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 and 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 improving the economic opportunity of every community member.
Financial Empowerment Centers
Over the past five years, United Way NCA opened multiple Financial Empowerment Centers in our communities. These centers help lift up individuals and families and put them on a path toward economic opportunity. They receive money management counseling, credit and housing counseling, asset-building resources and access to free or low-cost banking products. And, they receive the most valuable thing of all: respect.
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 to enable 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 three more locations in Prince William County, Washington, DC and Montgomery County.
Project Community Connect
Sometimes a single event can lead to homelessness. Through our Project Community Connect gatherings in the District of Columbia, United Way NCA is providing individuals experiencing homelessness with medical care, employment services and other resources needed. And, Project Community Connect also brings much-needed resources to individuals and families across the region through virtual workshops aimed toward the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population, focusing on things like writing resumes, economic opportunity, food access and more.
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 community members maximize available credits and receive tax refunds. Through this partnership, we helped local families receive over $103 million in the past five years. In the current economic climate, every dollar matters.
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