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CDCUs in New York City join to fight poverty homelessness
NEW YORK (12/10/07)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) hosted a gathering earlier this month to expand CDCU participation in New York City’s antipoverty initiatives and to help the Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) gather input about their new programs.
Cathie Mahon (right), executive director of New York City’s Office of Financial Empowerment, talks about various asset-building initiatives being implemented by her office, during a recent gathering held by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions at its New York City offices. (Photo provided by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions)
The gathering at its offices brought together community development credit union (CDCU) leaders from New York City for a meeting with representatives of New York City’s OFE and Department of Homeless Services (DHS). During the meeting, OFE representatives spoke about the various programs and studies underway at the agency and requested feedback to increase CDCU involvement in the various initiatives. Some of the new initiatives include:
* Expansion of CDCU participation in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which has helped New York City’s low-income families claim millions of dollars in tax credits from the federal government; * Development of a financial literacy database, both online and through the City’s 311 telephone information clearinghouse program, which would link individuals with local organizations that conduct trainings; and * Extension of credit union service to participants in the city’s Work Rewards Program.
One of the first agencies of its kind in the nation, OFE was created nearly one year ago as part of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative. Housed under the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, OFE is charged with the coordination and development of citywide efforts to alleviate poverty. OFE was represented by its executive director, and former Federation Senior Consultant, Cathleen Mahon; Senior Deputy Director Millard Owens; OFE Deputy Director Donna Lennon; and Director for Evaluation and Analysis Caitlyn Brazill. “All of us at OFE understand the vital role community development credit unions play in supporting some of the most impoverished communities in New York City. For us it is important that in addition to banks, other community controlled financial institutions be a part of the solution,” Mahon explained. “DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz understands this, as does Mayor Bloomberg. That is why he announced this creation of our office last year at the city’s largest CDCU, the Lower East Side People’s FCU,” she continued. Ellen Howard-Cooper, deputy commissioner of DHS, who also presented at the session, hopes to link more credit unions with homeless families moving into transitional housing through the City’s Work Advantage program. The program, which subsidizes one year of rent for homeless families and individuals who work full or part-time, also promotes savings by matching participants’ savings up to 20% of the total monthly rental amount. “CDCUs already provide much of the essential wealth-building services and financial education that are so badly needed by these transitional populations,” Howard-Cooper explained. “Their involvement would support this program by providing participants with the tools they need to become productive and self-sufficient residents.” “It is extremely rewarding to see New York City finally utilize the knowledge and experience of CDCUs in development of its antipoverty efforts,” said Federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “For far too long, the work of CDCUs has gone on largely below the radar, but this has begun to change, and it is truly gratifying to see their innovative efforts highlighted so prominently in the city’s agenda.”
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