Metro, United Way opens low-income empowerment center

Last updated on May 30th, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Free one-on-one financial counseling will be provided to low-income city residents by the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center at the Foster Street Center in east Nashville and the Casa Azafran Community Center in south Nashville. Mayor Karl Dean recently opened the centers to aid low-income residents. Nashville is one of five U.S. cities to launch the program thanks to a $2 million grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund. The CFE Fund is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors project, which aims to spread proven and promising ideas among cities.

“The Nashville Financial Empowerment Center is the first major public-private partnership in Metro history to integrate free professional financial counseling into existing public programs,” Mayor Dean said. “I am proud that Nashville was selected to be part of this innovative, nationwide program, which will help boost the economic security of 5,000 Nashvillians over the next three years.”

At the two Nashville Centers, plus several satellite locations citywide, counselors will provide guidance on issues such as prioritizing, managing and paying down debts, opening safe and affordable bank accounts, building healthy credit and creating budgeting and payment plans that facilitate savings.

The Nashville Financial Empowerment Center is a program of the Mayor’s Office in partnership with the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. Under the three-year grant, the city will coordinate the program, and United Way will operate the center. Client success will be tracked to clearly demonstrate improved economic outcomes for participants.

Dean was recently joined by United Way leaders and others to cut the ribbon at the Foster Street Center. The Nashville Financial Empowerment Center builds on Mayor Dean’s Poverty Reduction Initiative and the Bank On Music City program, which is a community partnership also led by United Way with local banks, credit unions, government and community organizations to connect individuals with safe and affordable bank accounts.

The leadership of the Poverty Reduction Initiative and partners at the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville were instrumental in winning the grant. Their proposal, along with Nashville’s strong partnerships between non-profits and the city, helped Nashville stand out.

“Our goal isn’t simply to move people from program to program, but literally to create a pathway to financial stability and ultimately, independence, creating a new future for individuals, families and our community,” said Eric Dewey, president/CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville.

Financial counseling will be integrated into existing municipal and nonprofit services, such as GED education programs, Head Start centers, homelessness prevention programs and other public benefits programs in order to maximize impact. Partners, including Conexion Americas, MDHA, Metro Social Services, United Way’s Family Resource Centers, MAXIMUS, the Nashville Career Advancement Center and the Metro Action Commission, will house counselors and direct clients to the program. Nashvillians can make an appointment directly by calling the United Way 2-1-1 Helpline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In January, Bloomberg Philanthropies awarded a total of $16.2 million in grants to the five cities, which also include Denver, Colo.; Lansing, Mich.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and San Antonio, Texas. The centers expect to serve more than 30,000 people over three years.

The goal is to replicate New York’s 30 Financial Empowerment Centers, which have helped more than 19,000 New Yorkers reduce their debt by more than $9 million and save nearly $1 million since 2008. This is the single most ambitious philanthropic investment in financial empowerment ever made. By investing in these five cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies seeks to further demonstrate the effectiveness of the model, making a powerful case for even more cities around the country to begin taking up this important work.

The effort’s origins go back to 2008, when New York City piloted Financial Empowerment Centers as part of a broad effort to test and refine new approaches to alleviating poverty. While initially privately funded, the centers became publicly funded after their data-proven impact.

Find the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center at <fec.nashville.gov>,

To learn more about the CFE Fund, visit <www.cfefund.org/>.

Bloomberg Philanthropies works primarily to advance five areas globally: the arts, education, the environment, government innovation, and public health. In 2011, $330 million was distributed. Government Innovation efforts, including the Financial Empowerment Centers, are part of the Mayors Project, which seeks to spread proven and promising ideas among cities. Other Mayors Project investments include Cities of Service and Innovation Delivery Teams.

The CFE Fund supports municipal efforts to improve the financial stability of households by leveraging opportunities unique to local government. By translating cutting edge experience with large scale programs, research, and policy in cities of all sizes, the CFE Fund assists mayors and other local leaders to identify, develop, fund, implement, and research pilots and programs that help families build assets and make the most of their financial resources.

For more information, visit <www.cfefund.org/> or e-mail us at <info@cfefund.org>.