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United Way NCA is committed to providing residents with economic opportunity by removing barriers to stable and affordable housing and instilling financial empowerment so that community members can feel in control of their financial situations and feel confident in navigating challenging financial decisions.

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.

What is Financial Empowerment?
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Financial empowerment is feeling in control of one’s finances and resources, usually through financial literacy education. Those who feel financially empowered are enabled to achieve greater financial stability for themselves and their households and gain greater control over their personal finances.

Why is Financial Empowerment Important?
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Financial empowerment is important for all community members, especially those who have struggled to find solutions with traditional banks and financial resources because of its economic and emotional benefits. Learning the tools of budgeting, taxes, paying down debt, etc. not only enables people to gain control of their finances but also gives them a heightened sense of being in control, leading to greater happiness and lower stress levels.

What We’re Doing

United Way NCA is knocking down financial barriers. We’re investing in programs and initiatives that help individuals and families in the National Capital Area have access to enough financial resources and knowledge to build a foundation—and a future.

Here’s how we’re improving the economic opportunity of every community member.

Financial Empowerment Centers

Over the past six 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 CountyWashington, DC and Montgomery County.

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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, financial empowerment, food access and more.

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Tax Preparation

If no one shows you, 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 back in tax refunds from 2016 to 2020. In the current economic climate, every dollar matters.

Other Programs

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We provide health resources to community members who need it most, promoting physical and mental well-being by removing systemic barriers to food security, physical exercise and healthy eating, and mental health education and services.

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We focus on the education pipeline from middle school to college and/or career success. Working in Title I schools, we address attendance, behavior and course performance through our Community Schools program.