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Financial distress cavalry on way

By David Hendricks

Author: SuperUser Account/Saturday, March 09, 2013/Categories: Financial Empowerment Center

http://www.mysanantonio.com/business/business_columnists/david_hendricks/article/Financial-distress-cavalry-on-way-4340036.php
Financial distress cavalry on way : MARCH 8, 2013

A city cannot have too many places people in financial distress can go to for assistance.
San Antonio will gain two new, free centers on Tuesday, thanks to some grant money.
Bloomberg Philanthropies and an arm of Living Cities called Cities for Financial Empowerment, both based in New York, are contributing a combined $1.2 million a year for three years to fund the twoFinancial Empowerment Centers that will open on the city's East and West sides.

The city of San Antonio and its Human Services Department, the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and the Family Service Association will coordinate and administer the centers, said Melody Woosley, interim director of the city's Human Services Department.

Each Financial Empowerment Center will be staffed by four certified financial counselors and one program coordinator, Woosley said. A city coordinator will oversee both centers.
Individuals should make appointments at one of the centers. Once there, the person will receive free, one-on-one professional advice “customized to each individual and the circumstances of their families,” Woosley said.
“Every situation will be different,” Woosley said. “The ultimate goal is to help people develop financial assets.”
More specifically, the aim of the counselors will be to help people pay off debts, establish better credit scores and set goals for savings.
The counselors will be able to direct people to emergency utility assistance programs if they are behind in their bill payments. The centers also can guide qualified people to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program that can prepare income-tax forms for free.
Otherwise, the counselors will not be tied to specific financial products, and they won't be selling anything, Woosley said.
Eventually, group classes will be scheduled on personal finance topics.
The city will be working to get out the word about the availability of the counseling service to the general public, but one group that should pay particular attention are employers.
Small employers can sense when workers face financial difficulties. The signs include tardiness, absenteeism and distraction. But small-business owners don't have human-resource departments that can intervene.
That's where these two centers can be invaluable tools for some employers. “Employers could refer workers to the centers,” Woosley said. “They can say, 'Here's a resource.'
“We have a lot of outreach to do,” she added, to let the public and employers know about the availability of financial counseling.
The centers will not be set up to help companies in another way. Someday, somewhere, a program must be established to guide small-company owners toward setting up automatic individual retirement savings accounts for their workers.
Automatic IRA programs would be inexpensive ways for employers who cannot afford 401(k)-style programs or pensions to encourage workers to save for retirement though payroll deductions. The workers could save on their income taxes. No better way exists for rank-and-file workers to build wealth and ensure stable futures.
Nevertheless, the Financial Empowerment Centers are a true gift to San Antonio. Financial stability in households can cure many social problems that burden society. The availability of free, independent advice can improve any city's living standards.
dhendricks@express-news.net 

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About Us

The San Antonio Financial Empowerment Center offers free, one-on-one professional financial counseling.  

Certified financial counselors are available for personalized guidance and can help you deal with a wide range of personal financial issues.

Daytime, evening and weekend appointments are available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much do these services cost?
A: Financial Empowerment Center services are always free.

Q: How many times can I meet with a counselor?
A: As many times as you need.

Q: What can a financial counselor help me with?
A: Repair your credit, create a savings plan, negotiate and pay off debt, open an affordable bank account...just to name a few!

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2805 E. Commerce Street
210.431.4425

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Hosted by Family Service Association
3014 Rivas Street
210.431.4425

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