March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Grant allows city to help economically struggling residents

Tuesday, Jan. 8 — With the help of a hefty $1.5 million grant, Lansing will be able to help thousands of low-income residents get one-on-one financial counseling to tackle their economic woes and help pull them out of poverty. 

The city of Lansing and Capital Area Community Services were the recipients of a $1.5 million grant to help out economically struggling residents by providing individual financial counseling free of charge. Bloomberg Philanthropies and Living Cities’ Cities Financial Empowerment Fund provided the grant.

City officials made the announcement today at a press conference at City Hall.

“Through the Center, Lansing residents will have access to free, one-on-one counseling focused on reducing debt, improving credit, increasing savings and access to banking,” Ivan Love, Jr., executive director of CACS, said. He called the award notification “truly a great day for Lansing.”

The plan with the money, which amounts to roughly $500,000 a year, is to establish a Financial Empowerment Center in Lansing that will provide one-on-one financial counseling to a target goal of 4,000 residents over three years, said Randy Hannan, Mayor Virg Bernero’s chief of staff. The center is slated to open on March 1 and will be housed in the CACS building at 1301 Rensen St. in Lansing.

Hannan said the funds would be used to pay for a program director, supervisor and four financial counselors. Referrals would be made to the program by faith and community support agencies in the area. Lansing Community College will be spearheading the training of the counselors in the coming weeks. The program training will follow a successful model that has been used in New York City, he said. Bloomberg Philanthropies is headed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Megan Kursik, a coordinator with Michigan Communities for Financial Empowerment, was a key person in applying for and attaining the grant, Hannan said.

Kursik said when she helped Lansing apply for the grant back in May, 49 other cities applied for the grant. That was then whittled down to 14 and finally down to five grant recipients. The other cities that received grant money were Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, and San Antonio, Texas.

Kursik said the program would be used by the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, which is the parent program of Michigan Communities for Financial Empowerment, to help create a program model that other Michigan cities can emulate and learn from.

Hannan said Lansing was the “smallest community” to pull in the grant, which he said was a testament to the teamwork involved in the process.

“As mayor of Lansing, I believe we must provide more than a Band-Aid to families in crisis,” Bernero said in a statement. “The Financial Empowerment Center will connect our families with the financial knowledge needed to get out of debt, improve their credit, and begin to save and plan for their financial futures.”