Roanoke City welcomes free financial counseling service

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 3:35 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - If you wish you had a little help managing your finances, there’s someone local who can help you out.

Tuesday afternoon over Zoom, Roanoke City, along with several other local organizations, celebrated the ribbon-cutting for the Financial Empowerment Center.

The FEC will offer free counseling services to help locals reduce their debt, build their credit and learn how to meet their financial goals. City leaders, including Mayor Sherman Lea and City Manager Bob Cowell, explained the FEC will be a part of the frontline response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FEC is a branch of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, which touts empowerment centers as its flagship program. Jonathan Mintz, CEO of the CFE, was on the call. He said Roanoke’s decision to sign on makes it the 20th municipality in the country to do so and said it would boost people’s trust in the services. So far, he said, FECs in other cities and states have serviced 104,000 clients, reducing their debt by at least $146 million.

The FECs are funded through city partnerships and philanthropic aid, including Freedom First Enterprises and Carilion Clinic. Shirley Holland with Carilion Clinic said the decision to partner comes from research she said shows health outcomes are tied to financial outcomes and resources. Tim Cerebe with Freedom First Enterprises said they’ve seen similar data tied to the financial counseling they’ve been able to provide with their program.

“Over 81 percent of respondents report a reduction in stress due to participation in financial counseling and that those reductions are reported even up to a year after the last session that an individual had,” he said.

The FEC in Roanoke is available to start meeting with clients virtually through their website.

Eventually, they plan to allow for in-person counseling as well. Spanish speakers and other translators are available upon request.

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