DC provides free financial advice to residents

Need some financial advice? Residents can get personalized advice at the District’s first-ever Financial Empowerment Center starting Thursday.

It’s a continuation of services provided by D.C.’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking. But now, District residents have the option to get free one-on-one financial advice either virtually or in-person at the Ward 8 location.

Trained coaches can give advice on topics including savings, debt reduction, credit improvement and banking access.

“This is for all ages,” Karima Woods, commissioner of the department, told WTOP. “We are anticipating all residents from different stations in life, whether they are youth, seniors and also returning citizens.”

The process starts when clients take a financial health assessment, which helps the center make a plan for meeting their financial goals. Then, the coaching starts.

“Now more than ever, our residents need a Fair Shot as they deal with the pressures of inflation as well as the aftermath of the pandemic,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser in a news release. “The launch of the Financial Empowerment Center in Ward 8 is an important next step in helping residents understand, manage and address their financial needs and goals to get them on the road to economic prosperity.”

As part of a charge from the mayor, “We are also extending our work to reach more individuals within the returning citizens population with a number of our programs,” Woods said.

Certain coaches will work solely with the formerly incarcerated people, or returning citizens.

Woods said the center is part of a nationwide effort to address the financial needs of lower and middle income individuals and families. It merges education on financial literacy with access to programs and services provided by the Office of Financial Empowerment & Education in DISB.

Some of those programs and services include:

  • The Bank on DC Program provides financial education and services to unbanked and underbanked households.
  • With the Opportunity Accounts Program, qualified residents can save up to $1,500 with up to a 4:1 match of $6,000. Residents in that program can contribute up to $7,500.
  • Financially Fit DC helps residents to budget and set long-term goals with an online platform and workshops.
  • The Financial Navigators Program targets residents financial concerns from the pandemic.

The choice to offer hybrid services — in-person and online — is meant to ensure the services reach as many residents as possible.

“We recognize coming out of the pandemic, that some may not necessarily be able to go to an actual location, particularly if the location isn’t close to home,” Woods said.

Though similar centers operate in Virginia and Maryland, this will be the first of its kind to open in the District.

The center is located in the United Planning Organization’s Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene Community Service Center at 2907 Martin Luther King Jr Ave. SE. Residents can book an appointment by calling the Financial Empowerment Center at 202-231-7984.

“Our goal is to have several Financial Empowerment Centers throughout the District of Columbia,” Woods said. “And we’re pleased that the first location is in Ward 8.”

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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