The Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) was launched in 2006 as the first initiative under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Center for Economic Opportunity in New York City. OFE's innovative programs target low-income households in New York, which was supported by research from a 2006 Brookings Institute report that demonstrated the high cost of poverty that is reflected in a lack of income and higher costs for a variety of consumer products. With this in mind, the establishment of OFE repurposed a traditional consumer protection agency to target areas where people with low incomes are preyed upon, and created a powerful tool to solve marketplace problems. OFE's financial empowerment strategies are deployed through 4 pillars of work:
providing professional financial education and one-on-one financial counseling
connecting people to effective opportunities to begin building assets
helping people access safe and affordable mainstream banking products
deploying targeted consumer protections to safeguard assets
Following the success in New York City, Lansing was one of 5 cities chosen to replicate the Financial Empowerment Center by Living Cities' Cities for Financial Empowerment fund through support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The Lansing Financial Empowerment Center is a collaborative project of Capital Area Community Services and the City of Lansing. Opening in March 2013, the Center has since been providing free, professional 1-on-1 financial counseling to residents of greater Lansing, integrating financial counseling with such other social services as homeless prevention, parole, utility and rent assistance, Head Start, and public housing. The financial counseling sessions are focused on the service plans of banking, credit, debt and savings. Specific, measurable outcomes are tracked in each of the service plans.