There’s a term out there you may have heard of – “unbanked.” Whether they know the term or not, people who are unbanked know the awful feeling. It means they’re unable to access or use banking services, leaving them in a cash and money order world. A world that’s full of money predators, of businesses charging ridiculous fees just to cash a check or send money. In our community, as many as 260,000 residents are unbanked. Worse off are the more than 12,000 area residents who don’t have a home, or are at risk of homelessness on any given day.
Here’s how we’re fighting, and how we’ll win. Financial Empowerment Centers – In the next five years, United Way NCA plans to open multiple Financial Empowerment Centers in our communities. These centers will lift up individuals and families and put them on a path toward economic opportunity. They’ll receive money management counseling, credit and housing counseling, asset-building resources and access to free or low-cost banking products. And they’ll receive the most valuable thing of all – respect.
United Way NCA Financial Empowerment Centers offer direct access to high-quality financial services and guidance in a welcoming, professional environment at no cost. Individuals and families who have struggled to find solutions with traditional banks will have a trusted resource in these centers to provide empowering financial help and resources.
By providing a convenient pathway to these solutions, the Financial Empowerment Centers are helping to realize one of United Way NCA’s most critical objectives — enabling members of the community to achieve greater economic opportunity for themselves and their households. The first of these Financial Empowerment Centers opened in Prince George’s County through a partnership with Prince George’s Community College. The second center is open at the South County Government Center in Alexandria. We have two more locations at Prince William county and Washington DC.
Project Community Connect Sometimes a single event can lead to homelessness. United Way NCA is fighting back with a series of public events that lead to positive change. Through our Project Community Connect gatherings in the District of Columbia, we’re providing individuals experiencing homelessness with medical care, employment services and other resources needed. This year, we’re expanding the event to serve even more of our neighbors in need.
Tax Preparation If no one shows you how, how will you ever know? Through collaboration with our community partners and VITA sites, United Way NCA VITA partners are providing free tax preparation for low-income residents. This helps them maximize available credits and receive tax refunds. Through this partnership, we helped local families receive a total of $53 million in refunds last year alone. When you’re fighting for dignity, every dollar matters.