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Nashville Receives $2 Million Grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and Living Cities’ Fund to Help Low-Income Residents Reduce Debt, Build Assets


Nashville One of Five Cities Selected for $16.2 Million Investment

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Nashville has been selected as one of five cities to receive a grant to help low-income residents reduce debt and build assets through free, one-on-one financial counseling incorporated into existing services offered in the city. The Office of Mayor Karl Dean and United Way of Metropolitan Nashville are partners in the grant funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Living Cities’ Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund.

The three-year grant will serve an estimated 5,000 Nashvillians at Financial Empowerment Centers, which will be run by United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. At the Centers, financial counselors will teach clients how to open safe and affordable checking accounts, establish a credit score, maintain a positive balance, decrease debt and maintain savings.

“These Financial Empowerment Centers will play a vital role in helping Nashville families move from poverty to financial stability,” Dean said. “Making sure individuals and families get personalized financial literacy services will help us build stronger families and a stronger community.”

The Financial Empowerment Center initiative is the latest investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project, the government innovation program which seeks to spread proven and promising ideas among cities. Through a $16.2 million investment in Living Cities' CFE Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide grants to Nashville, along with Denver, Colo.; Lansing, Mich.; Philadelphia, Pa; and San Antonio, Texas, and enable extensive technical assistance to help each city replicate and customize the model.

“The City of Nashville has demonstrated a real desire to help families achieve long-term financial stability,” said New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg. “The Mayors Project at Bloomberg Philanthropies spreads effective solutions to challenges that cities across the country are facing. We hope through this grant that the effective Financial Empowerment Center model will create measurable change for low-income residents in Nashville.”

The Financial Empowerment Centers, opening in March 2013, will be located at the Levy Place Center in east Nashville and in south Nashville at the Casa Azafran Community Center, which serves as the headquarters of Conexion Americas and other organizations that offer educational opportunities, health and wellness services and entrepreneurship training.

Satellite locations will be housed at United Way’s 18 Family Resource Centers, Metro Action Commission, Metro Social Services and state offices that provide welfare benefits through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

Nashvillian Erik Cole will oversee the Financial Empowerment Center program out of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development. The position is funded through the Living Cities’ Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Cole has served as the executive director of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services since 2005. In that statewide role, he coordinated with nonprofit agencies serving low-income individuals, managed large grants and worked with government and private entities. He is a former chairman of the Metro Homelessness Commission, has extensive experience with local nonprofits serving the low-income and served two terms as a member of the Metro Council.

Belmont University will provide quality training to the six United Way financial counselors who will staff the centers. Belmont Associate Professor and Nashville Poverty Council Chair Kristine LaLonde is coordinating this educational partnership and has been instrumental in her work with the team implementing this program in Nashville.

“Providing Nashville’s most at-risk residents with yet another tool to improve their finances is an important element of United Way’s rich portfolio of work in the area of Financial Stability,” said Gregg Morton, President, AT&T Southeast Region and incoming 2013 Board Chair, United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. 

“Financial Empowerment Centers offer much needed one-on-one counseling that allow people to get on a path to financial independence,” added Eric Dewey, President & CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. “In combination with other United Way programs such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Bank On Music City and My Money Plan, Nashville residents will have access to all the tools necessary to lead educated, healthy and stable lives.”

Of the nearly 50 cities that applied, Nashville stood out due to its robust level of city support for this program, a strong nonprofit relationship between Mayor Dean and United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, and because of Mayor Dean’s Poverty Reduction Initiative and leadership by United Way in this space within the Nashville community, among other reasons. Additionally, due to partnerships with Metro agencies and other financial stability programs, such as Ways to Work, financial counseling could improve outcomes for other partners in the community.

The Financial Empowerment Center program will build on Mayor Dean’s Poverty Reduction Initiative and the Bank On Music City program, which is a community partnership led by United Way of Metropolitan Nashville with local banks, credit unions, government and community organizations to connect individuals with safe and affordable bank accounts.

In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the City of New York would pilot Financial Empowerment Centers as part of a broad effort to test and refine new approaches to alleviating poverty. While initially privately funded, the Centers became publicly funded after their data-proven impact. Since the pilot commenced, the program has grown to nearly 30 Centers, helping more than 19,000 New Yorkers reduce their debt by more than $9 million and save more than $1 million. 

“I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership on this effort,” Mayor Dean said. “He is one of the most active and progressive mayors in the country, and he continually finds innovative ways for cities to move important issues forward.”

Through the Living Cities’ CFE Fund project, services are delivered in a more cost-effective manner and better outcomes are achieved across the array of social services, by seamlessly integrating financial counseling into traditional anti-poverty efforts. 

In addition to financial counseling, the model has a strong focus on integrating with other services driving toward self-sufficiency, including benefits enrollment, family stabilization services, workforce training and job placement, housing, and other supports.

To learn more about the Living Cities’ CFE Fund grants, visit Join the conversation on Twitter using #FinancialEmpowerment.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies works primarily to advance five areas globally: the Arts, Education, the Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. In 2011, $330 million was distributed. Government Innovation efforts, including the Financial Empowerment Centers, are part of the Mayors Project, which seeks to spread proven and promising ideas among cities. Other Mayors Project investments include Cities of Service, Innovation Delivery Teams, and the Mayors Challenge.

About Living Cities
Founded in 1991, Living Cities is an innovative collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions. In nearly 20 years Living Cities' members have collectively invested almost $1 billion, helping shape federal funding programs, redirecting public and private resources, and helping communities to build homes, stores, schools, community facilities and more. For more information, please visit:

About The CFE Fund
Living Cities’ CFE Fund supports municipal efforts to improve the financial stability of households by leveraging opportunities unique to local government. By translating cutting edge experience with large scale programs, research, and policy in cities of all sizes, the CFE Fund assists mayors and other local leaders to identify, develop, fund, implement, and research pilots and programs that help families build assets and make the most of their financial resources. For more information, please visit or email us at