The On the Rise Financial Center officially opened Thursday, April 20, with Mayor Kasim Reed, Dr. Eloisa Klementich, and Councilmember Ivory Young, Jr. on hand to celebrate with Westside residents. Joining them were representatives from supporting organizations, including Equifax, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (NFCDCU) and the CDFI Fund.
At the Center, clients can access affordable financial services and products, one-on-one financial counseling and homeownership education. Ultimately, the Center will provide new financial opportunities for residents and businesses in Westside communities.
The Invest Atlanta board approved a $100,000 Westside TAD Community Improvement Fund grant that went toward the purchase of computers, IT equipment, and office furniture for the On the Rise Financial Center.
“Increasing the availability of financial education and services is critically important for our city,” said Dr. Klementich. “This isn’t just a philanthropic issue, it’s an economic development issue.”
One in four Atlanta residents are unbanked or underbanked, meaning they have often rely on alternatives financial services like payday loans. In certain areas of the Westside that percentage can reach as high as 75 percent.
Those without access to safe, affordable banking find it difficult to thrive financially.
In the short term, the unbanked often pay avoidable fees to check cashing services or exorbitant interest rates to payday lenders. These added costs have an enormous impact on families in the Westside, where 37 percent of adults and 57 percent of children live below the poverty line. And being unbanked creates additional long-term difficulties. The average credit score on the Westside is around 500, making it difficult for many to secure a standard car loan or home mortgage.
Invest Atlanta has committed $15 million through the Westside TAD Community Improvement Fund to encourage more equitable development in English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill. So far, 11 projects, including the On the Rise Financial Center, have received funding. Each project investment addresses critical areas of need including employment, housing and neighborhood development.