Access to free, professional 1:1 financial counseling provided to city residents
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced Thursday that the Syracuse Financial Empowerment Center (Syracuse FEC) is officially open for business. Led by the City of Syracuse Department of Neighborhood and Business Development (NBD), the program will provide professional, one-on-one financial counseling as a free service to city residents.
The Syracuse FEC is based on a model built by the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund, a national non-profit organization that works with local governments to help people increase their financial stability. The startup of the Syracuse FEC is being funded by the CFE Fund, Home HeadQuarters, and the Allyn Family Foundation. Home HeadQuarters is the City’s lead partner for providing counseling to residents working with a network of local non-profit organizations. The Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. Initiative and the United Way of Central New York are providing additional assistance to the program.
The Syracuse FEC provides free professional financial counseling to any City of Syracuse resident, regardless of income. To increase access to the program, seven local organizations are acting as hosts for counseling services; with another ten groups serving as referral partners to recommend the FEC to residents. Financial counseling through the Syracuse FEC helps city residents address financial challenges and needs as well as develop plans for a strong and stable financial future.
“The Syracuse FEC will change people’s lives for the better in our community. We need this program to achieve our vision of becoming a growing city that embraces diversity and creates opportunity for all,” said Mayor Walsh. “Without financial stability, individuals, families, and children struggle. As the CFE Fund has shown in other cities, working with a professional financial counselor, people can build the solid financial footing they need to thrive. We deeply appreciate the CFE’s support and the help of our community partners to bring an FEC to Syracuse.”
Professional financial counseling has been shown to tangibly improve household financial stability and provide quantifiable improvements in key areas, which will be the focus of the assistance provided to clients:
- Improve Credit: Establish a credit score or increase credit score by 35 points
- Decrease Debt: Decrease non-mortgage debt by 10% or reduce the number of delinquent accounts
- Increase Savings: Set aside at least one week’s worth of income for the future or adopt new saving behaviors
- Establish Banking: Open a safe and affordable bank or credit union account or use banking account actively
To date, the FECs operate in 11 localities and have reduced debt by $101 million and increased savings by more than $10 million for more than 84,000 clients.
“Local leaders like Mayor Walsh know first-hand the connection between family financial stability and community financial stability,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. “The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and our partners are thrilled and honored to support Mayor Walsh’s commitment to the City of Syracuse to make free, professional financial counseling a new public service through the national Financial Empowerment Center program.”
“This is no small step toward reducing concentrate poverty in the City of Syracuse through a human-centered approach,” said Maarten Jacobs, Director of Community Prosperity at the Allyn Family Foundation. “The Financial Education Center is such a powerful tool for the residents of our city who are working diligently toward financial stability and wealth creation. By receiving customized assistance from financial experts, at no cost, city residents can build a roadmap to reduce debt, build credit, and ultimately build wealth for themselves and their families.”
“Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. is partnering with the Financial Empowerment Center because financial stability is a challenge for many families, not just those in or near poverty,” said Ocesa Keaton, director of Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. “High interests rates, credit denials, and emergencies often destabilize families. This partnership focuses on using an innovative approach to remove barriers to better financial resources such as lower insurance rates, affordable education, and debt management—all things that strengthen people and cities.”
“We are delighted to partner in a proven program that enables people to get on a pathway to financial stability and achieving their goals for the future,” stated Nancy Kern Eaton, United Way President. “So many members of our community are one paycheck away from crisis; people who are ‘Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed ’ (ALICE). After talking with staff at the United Way in Nashville about the FEC there, we became extremely excited that this transformational approach and opportunity will now be available to people in our community. Supporting people on their journey to self-sufficiency is a high priority for us, and we are committed to working with Mayor Walsh and other partners in making Syracuse’s Financial Empowerment Center a success.”
“Home HeadQuarters is proud to be a part of the Financial Empowerment Center Initiative and we know this means great things for the City of Syracuse and its residents,” said Home HeadQuarters CEO Kerry Quaglia. “Our organization has provided homeownership education and counseling to thousands of Central New Yorkers over our more than 20-year history, so we know first-hand the difference professional, one-on-one counseling makes for customers and our community.”
Organizations throughout Syracuse that offer social services will serve as the referral locations for Syracuse residents to receive counseling. Some of the organizations will also serve as co-location sites where counselors will travel to meet with city residents for more convenience. Co-Location sites where counselors meet with clients include ARISE, Northeast Hawley Development Association, PEACE Inc. at theEmma Johnson Center, the City of Syracuse at City Hall, Cooperative Federal Credit Union at the Southwest Community Center and the Syracuse Housing Authority, and Home HeadQuarters.
The NBD department and PEACE, Inc. will be the two sites that will integrate specific program services. The city’s location will incorporate the NBD Tax Foreclosure Prevention Program, counseling owner-occupant residents to help reduce the risk of tax foreclosure. Translation services will be available in both Spanish and English at the NBD site. PEACE, Inc. will focus on the re-entry residents and the workforce development program to assist newly employed clients.
Additional referral sites include: City of Syracuse Department of Finance; PEACE, Inc. at the Emma Johnston Center; Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP); Syracuse 211; Syracuse Northeast Community Center (SNECC); Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union (SCFCU); Northeast Hawley Development Agency (NEHDA); Onondaga County Department of Social Services; ARISE; Good Life Foundation and the Syracuse Housing Authority.
To make an appointment to see a financial counselor, please call 315-474-1939, and press 5 for the Syracuse Financial Empowerment Center or go online to www.syrgov.net/FEC.
About the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund)
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 in nearly 80 cities 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, please visit www.cfefund.org or follow us on Twitter at @CFEFund.