A nonprofit partnership that wants to explain insurance in simple terms to low-income people got a boost with a $770,000 donation from Citigroup Inc.
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. of Washington said it plans to use part of the money, which it received this month, to train and support counselors to teach first-time homebuyers how to select and buy insurance.
Few potential homebuyers know what to look for in insurance coverage or even why it is important, said George Knight, executive director of Neighborhood Reinvestment. He said it's crucial to find and train people who can help cut through the jargon of insurance.
"We look for plain English, or plain Spanish, or plain Ukrainian," Mr. Knight said. "We want somebody who can translate between the insurance world and the common person."
The group has 50 counselors in the field, and another 30 are to attend a training session in New Orleans this November.
The partnership, which has offices across the country, works to create a network of consumers and government and business leaders who work to revitalize communities through homeownership. Its board members include Ellen Seidman, the director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, and Andrew Cuomo, the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It said it has helped 97,500 lower-income families buy or improve their homes.
Many insurance companies have made donations to Neighborhood Reinvestment and become partners in its program, Mr. Knight said. The partnership's "NeighborWorks organizations" work with those insurers and often refer homeowners to them as well.
The program has had other benefits for both consumers and insurers.
Counselors work with homebuyers on making changes in their new homes, such as rewiring or adding hardwired smoke detectors, that will reduce insurance costs.
The idea was taken a little further in an initiative begun seven years ago in Philadelphia. There, Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate Insurance Co. pledged to reduce a whole neighborhood's insurance premiums if home upgradings resulted in fewer claims being filed.
After NeighborWorks' counseling, claims did decline, and Allstate cut charges to its customers in the area by 13%, beginning several years ago, Mr. Knight said.