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Board of Commissioners - News

Posted on: September 6, 2023

Washtenaw County Launches Financial Empowerment Center

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WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI., September 5th, 2023 – Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, in partnership with the national Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), announced today the grand opening of Washtenaw County’s Financial Empowerment Center (FEC), offering professional, one-on-one financial counseling and coaching as a free public service to local residents. At the Washtenaw County FEC, professionally trained FEC counselors 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. At the core of the FEC model is the integration of counseling into other social services, such as housing and foreclosure prevention, workforce development, prisoner reentry, benefits access, domestic violence services, and more.      

“A Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) is a transformative initiative that will help empower Washtenaw County residents with the tools and guidance needed to conquer their financial challenges and envision brighter futures for themselves and their families. Opening one in Washtenaw County is the next step in our commitment to building an equitable community for all,” shared Commissioner Justin Hodge, District 5, Chair of the Board of Commissioners. “FECs are equipped with rigorously trained counselors that will provide one-on-one support, assisting individuals with low to moderate incomes in managing finances, reducing debt, increasing savings, and establishing strong credit. By investing in financial counseling as a critical public need, we bolster the success of other social services, creating a sustainable, credible, and accountable program that uplifts our community towards greater economic stability.” 
 
The Washtenaw County FEC is offering both in-person and virtual appointments. Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development is proud to be partnering with three community organizations and will have four in-person locations for clients meeting with counselors. Locations include:

  • The Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, 415 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
  • Faith in Action, 7651 Dan Hoey Road, Dexter
  • Jewish Family Services, 2245 S. State St., Ann Arbor
  • Eastern Michigan University, University Advising and Career Development Center, 878 Cross St., Ypsilanti, 200 McKenny Hall

To make an appointment, please visit our website at washtenaw.org/FEC

New clients can make an appointment at https://fecpublic.org/portal-washtenaw, and returning clients can make an appointment at https://fecpublic.org/appointment-washtenaw.

The Financial Empowerment Center will help provide a much-needed resource to the Washtenaw community. Accessible financial services will become a cornerstone of programs our community can access and will enhance programs that are currently being offered through our community partners.

Faith in Action, one of the three co-locations shared what adding the FEC means to their organization, “Financial education can now be added as key component to the services available at Faith In Action. Being able to connect clients with individualized financial counseling and education is a great tool for people who struggle with money and is a part of creating more success financially for their households.” 

Partnering with community organizations allows vulnerable populations who already utilize partner organization services to easily access financial services. This allows organizations to provide robust services and removes steps to provide a “one-stop-shop” for community members. 

Jessica “Decky” Alexander, Director of co-location Engage@EMU shared, “As one of the co-locations for Washtenaw County's Financial Empowerment Center, we will be able to provide robust, thoughtful and evidenced-based financial services for our EMU community of students. Often, we know that finances is one of the most consistent barrier to accessing and persisting through college, our hope is that the FEC will be a space and place to remove such barriers for years to come.”

Similarly, Chief Operating Office of co-location Jewish Family Services Elina Zilberberg shared, “Having such a valuable resource in our building will benefit our clients, staff, and other members of our community. FEC counselors will be easily accessible to anyone needing help with their personal finances, budgeting, and creating a solid plan. This service would greatly benefit most of our clients and members of our community as they seek other wrap-around services from JFSWC.”

First piloted in New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2008, FECs across the country have worked with almost 150,000 clients, helping them reduce individual debt by over $225 million, and increasing their families’ savings by close to $45 million. In addition, a CFE Fund evaluation showed that this program works even for residents with very low incomes and other complex financial challenges. Washtenaw County is one of several dozen local governments working to launch or have already launched a local FEC initiative. The Washtenaw County FEC is supported by the CFE Fund and American Rescue Plan Funds.

For more information, to make an appointment, or to get in contact with the Washtenaw County Financial Empowerment Center, please visit our website at washtenaw.org/FEC or email [email protected]. 

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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 over 100 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.

About Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED)

In service of our belief that all Washtenaw County residents deserve a high quality of life, OCED delivers critical programs and community initiatives in the areas of affordable housing, human services, economic development and community infrastructure. We serve local individuals, families, and communities through a mix of direct services, public policy development, and investment of monetary and technical support.

To learn more, visit washtenaw.org/oced

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