Educating, empowering and protecting New Yorkers
The DCA Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) was launched by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Center for Economic Opportunity at the end of 2006 as the first local government initiative in the country with the specific mission to educate, empower, and protect individuals and families with low incomes. OFE creates innovative programs, products, and services for New Yorkers so they can build assets and make the most of their financial resources. The Agency’s goal is to increase access to high-quality, low-cost financial education and counseling; connect individuals to safe and affordable mainstream banking and products and services; improve access to income-boosting tax credits, savings, and other asset building opportunities; and enforce and improve consumer financial protections to safeguard financial stability. OFE's key initiatives include:
- Launching and coordinating large-scale public awareness campaigns
OFE spearheads public awareness campaigns to help New Yorkers get, save, manage, and protect their money - including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Coalition Campaign.
- Increasing the availability of high-quality, free, one-on-one financial counseling to New York City residents through the Financial Empowerment Center initiative
Financial empowerment services are available to the public by calling 311 and integrated into core City service delivery systems. View Financial Empowerment Center partners
Commissioner Mintz spoke to students and faculty at Columbia University School of Social Work's Grand Rounds series in February 2013. He discussed the Financial Empowerment Centers and highlighted how municipal financial empowerment has a supervitamin effect, increasing the outcomes of host social service programs. Watch video clip
- Establishing a dynamic network of financial education providers
OFE established the Financial Education Network (FEN), a dynamic network of government, nonprofit, and financial sector partners, working to provide high-quality financial education. Through the creation and sponsorship of the FEN, OFE significantly increases New Yorkers' access to financial education, while also providing technical and quality assistance. A cornerstone of the FEN is an easy-to-search online directory, available on the OFE Web site, enabling consumers to find conveniently located financial education services.
- Identifying and implementing innovative asset-building practices
OFE works to identify, strengthen, and implement innovative practices from across the nation to help New Yorkers build assets and achieve lifelong financial well-being. OFE partners with the City's many financial institutions to pilot safe and affordable products and services, including structured banking programs, such as the Opportunity NYC Basic Account and $aveNYC Club Account, at the same time conducting rigorous research studies to evaluate their impact and capacity for scale.
- Protecting New Yorkers with low incomes from unfair and predatory practices
Located within the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), OFE helps target strategic enforcement work to protect New Yorkers with low incomes from predatory and deceptive practices, including initiatives in debt collection, used car sales, and tax preparation. OFE coordinates both its enforcement and advocacy efforts with DCA's public awareness and education campaigns.
To learn more about OFE, download NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment: A Progress Report on the First Three Years, 2006–2009