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State, credit unions to partner on more financial reality fairs for former inmates

Harrisburg Community Corrections Center resident Keith Wilson, right, discusses cellphone costs with a volunteer during a March 4 financial reality fair at the Capitol Region Careerlink in Harrisburg. - (Photo / File)

After a successful pilot in Harrisburg earlier this year, Pennsylvania credit unions and state agencies plan to partner on more events meant to teach finance skills to former inmates.

The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association and state banking and corrections officials hope to hold financial reality fairs for residents of five of the state’s community corrections centers on Oct. 14.

PCUA put out a request for credit union volunteers earlier this month and expects to release more information in conjunction with the state closer to the day of the event. The fairs will take place simultaneously from 9 a.m. to noon in the Erie, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Reading and Harrisburg areas.

Financial reality fairs are events in which participants navigate a series of fictional bills using a set fictional income. Volunteers staff tables at the events to “sell” goods and services like cars and gym memberships and help participants determine if they could afford those expenses in the real world.

PCUA has held more than 100 of these fairs over the years but partnered with the state for a first-of-its-kind event in March catered specifically to community corrections residents, that is, people who were recently released from prisons and are working under state supervision to reintegrate into society.

The idea of the fairs is to make sure former inmates know how to manage their money when they are on their own, and hopefully reduce the likelihood of their landing in legal trouble in the future.

Jennifer Wentz
Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com.

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