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City’s Office of Financial Empowerment Receives $244,000 Grant from ESL

The City of Rochester’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) received a $244,000 grant from ESL Federal Credit Union to design and pilot a city-wide Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program.

The CSA program’s goal is to provide better economic opportunities to Rochester’s children and their families by offering earlier access to banking services, according to a press release issued by Rochester Mayor Malik Evans’ office on July 27, 2023.

“Helping children and families establish children’s savings accounts empowers kids and puts them on a path to success,” Evans said. “This savings program is about equity and will teach our young people the skills and benefits of saving and budgeting; I am thankful to ESL for the generous gift that will enable our Office of Financial Empowerment team to prepare our children and their families for economic mobility and a hope-filled future.”

The CSA pilot is expected to launch in 12 months, with a city-wide roll out effort within two years.

Prosperity Now – the leading national institution in CSA design and implementation – and the City of Rochester will work together to determine initial deposit amounts and financial incentives, help select a financial institution partner, and help develop a family engagement strategy. These collaborative and primarily local efforts are facilitated by the ESL grant funds.

The grant funding will also support team training and development, and the City’s creation of a Financial Empowerment Initiatives Coordinator whose primary responsibility will be to manage the planning of the program.

“It is critical to start healthy financial habits at a young age if we are to prepare our children to be financially healthy when they grow up,” said Ajamu Kitwana, vice president/director, community impact, ESL Federal Credit Union. “ESL is committed to the financial wellness and well-being of all our community’s residents. We support the planning and implementation of this pilot program for CSA from the City’s Office Financial Empowerment because the findings and learnings from the [CSA] pilot [program] can guide future decisions that could help set Rochester’s children up for financial success.”

“We believe every child should have the chance at a healthy financial future, not just the few who have been born into wealth,” said Cherie Collins Sims, PhD, interim president & CEO of Prosperity Now. “That’s why we are proud to partner with the City of Rochester to design a successful CSA program.”

CSA programs provide positive benefits for both children and their parents. Research shows that children with a savings account are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college with a degree, have positive connections to financial institutions, and improve social-emotional development, which leads to academic achievement. Programs help increase a parent’s expectations of their child, and provide a sense of security that they have savings designated for college or vocation.

“Kids need to learn the right way to go about handling money,” said Deshanah Barnes, whose son opened a checking and savings account last year as part of the City’s Summer of Opportunity Program. “It relieves the parent so that they don’t have to do everything themselves, especially being a single parent. I think it’s a good idea; it teaches them financial literacy at an early age.”


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