In a combined effort to enable cities to help citizens reduce their debt and build their assets, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Living Cities today announced a $16.2 million initiative to spread the evidence-based Financial Empowerment Center model to cities across America.
Part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project, this new three-year initiative will competitively award grants to five cities to provide free, professional, one-on-one financial counseling to low-income residents both at new Financial Empowerment Centers and by integrating counseling into the delivery of municipal services.
Fifty-four million American households owe more than $800 billion in debt to credit card companies, and the average debt per consumer in the largest 20 cities is $24,000-27,000. This effort – and partnership with Living Cities and its new Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) - is a response to the growing demand in cities for strategies to help low-income residents improve their economic outlook.
“The Mayors Project at Bloomberg Philanthropies spreads effective solutions between cities,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City. “Mayors are increasingly seeking strategies that will help low-income residents reduce debt and build assets. Through the Mayors Project, we have identified a proven solution to address this need and we’re excited to partner with Living Cities to bring it to cities.”
The Mayors Project, part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation efforts, spreads effective programs and strategies between cities, helping mayors work together in new ways around solutions to key, critical problems. Recently, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project announced a $24 million initiative to fund Innovation Delivery Teams that will help mayors effectively design and implement solutions to pressing challenges in five cities, which are Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, Memphis, and New Orleans. Other Mayors Project investments include Cities of Service and the Young Men’s Initiative.
“City governments are increasingly looking for opportunities to empower residents during what has turned out to be the worst recession in recent history,” said Living Cities President Ben Hecht. “New York City’s Financial Empowerment Centers are a nationally recognized model of success with a proven track-record, and we’re excited about the creation of our Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund and this new partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies to bring these solutions to more cities and their residents in need.”
New York City’s Financial Empowerment Centers were launched by Mayor Bloomberg in 2008 and there are now more than 30 locations around New York City. Since launch, the New York Centers have served over 15,500 residents, helping them reduce over $7 million in debt, build more than $900,000 in savings, and achieve financial stability. In 2010, the initiative received the Gold Award for Municipal Excellence from the National League of Cities, an accolade that recognizes outstanding programs that improve the quality of life in America's communities. While the Centers were piloted using private funds, their success led to the decision to move to public funding in 2012.
Bloomberg Philanthropies and Living Cities’ CFE Fund today released the first in a two-phase Request for Proposals to select Mayor’s Offices and non-profit partners to launch Centers in approximately five cities across the country. Selected cities will receive financial support, extensive technical assistance, and performance measurement for a three-year period. Cities will be selected through a two-phase solicitation process seeking to identify cities with the vision, commitment and capacity to implement successful local Financial Empowerment Centers. Cities must have at least 100,000 residents to apply. The application is available for download at www.cfefund.org.
As the recipient of the Bloomberg Philanthropies grant, Living Cities, through its CFE Fund will oversee the national implementation and rollout through the delivery of training and technical assistance, the maintenance of the national network, the coordination of evaluation and the overall program management. Living Cities’ CFE Fund will work with the Mayor’s Offices representatives in selected cities to oversee the on-the-ground implementation of Financial Empowerment Centers, manage all local partner relationships, ensure the highest quality of service delivery and ensure regular data tracking for the purposes of evaluation. This multi-city supportive approach to propagation is central to all of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project investments.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies refers to all of Michael R. Bloomberg's charitable activities, including the Bloomberg Family Foundation and his personal giving. Bloomberg Philanthropies works primarily to advance five areas globally: the Arts, Education, the Environment, Government Innovation (which includes the Mayors Project) and Public Health. In 2011, $330 million was distributed. For more information please go to www.mikebloomberg.com.
About Living Cities:
Founded in 1991, Living Cities is an innovative collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions. In nearly 20 years Living Cities members have collectively invested almost $1 billion, helping shape federal funding programs, redirecting public and private resources, and helping communities to build homes, stores, schools, community facilities and more. For more information, please visit: http://www.livingcities.org/.
About the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund):
The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) at Living Cities 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 works with 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 also supports the Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition, a coalition of cities already implementing broad and innovative empowerment strategies through their mayoral administrations. Visit www.cfefund.org for additional information.