Columbus: City Releases Plan, Launches New Program for Financial Empowerment
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The City unveiled a Financial Empowerment Roadmap that includes startling findings about the state of financial security of Columbus women and families. Alongside the new research, performed by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, the City's Roadmap outlines strategies and future work to support residents' financial empowerment, a key ingredient for helping them achieve long-term stability and wellbeing.

"The global pandemic exposed the depth of the racial divide in our community, and we know that we will only recover if we do so equitably," said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. "Which is why this Financial Empowerment Roadmap is so critically important at this time and why I am committed to moving this work forward."

The City developed its Roadmap with a $20,000 grant from Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund in July 2019, and in doing so, joined a growing national movement of municipalities spearheading resident-centered financial empowerment efforts. Generated through a partnership between the Columbus Women's Commission and City Council President Pro Tempore Elizabeth Brown, the Roadmap focuses specifically on women and their families and was motivated by the fact that women and woman-headed families—particularly women of color—experience the greatest financial vulnerability of all Columbus residents.

"This roadmap and the work it outlines are crucial steps that help level the playing field for women as they strive to achieve financial security," said President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown. "Our goal is to support the success of every family in Columbus for the long haul. And these resources are needed now more than ever due to the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on women and especially women of color."

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The Roadmap describes alarming findings of financial insecurity among residents:
  • Thirty-three percent of Black and 31 percent of Hispanic households have zero net wealth, nearly double that of White households at 17 percent.
  • Nearly 40 percent of Black workers earn $15,000 or less yearly, compared to 14 percent of White workers.
  • Black women are more likely than any other group to have attended some college or obtained an Associate's degree but are still the most likely to live in poverty, representing 24 percent of all Columbus residents who do.
  • Fifty-seven percent of communities of color within Franklin County have some form of delinquent debt compared to 29 percent of predominantly White communities; the overall rate is 36 percent with a median delinquent debt of $1,376.

Alongside the release of the Roadmap, the City announced the launch of the first objective outlined in the report: the launch of a Financial Navigator pilot program that ensures lack of knowledge about available resources doesn't stand between residents and the help they need.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the role that local leaders can play in building the financial stability of their most vulnerable residents," said Amelia Erwitt, Managing Director of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. "We were thrilled to partner with the City of Columbus on their Financial Empowerment Roadmap. With the launch of their Financial Navigators initiative, the first objective in their roadmap, they join a movement of dozens of cities across the country who are helping residents grapple with the financial impact of the pandemic."

Through a partnership with LSS 211 Central Ohio and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, residents will be able to speak to trained financial "Navigators" and receive structured guidance over the phone to help them plan immediate action steps and make connections to supports for issues ranging from gaps in income to financial management, including information about a multitude of newly available COVID-19-related resources.

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"LSS 211 Central Ohio is excited to partner with the City to pilot this much-needed program designed to support local families facing financial hardship," said Courtney Walker, Executive Director of LSS 221 Central Ohio. "By guiding them through some basic budgeting decisions and connecting them to the right financial planning resources, we will help families gain financial stability and understand the resources available to assist them."

Over the next several years, the City will work to embed financial empowerment opportunities in a variety of existing services that serve women and families while working to better coordinate financial empowerment services citywide.

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 on Twitter at @CFEFund.

About LSS 211 Central Ohio

LSS 211 Central Ohio is the leader in providing valuable information, resource referrals, and community data that support the growth and vitality of Columbus. The organization is best known for its 211-referral line, which is part of a nationwide referral service for low-income families and individuals.stats

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