Mayor Andre Sayegh opened a Financial Empowerment Center inside the Center City Mall in downtown Paterson on Monday morning.
Sayegh said the Financial Empowerment Center, first one to open in New Jersey, will provide residents with professional one-on-one financial counseling services. Debt reduction. Credit repair. Household budgeting. Homeownership courses. And bankruptcy information are just some of the services the center will provide to residents.
“We want to improve people’s lives,” said Sayegh.
The Financial Empowerment Center will have three certified financial counselors, said Jonathan Ortiz, director of Financial Empowerment Programs at the United Way. He said the center presently has two and is expecting to bring on a third. He said the center will have Spanish speaking counselors to assist those who may not speak English.
Ortiz said the center hopes to provide at least 2,000 sessions per year. He said any resident can call or go on the United Way of Passaic County website to schedule an appointment.
“This is a huge moment for Paterson,” said Amelia Erwitt, managing director for Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. She said there are 25 such centers across the United States. She said last year these centers served 100,000 people.
Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund gave Paterson $150,000 grant to open the center. Grant funding will support the implementation and operation of the Financial Empowerment Center for the first 15 months. Sayegh will need to find $200,000 if he wants another $100,000 grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund in the second year, according to public documents.
Sayegh credited business administrator Kathleen Long for pursuing the grant funding to bring the program to Paterson.
Sayegh picked the United Way of Passaic County to implement the program. The nonprofit was awarded a $143,500 contract in January.
The Paterson Financial Empowerment Center will be open five days a week, said Ortiz. He said residents can schedule an appointment by calling 973-977-5525 or by visiting the United Way of Passaic County website.