Mayor Walsh says free city service is helping “eliminate financial barriers” for families
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh today announced the Syracuse Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) has helped clients reduce a total of more than $1 million in debt since July 2019, through free, professional, one-on-one, financial counseling sessions.
“This free city service for residents is a resource designed to help eliminate financial barriers that plague many Syracuse families. Seeing $1 million in debt decreased is a huge step towards that goal” said Mayor Walsh. “I applaud the work that the counselors are doing with the support of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and our funding partners – it is truly making a difference and this milestone is proof of that.”
The Syracuse FEC counselors, Jasminn Ray, Jenna McClave, Kazmira Pitzrick, and Thom Dellwo, conducted 1,700 sessions with 600 clients over the course of the last year. The team made such a significant impact that when the city applied for a new grant, the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund awarded the Syracuse FEC more funding to hire a new counselor to serve more residents. In early December, Home HeadQuarters hired Audriana Ortega to provide financial counseling exclusively for residents receiving assistance through the Onondaga County Department of Social Services – Economic Security.
Counselors have the training and skills to help their clients contact creditors, negotiate their debt, and understand how much they need to pay to become solvent and remove delinquent accounts from their credit report. With help from a Syracuse FEC counselor, clients can take back control of their finances, gain confidence and understanding of how to avoid debt pitfalls and know what to do if a debt crisis happens again.
“I was depressed and scared about my student loan debt and I couldn’t afford the monthly payments. My account was delinquent and that was tanking my credit score too,” said Mary O., a Syracuse FEC client. “My Syracuse FEC counselor didn’t give me advice, he actually showed me how to get things back on track and we did it together. Now I can afford my payments, my debt has gone down, my credit score has increased, and I just closed on my first home.”
With the financial support of Home HeadQuarters, United Way of Central New York, and local partners including Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E., the Allyn Family Foundation, and the CNY Community Foundation, Syracuse FEC continues to work with clients to improve their credit, decrease their debt, increase their savings, and open safe and affordable bank accounts.
The numbers have shown that the private sessions are not only giving clients the tools and guidance needed to get out of debt but also grow their personal savings. Recent data revealed a total increase of over $500,000 in savings for clients from July 2019 to now.
Residents interested in signing up for the free financial service can go to www.syracusefec.org, call 315-474-1939 ext. 5, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All counseling appointments are currently being offered virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic through remote meetings, email, or phone calls.