City of Racine: Launches state’s first financial empowerment center

City of Racine – Today, Racine Mayor Cory Mason announced the grand opening of Wisconsin’s first Financial Empowerment Center (FEC), in partnership with local nonprofit Housing Resources, Inc. (HRI) and the national nonprofit Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. The Racine Financial Empowerment Center offers professional, one-on-one financial counseling and coaching as a free public service to City of Racine residents.  

At the Racine FEC, professionally trained Financial Counselors will help City of Racine residents with low and moderate incomes manage their finances, pay down debt, increase savings, establish and build credit, and access safe and affordable mainstream banking products.  

“In Racine, we want all residents and families to be able to weather the current economic hard times, and also thrive financially in the long run,” said City of Racine Mayor Cory Mason. “When residents are struggling with financial challenges – or want to reduce debt, build a rainy-day fund, or plan for big goals like homeownership – they don’t need yet another brochure. They need to work one-on-one with a trained professional. And that is what we’re now able to offer City of Racine residents with today’s launch of the Racine FEC.”  

The Racine FEC will offer these services remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic to help residents navigate the financial impact of this crisis and to identify and achieve longer term financial goals like home ownership, entrepreneurship, and education. The Racine FEC is grateful for the partnership of the Racine Public Library, who is providing the FEC’s counselors office space and technology to conduct these virtual FEC client meetings.  

“Local leaders know first-hand the connection between family financial stability and community financial stability – and this connection is especially important during the current crisis,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. “Mayor Mason and the City of Racine are part of a growing national movement to bring free, high-quality financial counseling as a public service to their residents; we are proud to partner with Mayor Mason to help residents navigate the financial impact of COVID-19 and work towards a stronger financial future.” 

First piloted in New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2008, FECs across the country have worked with over 116,000 clients, helping them reduce individual debt by over $160 million, and increasing their families’ savings by more than $26 million. In addition, a CFE Fund evaluation showed that this program works even for residents with very low incomes and other complex financial challenges.  

The City of Racine FEC is supported by grant funding from the CFE Fund, federal CDBG funds, NeighborWorks America, and local funders including Educators Credit Union, Associated Bank, Tri City National Bank, U.S. Bank, Johnson Financial Group, and Goodwill Industries of Southeast Wisconsin.  

At the core of the FEC model is the integration of financial counseling into other social services. The City of Racine FEC has already built a referral partnership network of more than 15 other local nonprofit and service providers, including: the Racine Public Library, Health Care Network, United Way of Racine County, the Center for Veteran’s Issues, Gateway Technical College, YWCA of Southeast Wisconsin, Racine Vocational Ministry, Racine Collaborative for Children’s Mental Health, Legal Action of Wisconsin, Goodwill Industries of Southeast Wisconsin, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, John XXIII Educational Center, WWBIC, Racine County Human Services and Racine County Child Support Agency, and the Racine Unified School District’s Family Resource Center and Parent University.   

As a respected and long-time provider of HUD-certified housing counseling services in Racine, Housing Resources Inc. (HRI) is the City’s lead nonprofit partner for the FEC. “We are proud to partner with the City of Racine to bring high-quality, free financial counseling to Racine residents through the Financial Empowerment Center,” said Dasheika Kidd, Racine Program Manager for HRI. “Our new financial counselors have gone through extensive training and are ready and excited to work with Racine residents, providing professional financial coaching to help set residents up for success on whatever goals they have set, whether that is debt reduction, home ownership, saving for emergencies, or any other individual financial dream.”  

“The Racine FEC fills in a critical missing piece in the City’s efforts to tackle systemic disparities among our residents in income, home ownership, generational wealth building, and access to credit,” concluded Mayor Mason. “We are proud to be launching Wisconsin’s first FEC, and look forward to the transformative effects this free, professional, financial coaching can have for our City’s residents.”  

City of Racine residents can make appointments with the Racine FEC’s counselors by calling 262-200-0831 or visiting www.racinefec.org to request their first appointment. Residents can have as many sessions as needed with the FEC’s financial counselors, all completely free of charge and completely confidential.  

To learn how to become a partner or sponsor of the Racine Financial Empowerment Center, please contact Vicky Selkowe, City of Racine’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Community Partnerships at [email protected]