Building financial literacy is one of the best ways that government can help people work their way out of poverty and debt and begin to build a sustainable financial foundation for themselves and their families. There are many programs available at the state and federal levels to aid low- and moderate-income families with their finances but it can often be difficult to find out about them or gain access to them. Many cities across the country have pulled all of these resources together into physical locations where people can go to learn more about them and to take advantage of them. There are already a few great nonprofit groups in Pittsburgh doing bits and pieces of this work and I would like to work with them to pull together everything under one roof and help connect them to the people who need these services the most. I will create Financial Empowerment Centers in Pittsburgh that help people take advantage of these important opportunities.
1. Financial Empowerment Centers
For many Pittsburghers living in poverty, day-to-day life is a struggle and finding ways to stabilize their finances, take control of their debts, and provide for their families take a backseat to simply putting food on the table and making sure the kids are cared for. We need to make it easy for people to take advantage of the services that are out there to help them. The best way to do this is to create Financial Empowerment Centers in their neighborhoods and pull these resources under one roof. The model of a Financial Empowerment Center that I envision is a one-stop-shop that provides help with tax preparation, family budgeting, debt management, personal banking, social services, and general financial literacy. I envision a comprehensive service that helps families create both short- and long-term budget goals and helps put in place the tools to meet them.
For some families, the simple act of sitting down and constructing a budget can set them on a path to financial stability, yet there are few free services out there to help them do it. We can pull together the nonprofit organizations already doing some of this work with partners in the banking industry, County and State social service agencies, and city authorities like the Housing Authority and Urban Redevelopment Authority to begin working collaboratively with families to put them on a path to freedom from poverty. When day-to-day life becomes less of an emergency just to meet basic needs the pressures of poverty begin to lift and real change is possible. We owe it to our low- and moderate-income residents to make these services available right in their neighborhoods and to work to make sure they are able to take advantage of them. When one family in Pittsburgh is able to escape from poverty it benefits all of Pittsburgh. When one neighborhood is able to start to turn around it benefits all neighborhoods. We need an on-the-ground strategy like this to begin to tackle these systemic issues.