Cities in America are slowly recovering from the pandemic and for some like Memphis, old problems such as poverty are new again. RISE has received a program grant from the Assisi Foundation of Memphis to help make improvements to the Common Cents service structure. The award comes with access to a consultant and the opportunity to expand to additional markets. This much needed lift in capacity building for the Common Cents program would allow RISE to offer our services in more businesses and commercial settings that can reach many more hourly wage workers who have been hit harder than most because of the shelter in place mandates.
The Common Cents program, is a workplace financial education program, launched in response to broad based concerns about poor credit and bankruptcy issues in the Memphis area. Common Cents offers area employers the opportunity to give hourly workers the gift of financial literacy and in doing so increase productivity, decrease absenteeism and create greater workforce productivity. The curriculum features topics such as banking, budgeting and spending strategies and debt management. More than 4,000 Memphis-based employees from 50 companies/organizations have successfully completed the curriculum. RISE now operates the Greater Memphis Financial Empowerment Center (GMFEC) in Shelby County (created by the Shelby County Trustee’s Office and the City of Memphis) through a match grant from Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE). RISE is the official provider of service (one-on-one financial counseling) for the center. GMFEC opened in April 2019 and focuses on the following critical financial issues: Debt reduction, improved credit scores, and increased savings of citizens in our community. RISE believes that without financial literacy skills, financially vulnerable individuals in our community will never be able to accumulate family assets and more importantly, will never enjoy the freedom and security of having improved life choices. For many wage earner families, the inability to make good financial choices is less a failure of will and more a failure of circumstance.
Accumulated research conducted by the Responsible Lending Collaborative, concluded the poor do indeed pay more. From auto insurance to banking services to groceries, lower income families have only high-cost options conveniently available. In order to get ahead lower income families must learn how to consistently shave quarters from their limited income and turn them into assets. An investment in RISE continues to be an investment in the future of Shelby County. We have proven that it pays dividends to give people the tools they need to become and remain self-sufficient rather than pay for social services that only treat the symptoms. RISE data documents that the cycle of generational poverty can be broken. We all win in terms of decreased crime, increased productivity, lower healthcare costs and more engaged citizens.
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