PATERSON, NJ - Mayor Andre Sayegh was joined by members of his administration and the United Way of Passaic County at a press conference Thursday to announce the forthcoming Financial Empowerment Center (FEC), aimed at serving Paterson residents who need guidance navigating the complexities of the contemporary fiscal landscape.

“Pre-pandemic we were planning to launch a Financial Empowerment Center in Paterson, because we knew Patersonians that were struggling with their finances,” said Sayegh, acknowledging that the situation for many has likely been exacerbated by COVID-19. “We can help reduce your debt, help repair your credit, help get you banked if you don’t have an account,” he added, speaking to some of the main issues facing residents when it comes to taking steps toward financial security.

The program, which was unanimously approved by the City Council, will draw from public and private partnerships to provide counseling for individuals who have questions about finance or need a hand putting their own monetary affairs in order.

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“We’re honored to partner with the City on this program,” said Yvonne Zuidema, President & CEO of the United Way of Passaic County. “It’s not just about knowing what to do with your money, but having someone walk along beside you on difficult financial decisions.”

The FEC will feature professionally trained counselors, who will serve as knowledgeable guides covering topics of banking, credit, debt relief and building up savings.

“When families are stronger,” said Zuidema, “the whole community is stronger.”

The FEC concept is part of the Cities for Financial Empowerment mission, which looks to foster financial stability in households by working within local government infrastructure to implement innovative programs and policies for residents.

“Economic mobility is the basis of the American Dream,” said Paterson Business Administrator Kathleen Long, who referenced numerous local non-profits that will be working on the program at a variety of public, private and community locations.

Among the first projects of its kind in New Jersey, Paterson’s FEC will see an official ribbon-cutting coming later in March, coinciding with what Mayor Sayegh promoted as a major “community-based initiative” to be formally announced at that time.

“I think President Biden and Vice President Harris would be encouraged by our efforts addressing inequity in our community,” said Sayegh, adding, “our goal is to inspire other municipalities to help those who are struggling financially. In doing so, Paterson will be a beacon for the whole nation.”

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