National nonprofit organization the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Citi Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Wells Fargo Foundation, have announced that more than 50 city and county partner governments across the country are set to offer financial counseling and financial navigation services for their local residents in need. As part of this effort, the CFE Fund announced the selection of 31 city and county governments to launch a new Financial Navigator initiative, which will provide their residents one-on-one remote sessions to help navigate the financial impact of COVID-19 through access to local, state, and federal resources.
In addition, the CFE Fund announced an expansion of its Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) initiative, which offers professional, data-driven one-on-one financial counseling as a public service, funding additional counselors in FEC partner cities, as well as pivoting its national FEC infrastructure to accommodate remote services. These new and enhanced financial navigation and counseling services come in the face of increasing individual and family, with some FEC cities already experiencing as much as a 40% increase in demand for financial counseling services.
The new Financial Navigators program is designed to help residents deal with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing remote assistance in navigating critical financial issues and making referrals to other social services and resources. Trained Financial Navigators will provide structured guidance over the phone that will help people strategize around supports for disruptions to their income and other financial concerns. They will help residents triage financial issues, identify immediate action steps, and make referrals to other services.
“We’re grateful to our many partners rising to the enormous challenge of responding to the waves of demand for financial counseling and navigation from people across the country impacted economically by COVID-19 ,” said Jonathan Mintz, CFE Fund President and CEO. “Increasingly, local leaders are deploying financial empowerment efforts as a core part of their front-line COVID-19 response. We particularly want to thank Bloomberg Philanthropies, Citi Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Wells Fargo Foundation for making this possible.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not just an unprecedented public health crisis that has cost over 160,000 Americans their lives – it’s also an unprecedented economic crisis that has left millions devastated financially, with many questioning how they’re going to provide the next meal for their families,” said Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We’re glad to support the CFE Fund in their work to reduce the income inequality that has made the impact of this crisis far worse, and to provide people across the country with the tools and skills they need to survive this pandemic – and be more financially stable once it’s over.”
“Sound financial health is a critical component of addressing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on low-income and diverse communities in the U.S,” said Sarah Bainton Kahn, VP of Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase & Co. “We are pleased to collaborate with the CFE Fund to help people in the US access the tools and services they need to build resiliency and advance their financial health.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound economic repercussions on individuals across the U.S.,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Citi Community Investing and Development and President of the Citi Foundation. “Partnering with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to expand vital financial tools and services will help our local communities navigate the financial impacts of the pandemic and aid in our collective economic recovery.”
“The pandemic has clearly heightened awareness around the financial hardships that so many people were already facing in the U.S. and deep disparities that exist in society,” said Darlene Goins, head of financial health philanthropy with the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We applaud the CFE Fund for bringing together local governments, philanthropists, and financial services and other industries to reimagine solutions that can help improve financial stability and resiliency for individuals and families, particularly during this economic crisis.”
Financial Navigator partners each receive $80,000 in grant funding, technical assistance, and training to launch a new public Financial Navigators program. Financial Navigator services will be delivered over the phone; Navigators will help clients address their financial concerns ranging from prioritizing payments to negotiating with creditors to enrollment into benefits programs. Services will be free for all residents. Financial Navigator grantees include: Albuquerque, NM; Anchorage, AK; Baltimore County, MD; Birmingham, AL; Boston, MA; Brownsville, TX; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; City of Fremont/Alameda County, CA; Gaithersburg, MD; Glynn County, GA; Hartford, CT; Hawai’i County, HI; Jacksonville, FL; Little Rock, AR: Los Angeles County, CA; Louisville, KY; Madison, WI; Milwaukee, WI; Mount Vernon, NY; Pueblo, CO; Richmond, VA; Riverside County, CA; Tempe, AZ; Topeka, KS; Tulsa, OK; Waco, TX; Washington, DC; and Washtenaw County, MI.
“Birmingham is a city of builders – it’s our legacy. But the COVID-19 pandemic created conditions that made life extremely difficult for our residents,” said City of Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “It’s now our duty as a city to work beyond those setbacks and strengthen our comeback. Through the CFE Fund and Financial Navigators program, we are ensuring that our residents do not have to go through recovery alone. They will be equipped with guidance, resources, and a financial toolkit for long-term stability. This is where a better financial future begins.”
“When I ran for office, I ran with the intention of transforming Chicago into a more equitable city that works for everyone, no matter their circumstances,” said City of Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “I know that being a part of the Financial Navigators Program will help accelerate this goal and allow us to better serve our communities – especially the ones that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. We are immensely proud and grateful to partner with the CFE Fund and look forward to working together closely to ensure that Chicagoans have what they need to stay afloat during these uncertain times.”
“We are proud to be part of a program that thoughtfully bridges the private and public sectors to assist our nation’s hardest-hit families. These partnerships are vital to ensure an increasing number of distressed residents find relief,” said Joseph M. Nicchitta, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. “Through our Center for Financial Empowerment, this program will be available to 10 million residents across 88 cities in one of the nation’s largest and most diverse counties.”
“The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has touched every sector and every community in Tulsa. We are doing everything we can to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic and this includes supporting Tulsans as they are experiencing financial instability and crisis,” said City of Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. “We are grateful that we were able to leverage our partnership with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to bring the Financial Navigator program to Tulsa. This program will be a key part of our emergency response and aligns with our city-wide goal to improve the overall financial health and resilience of our residents.”
FINANCIAL NAVIGATORS TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
The CFE Fund partnered with Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners (NTFP) and Global Learning Partners (GLP) to design the Financial Navigators initiative and to provide technical assistance to Financial Navigator partners. NTFP helped identify the range of topics that Navigators will cover and the national context for each topic; identified national resources for client follow-up; and created the triaging paths that Financial Navigators will use to guide callers to relevant resources. GLP created a learning platform for Navigators, providing a program overview, Navigation best practices, and deep dives on key Navigation topics. They also created a National Resource Library with detailed information about the 37 key topics that Navigators will cover; Navigators will have this resource at their fingertips as they speak with callers.
“The Financial Navigator program has tremendous potential. It offers hope, resources, and support to bolster the financial well-being of countless hardworking Americans during these uncertain times,” said Tyler Phillips, Partner, Global Learning Partners. “Global Learning Partners is honored to work alongside CFE Fund to bring a principles-based, learning-centered approach to this historic and innovative initiative.”
“Financial Navigators is making financial empowerment services more accessible to tens of thousands of families at a time when they need trusted, expert financial guidance the most,” said Justine Zinkin, CEO, Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. “The program is informed by over 20+ years of experience helping working families navigate financial challenges, as well as up-to-date insights and resources from post-COVID financial coaching to reflect the financial realities people face today. We’re proud to have collaborated with CFE Fund and Global Learning Partners to design this initiative.”
FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT CENTERS
As part of its FEC Public platform, the CFE Fund also announced an expansion of FEC services, as well as a pivot to remote services across all 20 operational FECs; these FEC partners are Akron, OH; Aurora, IL; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; Greenville County, SC; Houston, TX; Lansing, MI; Memphis, TN; Nashville, TN; New Haven, CT; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Polk County, IA; Roanoke, VA; Rochester, NY; Sacramento, CA; San Antonio, TX; Shreveport, LA; and Syracuse, NY. FECs provide professional, one-on-one financial counseling as a free public service. In partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Citi Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Wells Fargo Foundation, the CFE Fund supported additional FEC counselors to meet this increased demand. In addition, this funding supported a number of enhancements to the national FEC Public infrastructure so that services could be offered remotely, such as developing electronic consent forms and creating new COVID-related indicators to help partners better track counselor efforts and report on FEC impact. The CFE Fund also released a new brief, Meeting the Emergency Moment: Key Takeaways from Delivering Remote Municipal Financial Counseling Services, outlining best practices and lessons learned as FEC partners shifted to remote financial counseling.
First piloted in New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2008, existing FECs across the country have served over 108,000 clients, helping them reduce individual debt by over $150 million, and increasing their families’ savings by more than $23 million.
“Thanks to the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and our other partners, the Detroit Financial Empowerment Center has been able to assist hundreds of residents through financial hardship caused by COVID19, while helping them continue to plan for their long-term financial goals,” said City of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “This continued support from the CFE Fund will help us meet increasing demand and continue to provide high-quality financial counseling for Detroit residents that need these services.”
“As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn it caused, individuals and families are making tough choices about their finances. The good news is that they don’t have to make those hard decisions alone,” said City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The City of Houston offers free, professional financial counseling through the Houston Financial Empowerment Center, which opened in January. Giving Houstonians access to free financial coaching that helps them manage money, reduce debt, improve their credit, and grow their savings has been a tremendous addition to Houston’s lineup of impactful city services. I appreciate the CFE Fund for granting more funds to the City of Houston to expand our services and assist more people during this challenging time.”