PATERSON — The mayor’s plan for providing residents with one-on-one financial counseling has gained approval from the City Council, and organizers hope to begin offering the services by the spring.
The $288,000-per-year program would be paid for through a grant from a New York-based nonprofit group, the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, as well as by private donations made through the Community Foundation of New Jersey, officials said.
By the end of this year, organizers hope to give financial counseling to about 100 Paterson residents per month. The services would be provided through the United Way of Passaic County, with sessions taking place at the Center City Mall in downtown Paterson.
Mayor Andre Sayegh said he began working on the project more than a year ago, before the COVID outbreak, and that the economic impact of the health crisis has increased the need for what he called a “bold and innovative initiative.”
“We will help residents reduce their debt, repair their credit scores and establish bank accounts,” the mayor said.
Participants on average would get two or three counseling sessions, according to the program’s documents. The goal would be for clients to increase their credit scores by 35 points, increase their savings by 2% of their annual income and reduce their non-mortgage debt by 10%.
The proposal got support from Sayegh’s allies on the City Council as well as his adversaries.
“This item is a game-changer,” Councilman Al Abdelaziz said before casting his vote on the program at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Abdelaziz said he hopes the counseling will increase the number of city residents who become homeowners. Councilwoman Ruby Cotton said she thinks the benefits of the counseling will extend beyond home-buying and help people start their own businesses.
The program will be known as the Financial Empowerment Center. Paterson Business Administrator Kathleen Long said more than 30 other cities around the country have launched similar programs through the Empowerment Fund in New York.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: [email protected]
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson to begin financial counseling program for residents