Hattiesburg will be one of eight cities to participate in the Mayor’s Institute on Financial Inclusion in Chicago, Illinois in April. This program is designed to educate mayors and city officials on financial inclusion and to determine what works best in practice.
Financial inclusion, according to the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, is assisting those financially disadvantaged in obtaining formal financial services.
The initiative is part of the Financial Inclusions and City Leadership, a program to encourage financial literacy for residents.
“The FISCL project will expand to become a peer learning community open to any city committed to working collaboratively to increase the financial health of its residents,” a MetLife official said. “FISCAL builds on the research of a ‘City Scan of Local Financial Inclusion Efforts’ involving 118 cities nationwide on the issues of economic insecurity and expanding access to financial opportunities for lower income families.”
National League of Cities will host in conjunction with the MetLife Foundation the project. An official at the MetLife Foundation said the initiative will help other cities around the country better understand financial inclusion and how it benefits residents.
“The cities and expert facilitators discussed a wide range of opportunities and challenges with an emphasis on peer-learning discussions,” a MetLife official said. “MetLife Foundation has provided support for the two-year Financial Inclusion Systems and City Leadership (FISCL) initiative to provide expert technical assistance and other resources to enable cities to build sustainable, collaborative, community-wide systems to improve residents’ financial health and stability,” the MetLife official said.
Assistant to the Mayor Valerie Arnold said there are multiple avenues being explored to educate people on financial inclusion.
Ideas range from giving children savings accounts at banks – which is still only in the discussion phase – to teaching students about financial literacy in schools.
The MetLife Foundation gave Hattiesburg a $35,000 grant to promote three objectives in financial inclusion.
About $15,000 went to a financial master plan that would be the framework for how the city goes about the initiative.
“We’re trying to get a plan written so our community knows where all of these resources are, what’s available and how they can contact these resources and [help] them with these financial resources,” Arnold said.
Another $10,000 went to promote the Bank On program, which was launched last year. The third objective is to teach financial literacy at the City
of Hattiesburg Youth Summer Camp.
“A couple of years ago we were teaching it to the coaches,” Arnold said. “This year we primarily focus on the children of the camp and teaching them financial literacy. So we’re hoping next year that we’ll have a curriculum together where we’re [teaching] it to the camp students as well as the coaches.”
The City of Hattiesburg partnered with 13 different financial institutions that offer services for a nominal fee to help improve credit rating, get out of debt and understand the loan and mortgage processes.