More than a year ago, I had the opportunity to travel to New York to learn more about a program for which we had just received a grant and that I knew little about. The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) hosted a convening of nine communities, each recipients of grant funding and each interested in improving the financial health of their residents.
This Tuesday we host the virtual ribbon-cutting for the Roanoke Financial Empowerment Center (FEC). At this center, area residents will be able to avail themselves of one-on-one professional financial counseling at no cost. Participants will find ways to improve their credit scores, reduce their debt, increase their savings, or take the first steps at establishing a safe and affordable account at a local bank or credit union. These services are open to all area residents, regardless of income or of current financial situation. In short, by visiting the FEC, area residents will regain control over the finances and empower themselves toward a path of greater wealth building—something that the entire community will benefit from.
Built Upon a Sound Foundation and Collaboration
The FEC is built upon work started with the local BankOn Roanoke Valley initiative, a partnership between the City and United Way of the Roanoke Valley, in collaboration with a number of local financial institutions and area service providers. In just a few years, BankOn Roanoke Valley has assisted more than 1,500 individuals and families in establishing accounts with local banks and credit unions, enabling them to join the mainstream financial system often for the first time and, in turn, saving them hundreds of dollars in annual fees and charges.
The FEC is a City of Roanoke service supported by grant funding from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, local tax dollars, and with further financial support from Carilion Clinic. The FEC initiative is overseen by Brandon Meginley and Aisha Johnson as a part of our ongoing Economic Inclusion efforts in our Economic Development Department. Financial Counseling is provided by three certified professional counselors and a manager through a contract with Freedom First Enterprises. The effort is further supported by a large network of community partners who helped plan the structure of the FEC and will serve to raise awareness of its offerings, as well as refer clients and, in some instances, house office space for the counselors.
A Part of Ensuring a Healthy Community
When the idea of the FEC originated, its need was identified a part of the community’s ongoing efforts at addressing poverty and health disparities. With the arrival of COVID-19 and its associated economic and financial impacts, the need is even greater. Additional information about the FEC and instructions on how to set up a counseling appointment may be found at the FEC’s website at RoanokeFEC.org or by calling 540-427-6811.
I am grateful for the leadership exhibited by the Mayor and City Council around this initiative, the partnership with and support of the CFE and Freedom First Enterprises, and the collaboration with so many area partners. I look forward to the FEC welcoming its first clients and taking these first steps at making the Star City a financially empowered City!
— Bob Cowell