Letter: Good counsel for better future

The opening this month of six centers offering free, one-on-one financial counseling to low-income individuals and families comes at a critical time for Philadelphia, a city with high poverty and persistent unemployment. Thanks to a $3.3 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project — one of only five in the nation — these centers will help individuals map a pathway out of poverty. The aim is to increase financial stability by boosting income, decreasing debt, and improving access to saving and asset-building opportunities.

Nationally, such centers have a proven track record — as in New York City, where some 19,000 people were able to reduce debt by more than $9 million and save more than $1 million over six years. Here, counselors will help clients reduce debt and build savings by correcting credit histories; advocating for lower fees and penalties to creditors; negotiating payment plans, total debt owed, and interest rates; and creating budgets. Counselors also will link people with social services, like foreclosure prevention services, job placement support, and utility assistance.

Citizens should have tools to help themselves — and a good first step would be to call 855-346-7445 or visit www.Phila.gov/financialempowerment to schedule a free financial counseling session.

Michael A. Nutter, mayor