A New Approach to Combating Poverty
In 2014, Seattle will become the first city on the West Coast to welcome a Financial Empowerment Center program, a new way of fighting poverty that helps vulnerable residents take control of their futures by teaching them basic financial know-how.
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation awarded $1.8 million to the City of Seattle in November 2013 to launch the program, modeled after the successful Financial Empowerment Center concept born in New York City that has helped thousands of families reduce their debt and save money.
The funding will help open six Financial Empowerment Centers in upcoming months, including a full-time central hub in Rainier Vista and five satellite locations throughout the city. At these centers, clients will get free one-on-one financial coaching and get lessons in financial basics, such as paying down debt, increasing savings and improving credit.
The economic recession left hundreds of thousands of Americans with problems that many are still unable to navigate, including heavy debt, bad credit, or unemployment. The centers provide a missing and much-needed resource to the area’s most vulnerable populations – including communities of color, Native Americans, and refugees and immigrants – which are most heavily effected by predatory lending and lack of access to resources.
The grant builds on the Foundation’s growing support in the area of financial empowerment, where we have given nearly $8.9 million to fund projects that assist families and individuals in gaining economic stability through job training, microenterprise support and financial education. Our funding in this area has helped nearly 15,000 low-income families in Washington and neighboring states and that number is growing.
The Financial Empowerment Centers are expected to result in over $2.3 million in financial benefits for low-income residents in the first three years of operation. The public-private partnership is a collaboration between the Foundation and City of Seattle, with support from Neighborhood House and United Way of King County.
We are excited to invest in the potential of our community’s most vulnerable residents, and look forward to reporting updates on this new pilot program.