In 2013, the City of Lansing was one of five cities competitively selected to launch a Financial Empowerment Center to seamlessly integrate free, professional financial counseling with core city and nonprofit services. It’s now more than three years later and the cities came together last week to discuss lessons learned, as well as ways to push the municipal financial empowerment movement forward. This municipal effect is a model that is working across the nation, and CEDAM is grateful to participate in regular convening to share best practices and identify new solutions. Last week, I was able to travel to Philadelphia and attend the Financial Empowerment Centers meeting.
My greatest takeaways included:
- The Financial Empowerment Center model works! Altogether, the Centers in Denver, Lansing, Nashville, Philadelphia and San Antonio helped nearly 24,000 residents improve their finances through one-on-one financial counseling. These sessions led to quantified results–more than $25 million in client debt reduced and $2.9 million saved across the five sites.
- Local government leadership is critical to scale and sustainability. While specific integration points for referrals to financial counseling varied across the sites, each city government leveraged partnerships with other city agencies and nonprofits to reach a significant percentage of clients receiving services. Additionally, all five cities secured public funds to continue service delivery beyond the three year private grant period. Establishing the precedent that financial counseling should be a publicly funded service is a critical step forward in the municipal financial empowerment movement.
- We need you! (and you, and you and you). While the municipal financial empowerment movement has grown rapidly over the past few years, we’re still far from reaching critical mass. CEDAM has supported several cities and counties across the state to help residents facing financial challenges – like property tax delinquency – connect to quality financial counseling services. But we need to continue to spread this strategy across Michigan.
So, we’re challenging our members to help us root this approach in many more communities across our great state! And we’re connecting you with the tools to do so at a full day Municipal Financial Empowerment Bootcamp on August 2 in Detroit. It will be held in conjunction with our annual Michigan Financial Empowerment Summit. The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund will lead the training, designed for city, county, nonprofit and neighborhood leaders to learn more about strategies to address financial instability in their communities.
To learn more about the Bootcamp and the Summit, visit http://mcfe.cedamichigan.org/annual-summit/.