Columbus Selected to Develop Financial Counseling as Free Public Service for Residents in Need
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Today, the City of Columbus and the national Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) announced their selection to receive more than two years of funding and technical support to implement proven financial empowerment programming in Columbus. In 2021 Columbus will receive support to develop a plan for investing in free, professional, one-on-one financial counseling as a public service to residents, particularly of need, as they deal with the financial impacts of COVID-19. Columbus is one of 35 local governments across the country that are working with the CFE Fund to offer this proven model developed initially by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in New York City in 2008.

"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 financial counseling is so critically important at this time and why I am committed to moving this work forward as part of my Equity Agenda."

The CFE Fund, with support from seed funder Bloomberg Philanthropies, as well as Capital One, the Citi Foundation, The JPB Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Wells Fargo Foundation, is working to expand the Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) model to local governments across the country. The CFE Fund provides grant support, intensive technical assistance, and a vibrant national learning community to help local government partners plan, launch, and sustain financial counseling services for their residents. The CFE Fund recently supported its FEC partners in pivoting to offering entirely remote services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"This grant is a natural next step as we work to level the playing field for every family in our community through last year's release of the Financial Empowerment Roadmap and the previous launch of the Financial Navigator program," said City Council President Pro Tempore Elizabeth Brown. "We continue to be motivated by the fact that women and woman-headed families—particularly women of color—experience the greatest financial vulnerability of all Columbus residents."

Columbus is one of five municipal governments selected to receive a grant and intensive technical assistance to prepare to launch a local plan for increasing financial counseling access through the national FEC Public platform, which promotes scale and sustainability for the growing movement of professional, one-on-one financial counseling as a free public service. First piloted in New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2008, the FECs have worked with over 116,000 clients, helping them reduce individual debt by over $160 million, and increasing their families' savings by over $26 million. A  CFE Fund evaluation showed that this program works even for residents with very low incomes and other complex financial challenges.

Columbus joins Dallas, TX; Jackson, TN; Louisville, KY; and Pueblo, CO in receiving this grant award. This new cohort joins 30 other local governments already working to offer FEC services.

"Financially strong families mean a financially strong city—and the connection is clearer than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. "Mayor Ginther and Council President Pro Tem Brown join local leaders across the country who are turning to professional, high-quality financial counseling as a critical tool to build residents' financial stability by reducing debt, improving credit, building savings, and more."

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"Giving more Americans access to financial planning guidance will help build stronger and more equitable cities and drive pandemic recovery," said James Anderson, head of the Government Innovation Programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. "The data shows that this evidence-based program works and can be scaled. It is our goal is to continue to provide local leaders with the expertise and tools they need to empower residents."

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 to identify, develop, fund, implement, and research pilots and programs that help families build assets and make the most of their financial resources. The CFE Fund is currently working in over 100 cities and counties representing 75 million people, and has disbursed over $52 million to city governments and their partners to support these efforts. For more information, please visit https://cfefund.org/or follow us on Twitter at @CFEFundstats

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