relieve the state’s homeless problem. The bonds were designated as “Social Bonds” because they follow the Social Bond Principles adopted by the International Capital Markets Association. They are the first portion of bonds authorized by Proposition 2, which was approved by voters in November 2018.


Public Debt Issuance and Investment Education

The California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission (CDIAC) provided continuing education and training to more than 700 public finance officials through CDIAC- produced programs delivered through webinars or in- person seminars.

Drawing together over 30 faculty experts from the public and private sectors, CDIAC produced three separate days of in-person training for over 150 participants covering topics related to on-going debt administration, bond funds accountability, and compliance with newly amended federal disclosure requirements. Preparing issuers with the knowledge necessary to carry out their post debt issuance disclosure and administrative responsibilities is a critical component of CDIAC’s continuing education program.

CDIAC also delivered a number of programs to support public officials engaged in the investment of surplus funds. Three one-day workshops focusing on analytics and benchmarking provided over 50 public professionals with the knowledge, techniques, and tools to balance investment portfolio performance and prudence.

Research, Guidance and Technical Assistance

CDIAC’s research team completed and published the issue brief Socially Responsible Investing: What Does it Mean and What is the Risk? The publication provides guidance to public funds investment professionals that are considering or beginning to implement a socially responsible investment (SRI) strategy in the management of their public portfolio.

As a companion to their issues brief, CDIAC produced a webinar by the same name. An audience of 75 investment professionals logged-on to learn about legal requirements, policy adaptation, practices of other agencies, and credit analysis using metrics of social responsibility.

CDIAC also expanded the reach of its technical assistance on public fund investing through webinar presentations to the California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers, as well as a presentation to the annual conference of the Local Agency Investment Fund.

Public Debt Disclosure and Transparency

CDIAC’s core function is to provide the public with comprehensive information on all state and all local debt authorization and issuance, serving as a public debt statistical clearinghouse. In the last half of 2019, CDIAC’s data collection and analysis team received and processed 860 reports of debt issuance by state and local agencies accounting for nearly $36 billion.

CDIAC was also notified of an additional $16 billion of debt proposed for issuance in 2020. Over $5 billion is slated for educational purposes. Detailed information on California public agency debt, both proposed and issued, is available on the Treasurer’s DebtWatch website.


Bond Sales

(CHFFA) approved:

  • Up to $590 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds for Providence St. Joseph Health to consolidate prior debt by refunding or refinancing a line of credit and a bank loan, as well as redeeming certain CHFFA Bonds issued on behalf of Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health System. The original bonds were used for the construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, Mission Hospital, St. Jude Medical Center, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Queen of the Valley Medical Center, and St. Joseph Hospital of Eureka, among other hospitals.

  • Up to $99.4 million in tax-exempt bonds for Scripps Health to refund outstanding CHFFA bonds. Refunding the outstanding bonds is expected to provide Scripps with a net present value savings of approximately$28.1 million over the life of the bonds. The original bonds were used to equip administrative support facilities, construct a parking structure and central energy plant, renovate an emergency department, health care facility building improvements, seismic upgrades, renovations, new pharmacy facilities, and to acquire and install equipment

HELP II Loan Program

The HELP II Loan Program provides low-interest rate loans to California’s nonprofit small or rural health facilities in an efficient, timely, and cost effective manner. HELP II loans may be used to purchase or construct new facilities, remodel or renovate existing facilities, purchase equipment or furnishings, and refinance existing debt. CHFFA approved the following HELP II loans:

  • Redwoods Rural Health Center Inc., a community clinic in Redway, CA, was approved for a $1.5 million HELP II loan to renovate existing medical and dental buildings, accommodate parking needs, and replace aging HVAC systems.

  • Unicare Community Health Center Inc., a community clinic in Ontario, CA, was approved for a $529,054 HELP II loan to purchase medical equipment and information technology to offer improved and a greater variety of services for its patients.

  • Hart Community Homes Inc. of Fullerton, CA,  was approved for a $1,330,000 HELP II loan to purchase an existing apartment complex. As an additional group home under Hart Homes’ not-for-profit organization, the purchase of the facility is expected to add eight bedrooms to be used as shelter for at-risk young adults.

  • TLC Child & Family Services of Sebastopol, CA, was approved for a $480,000 HELP II loan to purchase a house to be used for transitional housing for clients who are transitioning from TLC’s foster care services.


Charter School Facilities Program

Four schools were determined by the STO to be financially sound for the general obligation bond proceed apportionments as part of the Charter School Facilities Program. The total apportioned was $52.5 million for six projects (four rehabilitation projects and two new construction projects) and are expected to serve 4,696 students in Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Sonoma counties.

The school in Sonoma County, Roseland Charter School, was greatly affected by the wildfires over the past few years and the approved projects will provide financial relief and bring some normalcy to the students and their parents.

Additionally, the California School Finance Authority issued $221.5 million in bond debt for 16 charter schools serving approximately 20,700 students.

Revenue Bond Sales

The California Educational Facilities Authority (CEFA), chaired by Treasurer Ma, approved:

  • Up to $65 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds for Loyola Marymount University to refund two prior CEFA bonds. The refunding of these bonds is expected to provide Loyola Marymount with a net present value savings of approximately $12.8 million. The original bonds were used to repurpose, improve, renovate, and convert a campus library and to finance certain seismic and safety improvements and upgrades to other administrative and academic educational facilities.

  • The College Access Tax Credit Program (CATCP) provides a tax credit to taxpayers and businesses who contribute to Cal Grants, the State of California’s largest source of educational financial aid. The credit can be used to offset or reduce taxes. Cal Grants provide aid to California undergraduates in needs, vocational training students, and those in teacher certification programs. These grants help California students achieve their higher education goals. CATCP has received nearly$6.4 million in contributions for Tax Year 2017 and $9.9 million for Tax Year 2018.