Expansion Of Financial Empowerment Centers Across The City

Published on February 12, 2020, 5:09 pm
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Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced the expansion of its network of NYC Financial Empowerment Centers, which offer free, professional one-on-one financial counseling. There are now more than double the number of Centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island and counseling in additional languages. DCWP now has 34 Centers in all five boroughs and nearly all counselors are bilingual, speaking English, Spanish, Russian, and Haitian Creole. Centers are open to anyone over the age of 18, who lives or works in NYC and counselors can help their clients tackle debt, save for the future, open a bank account, improve credit, navigate student loan debt, and much more.

“Since our Financial Empowerment Centers launched, they have helped thousands of New Yorkers become more financially secure – including me a few years ago when I was trying to balance my family budget while paying off student loans – but there are many more who can benefit from financial counseling and coaching. We are proud to have reached so many people across the city and we are looking forward to serving even more,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “Whether it is helping you reach a financial goal, opening a savings account or tackling debt, our financial counselors are here to help you with confidential one-on-one sessions, at no cost to New Yorkers.”

DCWP identified target neighborhoods with low-income, unbanked and/or underbanked households for the expansion where services are needed most. DCWP’s recent brief showed that 354,100 households (11.2 percent) have no bank account (unbanked) and another 689,000 households (21.8 percent) have a bank account but use alternative financial products for some banking needs (underbanked). The estimated number of unbanked and underbanked households are disproportionately in neighborhoods that have higher rates of vulnerable residents and residents struggling in other areas of financial health. The Bronx and Brooklyn, which will benefit from the largest increase in Centers, have the largest number of un- and underbanked households in NYC.

NYC Financial Empowerment Centers have served more than 57,000 clients since 2009 and have conducted over 114,000 counseling sessions since first opening in 2008. Clients have reduced over $70 million in debt and increased their savings by $5.8 million. Anyone who lives or works in New York City can use the service, and there are no income or immigration status restrictions. Translation services are also available for clients who speak languages not spoken by the counselors.

In the coming months, DCWP will be launching a public awareness campaign to promote the new locations and the services and languages offered. The expansion of the Financial Empowerment Centers and the public awareness campaign are supported in part by Citi Community Development. New Yorkers can learn more about the Centers and book an appointment online at nyc.gov/TalkMoney or by calling 311. More than 30 sites are now open with several more opening in later this month.

The Centers are operated by DCWP’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) and are now offered in partnership with Ariva, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, BronxWorks, Chhaya, Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, New York Legal Assistance Group, and Urban Upbound.

“DCWP’s Financial Empowerment Centers have provided vital services to help thousands of New Yorkers become more financially stable,” said Gregory Schiefelbein, Citi Community Development NY Tri-State Market Director. “Through our continued support of this initiative, most recently focused on DCWP’s offering a broad range of languages to better serve the city’s diverse population, Citi is helping to ensure that even more New Yorkers gain access to essential resources to strengthen their financial lives.”

“Having the knowledge and power to determine your financial future is a right that New Yorkers from all walks of life deserve,” said Toya Williford, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “The Mayor’s Fund is honored to be a part of the growth of this vital initiative, putting crucial financial information and resources into the hands of New Yorkers in more locations, and in more languages, than ever before.”

“In many of our Bronx communities, access to affordable financial services is still very limited and so many of our Bronx neighbors are still excluded from the financial mainstream. The new expansion of the Financial Empowerment Centers offers a wonderful resource for our residents as they work to build financial security for themselves and their families. Ariva is very honored to be working with several trusted community partners in this effort: the Center for Urban Community Services, Legal Hand, Parkchester Enhancement Program (PEP) for Seniors and Spring Bank. We look forward to working together at five new Bronx Financial Empowerment Centers to expand financial opportunity and inclusion in our neighborhoods.” said Irene Baldwin, Executive Director of Ariva.

“As an inaugural partner with the DWCP, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation has had the privilege of seeing the reach of the Financial Empowerment Centers grow and improve the financial health of New Yorkers. The one-on-one coaching this program provides people the necessary steps to overcome the sometimes debilitating financial crises they find themselves in. Expanding accessibility, both in locations and languages, of the Financial Empowerment Centers is a step in the right direction when trying to close the racial wealth gap,” said Tracey Capers, Executive Vice President of Programs and Chief Program Officer at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. “We thank the DCWP for the opportunity to partner in this next phase and welcome the opportunity to reach other communities that were previously underserved.”  

“The addition of Financial Empowerment Centers at select BronxWorks locations is a vital and much needed resource for the communities we serve. Improving the economic and social well-being of our Bronx neighbors is a critical component to the BronxWorks mission,” Eileen Torres, Executive Director of BronxWorks.

“Chhaya’s two new Financial Empowerment Centers will be the first centers of their kind for the South Asian and Indo Caribbean communities. Chhaya is particularly thrilled to bring a Financial Empowerment Center to Richmond Hill, a community that has long been underserved,” said Annetta Seecharan, Executive Director of Chhaya CDC.

“For so many New Yorkers, navigating finances can be stressful and overwhelming, and the NYC Financial Empowerment Centers have become a vital resource,” said Justine Zinkin, CEO, Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. “DCWP’s expansion of the network means countless more New Yorkers now have access to a trusted expert who can help them tackle their pressing financial challenges, and we’re proud to continue to support them in making this important service available to all New Yorkers.” 

“New York Legal Assistance Group launched our Financial Counseling Division at the height of the financial crisis. Over the years, we have built deep expertise in this area and have seen first-hand how financial counseling is an effective tool in helping people make informed financial choices that can have a big impact on their lives. We are thrilled not only to continue this work, but to now be part of the expansion of New York City’s Financial Empowerment Centers so that we can reach even more individuals and families. We applaud New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Lorelei Salas for her leadership on this issue and the expansion,” said Beth Goldman, NYLAG President and Attorney-In-Charge.

“A number of NYCHA residents rely on Financial Empowerment Centers as a necessary resource for one-on-one financial counseling, income support information, and job search assistance,” said NYCHA Chair & CEO Greg Russ. “We applaud the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection’s decision to expand these vital networks to more neighborhoods across the city.”

“Financial Empowerment Centers offer valuable services — free, personalized, professional counseling that can help New Yorkers navigate challenging financial circumstances,” said Matthew Klein, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity.  “We are proud of our role in helping to establish the first Financial Empowerment Centers and congratulate OFE and DCWP for the expansion of this important resource.”

“It’s thrilling to see this expansion of free professional financial counseling for New York City residents,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and Chief Executive Officer of the national nonprofit Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund). “People who seek this one-on-one professional counseling experience tremendous and quantifiable improvement in their family’s finances, as the CFE Fund continues to see across the country in the dozens of cities and counties where we are replicating the New York City Financial Empowerment Center model.”

OFE works to educate, empower, and protect New Yorkers and their communities so they can improve their financial health and build assets. For more information about OFE and its programs other programs, visit nyc.gov/dcwp. Beyond the Financial Empowerment Centers, OFE also partners with a number of City agencies, such as NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) with the Ready to Rent program and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities with EmpoweredNYC to integrate financial coaching into existing social services in an effort to reach more New Yorkers in need of these services. The NYC Financial Empowerment Center model is also being replicated in dozens of cities and counties across the country through the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund.

NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 75,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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