New Westside Financial Capability Center Receives TAD Support

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Invest Atlanta Board of Directors recently approved a $100,000 Westside TAD Community Improvement Fund grant to help fund a new Westside Financial Capability Center in Vine City. Once open, the Center will provide residents with high-quality financial counseling, entrepreneurship training, and homeownership education.

Former 1st Choice Credit Union CEO Sheilah Montgomery, who spoke passionately on behalf of the project at the IA board meeting, said the Center will help put more Westside residents on the “road to financial self-sufficiency.”

“The goal is to be open to the community and cater to their needs,” she added.

Forty-four percent of adults on the Westside live below the poverty line, and the average credit score is around 500. Those without a bank account are often left with no other option than to turn to payday lending or check cashing businesses that charge exorbitant interest rates and fees. Unable to gain their financial footing, many Westside residents find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a loan to buy a home or start a business.

The Center’s one-on-one financial education and services will help residents develop greater financial literacy and gain improved access to services they currently lack. Armed with these resources, more of the unbanked will open bank accounts, strengthen their credit, and eventually acquire safe and affordable home or small business loans.

The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions sponsored the project, with funding support from credit reporting agency Equifax and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation (AMBFF). Over a three-year period, Equifax has made a $500,000 commitment to support the Center’s core operations, while AMBFF has committed to provide the facility and related costs in excess of $100,000 per year.

The Westside Financial Capability Center will initially open a temporary site on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard in the former home of Westside Works. AMBFF is providing the space pro bono, and the TAD grant funding from Invest Atlanta will be used to purchase computers, IT equipment, office and classroom furniture and signage at the site.

It’s anticipated that by the end of 2018, the Center will move into a permanent home and begin to offer a full range of transactional financial services.