Community

A new city program aims to help people achieve their financial goals at no cost.

On Monday, the Metro Office of Resilience and Community Services opened the Louisville Financial Empowerment Center, which is available to all city residents.

Located at the Louisville Urban League in the Russell neighborhood, the program offers one-on-one counseling sessions on topics such as saving for retirement, improving credit and paying off student loans. There are currently three financial counselors, who also offer video and over-the-phone meetings.

According to Sadiqa Reynolds, the Louisville Urban League’s outgoing leader, at least four other city locations, including a YMCA and housing authority site, are planned to serve as partners and host financial counselors. However, she said no specific places have been chosen yet.

At a press conference announcing the center’s launch, Mayor Greg Fischer said the program is a way to promote equity and increase wealth-building opportunities.

“This is important to the city’s overall success because we know when our residents are financially secure, they’re in a better position to buy homes, support city businesses, and contribute to our local economy,” he said.

Fischer also said historical discriminatory systems and policies in the United States have resulted in financial barriers for many residents.

In 2019, the Metro Housing Coalition, a Louisville research and advocacy group, released a report showing the local homeownership rate among non-Hispanic white residents was nearly 35 percentage points higher than the rates for Black and Hispanic residents.

Low- and moderate-income families mainly build wealth and achieve financial stability through home ownership, according to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

“We’ve got to take the steps to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to reach their full human potential. And there’s no question that not everybody is born in the same space to do that,” Fischer said.

The Office of Resilience and Community Services began efforts to bring the program to Louisville in the fall of 2020, in response to increased financial difficulties due to the pandemic, said Ce Garrison, who will manage the center.

Around that time, the city applied for and received a $20,000 planning grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund, according to Erin Waddell, a policy and advocacy manager at the Office of Resilience and Community Services.

The CFE Fund, a nonprofit that promotes and financially supports Financial Empowerment Centers across the U.S., announced in March 2021 that Louisville was one of five new cities it would assist in implementing a center.

More than 30 local governments have already launched or are working toward establishing centers with the fund, including Greenville, S.C., which served as a mentor city to Louisville during its planning process.

Louisville raised $150,000 to implement the program, which the CFE Fund matched. Garrison said after the fund’s support ends in two years, the goal is for the center to become part of the city’s budget.

“Just like public parks, libraries and voting, financial counseling is now a city service that anyone and everyone can access confidently as a trusted resource,” said Garrison, who works in the Office of Resilience and Community Services.

Garrison added the city aims to especially empower low- to moderate-income residents with the program.

The CFE Fund also supports the city’s Bank On Louisville program, which began in 2010 to connect people to safe and affordable banking opportunities.

Roberto Roldan contributed reporting.

Jacob is WFPL's Business and Development Reporter.