|Brian Gately (center), the Federation's Director of Technical, counsels low-income New yorkers calling into the Your Money Hotline.
(January 12, 2009 – New York, NY) On December 15 - 19, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) ran a week-long financial empowerment “phone bank” for New York City residents in partnership with the City University of New York (CUNY) and the New York Daily News. The Your Money hotline provided free money management advice and referrals to free or low-cost financial education providers that participate in the City’s Financial Education Network.
The event was coordinated by Jonathan Mintz, Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs, and Cathie Mahon, a former Federation staff member, who is currently Associate Commissioner at the Department of Consumer Affairs and Executive Director of the OFE.
Financial experts from across the metropolitan area volunteered, including staff from the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) and a number of its member credit unions. Six staff from the Federation volunteered during the four-day event, including Education and Training Program Associate Dan Apfel; Office Manager Oulga Caesar; Director of Technical Assistance Brian Gately; Community Development Investments Portfolio Associate Cathi Kim; Director of Education and Training Pamela Owens; and Community Development Investments Associate Director Melanie Stern.
The hotline provided consumers with multi-lingual assistance, and the Federation did its part to help, with Brian Gately fielding calls to Spanish-speakers and Cathi Kim taking calls in Korean, her native tongue.
Staff from New York City credit unions also participated, including community development credit union (CDCU) representatives from the Brooklyn Cooperative FCU and Neighborhood Trust FCU. The Federation’s Community Development Partner, Municipal CU, also provided financial advice to callers with various volunteers participating.
While the event was not exclusive to credit unions, it did allow the Federation and its members to reinforce the message that credit unions are indispensable in helping low- and moderate-income people to confront existing financial problems as well as learning how to avoid new ones. Wherever applicable, referrals were made to local credit unions.
|(Left to Right) Federation Education & Training Director Pamela Owens; NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz; Municipal CU's Richard Totimeh; Office of Financial Empowerment Executive Director Cathie Mahon; and Federation Education and Training Associate Dan Apfel.
“It was very scary to hear some of the problems that people are having,” explained Apfel. “I spoke to people who had mortgages totalling $500,000 - $400,000 in principal, plus a $100,000 Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) - that they probably shouldn’t have been given, and are now in real danger of losing their homes. It was gratifying to offer them the help that we could, and to know that our credit unions are on the ground doing this type of work each and every day,” he added.
“Volunteering at the Your Money helpline was a great opportunity for the Federation to directly extend its mission of serving the underserved to thousands of New Yorkers trying to navigate their way through the myriad economic challenges they face daily,” said Cathi Kim. “Many of the calls we took underscored that financial issues are often intertwined with other emotional and intimate life issues. Participating in this initiative was a great way to experience what so many of our CDCUs do on a daily basis - directly empowering their communities by providing accurate financial information and support,” Kim added.
Brian Gately found the event to be very helpful. “There are a lot of people out there who are on the edge financially, either because they or their spouse lost a job, accumulating credit card debt, or because of mortgage problems, but they were so happy to hear a live voice that could offer advice. I staffed the Spanish-speaking phones and they did not stop ringing all day.”
“This type of assistance is needed more than ever during these difficult economic times,” said Federation President/CEO, Cliff Rosenthal. “People helping people is what the cooperative movement is all about, and I am extremely proud of all our staff that volunteered for this event!”
© 2009 National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.