District 5 City Councilman David Medina led City staff, community partners and residents in officially opening two new San Antonio Financial Empowerment Centers (SAFECs) on San Antonio’s West and East Sides. Both centers offer objective, personalized and professional hands-on financial counseling to all residents free of charge. San Antonio is one of five U.S. cities opening Centers in March thanks to a $3.4 million grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund. The CFE Fund is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project, which aims to spread proven and promising ideas among cities.
“This investment in the comprehensive financial education of our hard-working families is an investment in their ability to succeed,” San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro said. “Through Bloomberg Philanthropies and the CFE Fund, San Antonio continues to transform its community through knowledge and outreach.”
Centers opening in San Antonio, TX; Denver, CO; Lansing, MI; Nashville, TN; and Philadelphia, PA, this month expect to serve more than 30,000 people over three years. Professional financial counselors will provide clients with one-on-one counseling and guidance on issues such as prioritizing, managing and paying down debts, opening safe and affordable bank accounts, building healthy credit and creating budgeting/payment plans that facilitate savings.
“Free financial counseling is an exciting, inspiring new resource for San Antonio residents on the West Side, and across the city,” District 5 City Councilman David Medina said. “Today, we celebrate a new opportunity to work together toward improving the long-term prosperity of all our citizens, especially those in need of guidance as they make their first steps toward improved financial fitness.
“The City and its partners are pleased to open these new centers to our hard-working families throughout the community,” Human Services Department Interim Director Melody Woosley said. “By giving new tools to our residents to help manage their money and build their assets, we help strengthen their economic self-sufficiency and their financial resiliency during tough economic times.”
Financial Empowerment Centers are located at The Neighborhood Place (3014 Rivas Street) and at the Claude Black Community Center (2805 E. Commerce Street) on San Antonio’s West and East Sides. Residents interested in scheduling a financial counseling appointment can call The Neighborhood Place at (210) 431-4425 or The Claude Black Community Center at (210) 352-7087. Daytime and evening appointments are available throughout the year. Services are free and available to all residents regardless of income. Community agencies in partnership with the Financial Empowerment Centers include Family Service Association of San Antonio (The Neighborhood Place) and United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County (Claude Black Community Center). Both partners manage center operations and counseling teams.
In January 2013, the CFE Fund awarded grants – made possible by a $16.2 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies – to replicate New York’s 30 Financial Empowerment Centers, which have helped more than 19,000 New Yorkers reduce their debt by more than $9 million and save nearly $1 million since 2008. This is the single most ambitious philanthropic investment in financial empowerment ever made. By investing in these five cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies seeks to further demonstrate the effectiveness of the model, making a powerful case for even more cities around the country to begin taking up this important work. The effort’s origins go back to 2008, when New York City piloted Financial Empowerment Centers as part of a broad effort to test and refine new approaches to alleviating poverty. While initially privately funded, the Centers became publicly funded after their data-proven impact.
Centers are coordinated through the City of San Antonio Department of Human Services. In addition to the Financial Empowerment Centers, Human Services offers an array of financial assistance and empowerment resources among its service array which are designed to assist families in crisis and help residents achieve economic self-sufficiency. These include free tax preparation for qualifying tax filers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, emergency utility/rental assistance and case management through the Family Assistance Centers, and housing counseling and foreclosure prevention assistance through the Fair Housing Program.
To learn more about the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund, visit www.cfefund.org. Join the conversation on Twitter using #FinancialEmpowerment and follow updates from the City of San Antonio on Facebook (City of San Antonio – Municipal Government) and Twitter (@COSAGOV).