Belmont University will play a foundational role in new Financial Empowerment Centers to help low-income Nashvillians reduce debt and build assets through free, individual counseling. The Office of Mayor Karl Dean and United Way of Metropolitan Nashville have received a $2 million grant funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Living Cities’ Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. The University will train six United Way financial counselors to staff the centers.
Belmont Associate Professor and Nashville Poverty Council Chair Kristine LaLonde is coordinating the educational partnership and has worked with College of Business Administration Dean J. Patrick Raines, Finance Professor Greg Faulk and Adjunct Instructor Paul McCullough to implement the program.
“Belmont University was honored to be invited by the mayor’s office and United Way to be the educational partner in this important initiative serving some of Nashville’s most vulnerable families,” said Gene Mage, executive director of the Center for Executive Education at Belmont University. “In our contribution to the grant application, we were able to draw on our College of Business Administration’s personal finance curriculum, our long history equipping certified financial planners and the University’s deep commitment to serve the local community.”
The Center for Executive Education wrote the educational piece of the grant application and identified the instructor and now is working to create the curriculum design, oversee participant registration and course logistics. The center also will evaluate results and provide quality control for the course as it runs to encourage continuous improvement of the program.
The three-year grant will serve an estimated 5,000 Nashvillians at Financial Empowerment Centers run by United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. Financial counselors will teach clients how to open safe and affordable checking accounts, establish a credit score, maintain a positive balance, decrease debt and maintain savings. The centers also have a strong focus on integrating with other services driving toward self-sufficiency, including benefits enrollment, family stabilization services, workforce training and job placement and housing.
“These Financial Empowerment Centers will play a vital role in helping Nashville families move from poverty to financial stability,” said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. “Making sure individuals and families get personalized financial literacy services will help us build stronger families and a stronger community.”
The centers will open in March at the Levy Place Center in east Nashville and in south Nashville at the Casa Azafran Community Center. Satellite locations will be housed at United Way’s 18 Family Resource Centers, Metro Action Commission, Metro Social Services and state offices that provide welfare benefits through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.
“Providing Nashville’s most at-risk residents with yet another tool to improve their finances is an important element of United Way’s rich portfolio of work in the area of Financial Stability,” AT&T Southeast Region President and incoming 2013 Board Chair of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville Gregg Morton said.
The Financial Empowerment Center initiative is the latest investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project, the government innovation program which seeks to spread proven and promising ideas among cities.
“The city of Nashville has demonstrated a real desire to help families achieve long-term financial stability,” said New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg. “The Mayors Project at Bloomberg Philanthropies spreads effective solutions to challenges that cities across the country are facing. We hope through this grant that the effective Financial Empowerment Center model will create measurable change for low-income residents in Nashville.”