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The Department of Consumer Affairs'Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) is the first local government initiative in the nation aimed expressly at educating, empowering, and protecting those with low incomes, so they can build assets and make the most of their financial resources. OFE is the first program to be implemented under the Center for Economic Opportunity as part of Mayor Bloomberg's aggressive efforts to fight poverty in New York City.
OFE experiments with local government's unique capacity to leverage strategic partnerships, implement innovative solutions, and target enforcement powers to strengthen the financial security of New Yorkers with low incomes. OFE works with government agencies, community-based organizations, philanthropic partners, think tanks, and the private sector to increase financial literacy, improve access to smart financial products and services, and protect against fraudulent and deceptive practices
Launching and coordinating large-scale public awareness campaigns
OFE spearheads public awareness campaigns to help New Yorkers get, save, manage, and protect their money--including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Coalition Campaign. In 2008, the NYC EITC Coalition--the largest in the nation--led a multi-media campaign distributing two million brochures in 12 languages throughout New York City. OFE will lead a citywide debt awareness campaign and will launch its comprehensive, accessible financial education website in April.
Establishing a dynamic network of financial education providers OFE established the Financial Education Network (FEN), a dynamic network of government, nonprofit, and financial sector partners, working to provide high-quality financial education. Through the creation and sponsorship of the FEN, OFE significantly increases New Yorkers' access to financial education, while also providing technical and quality assistance. Two key cornerstones of the FEN are its accessibility through 311 and an easy-to-search online directory, available on the OFE website, enabling consumers to find conveniently-located financial education services.
Identifying and implementing innovative asset building practices OFE works to identify, strengthen, and implement innovative practices from across the nation to help New Yorkers build assets and achieve lifelong financial well-being. OFE partners with the City's many financial institutions to pilot safe and affordable products and services, including structured banking programs such as the Opportunity NYC Basic Account and $aveNYC Club Account, while at the same time conducting rigorous research studies to evaluate their impact and capacity for scale.
Protecting New Yorkers with low incomes from unfair and predatory practices Located within the Department of Consumer Affairs, OFE helps target strategic enforcement work to protect New Yorkers with low incomes from predatory and deceptive practices, including initiatives in debt collection, used car sales, and tax preparation. OFE coordinates both its enforcement and advocacy efforts with DCA's public awareness and education campaigns.
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