Financial literacy is the ability to understand how money works. But it is not just about balancing your checkbook or knowing how much money you have in the bank. Financial literacy is about planning for the future.
The City of Detroit and the Wayne County Treasurer’s office is helping residents plan for the future financially, by opening Financial Empowerment Centers across the city. In partnership with Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, the Financial Empowerment Centers will provide free, one-on-one financial counseling and coaching to residents at six locations by the end of the year. The first two, located inside the Wayne County Treasurer’s office and Wayne Metro, officially opened Monday.
The Financial Empowerment Centers are supported by contributions totaling $770,000 from the national Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), JPMorgan Chase, The Skillman Foundation, the Wayne County Treasurer and the City of Detroit.
“This is a message to low and moderate-income residents of the City of Detroit that there’s more opportunities here than there has been before, including opportunities for home ownership and to build wealth,” Mayor Duggan said at the press conference. “But if you feel like you need a little bit of help from someone that is a career professional, trained volunteers will help you for free. We want to make sure you make more money and keep more money.”
At the centers, professionally trained counselors will help individuals and families with low and moderate incomes manage their finances, pay down debt, increase savings, establish and build credit, and access safe and affordable mainstream banking products. As the program gets underway, four additional locations will be added around the city, for a total of six available to residents Financial Empowerment Centers. Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree said the locations for the other four centers has not been made official yet.
“The Financial Empowerment Center is just another tool to give us more ability to go one-on-one with the taxpayers,” said Sabree. “Sometimes, it’s not enough to just share information. Some individuals that come in for help need guidance. This new Financial Empowerment Center takes a serious, holistic approach to financial counseling which, in turn, can help struggling taxpayers take advantage of existing programs, better manage their financial affairs, and retain ownership of their properties.”
At the core of the FEC model is the pairing of financial counseling with other services, such as job training and placement paired with bank account setup assistance to ensure new employees have direct deposit; housing assistance and foreclosure prevention, paired with savings assistance; returning citizen resources, paired with credit score repair services and access to banking to improve employment opportunities; and benefits access to help residents access programs like food assistance. Other services include water affordability, utility assistance and free tax preparation, to ensure residents are getting the most out of their return each year.
“We need to make sure that Detroiters have financial stability to succeed and move forward,” Mayor Duggan added.
JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to the Detroit Financial Empowerment Center is part of its $200-million commitment to Detroit in order to help connect more Detroiters with economic opportunity. Shannon Smith, 29, is a banking associate for JPMorgan Chase and native Detroiter. Some years ago, he helped launch the Detroit Economic Development Challenge, a financial-literacy and business-basics program geared toward Detroit high school students. Smith, in hopes of allowing the city’s youth to have a greater role in the city’s revival. He believes this new initiative will do the same for adults in the city.
“As a life-long Detroiter and DPS graduate, I was fortunate enough to go off to the University of Michigan and study economics and political science,” said Smith, who graduated from Detroit King High School in 2008. “I had every intention to come back home and work with residents of Detroit to address barriers to opportunities like these. These are the type of programs that I imagined and through a number of collaborations, we were able to do more than just imagine.”
“I am honored to be a part of JPMorgan Chase and excited about our $50 million commitment that will further help break down barriers to opportunities so that more long-term residents of Detroit, especially Black Detroiters, can access job training, become homeowners, and grow small businesses.”
First piloted in New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2008, Financial Empowerment Centers across the country have worked with almost 85,000 clients, helping them reduce individual debt by more than $100 million, and increasing their families’ savings by close to $10 million. In addition, a recent CFE Fund evaluation showed that this program works even for residents with very low incomes and other complex financial challenges
To schedule an appointment at the Detroit Financial Empowerment Center, residents should call (313) 322-6222. Additional information is available at www.detroitfec.org.