Progress and prosperity have often been shared unequally in cities around the country. In many ways, Rochester, NY, is no different — a city with a rich history of innovation and social progress, but also of disinvestment, poverty, and institutional racism. I see the suffering on the faces of far too many people in the community that raised me, and I hear their pain in the stories they share.

I also know that this city and its people hold unlimited potential to create new systems designed to work for the betterment of all, and not just the select few. At the beginning of my first term, I created the Mayor’s Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives to develop ways to combat poverty.

We have had many successes, including the rollout of alternative, affordable methods of transportation like Vanpool and Bikeshare; interest-free microloans through the crowdfunding platform Kiva Rochester; and a study detailing race- and gender-based wage disparities in our city.

Despite these wins, there was a missing piece. So, upon my inauguration for a second term, I announced the creation of the Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB) — an ambitious endeavor to ensure everyone in Rochester benefits from the economic recovery of our city.

The OCWB’s first task was to determine why people living in our challenged communities were unable to build wealth. We found there was a lack of access to safe and affordable credit and banking services in certain areas of the city, so helping residents gain access to credit became a major goal.

We were awarded a grant to join the 2018 CityStart Initiative cohort, which began an incredible journey towards financial empowerment. We convened stakeholders and combined the lessons of their experience with the expertise of the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund to create a framework to organize the work we were already doing and identify opportunities for action.

With a strong framework in hand, we began planning to bring the Financial Empowerment Center model to Rochester in partnership with the CFE Fund. We reconvened many of the partners involved in the CityStart initiative and spent the next eight months putting building blocks in place, raising private match funding, selecting a counseling provider and setting priorities for partner organizations.

On March 30, we will officially launch our Financial Empowerment Center in partnership with Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester and our robust network of community partners, ranging from workforce development providers to educational institutions. We are already changing lives for the better.

Personal finances are at the center of many of our city’s challenges and now we have powerful tools to help people to build stronger financial foundations. A great example of this is our work to help more people stay in their homes. We are currently working on a pilot project with the Rochester Housing Authority to use the FEC to provide early-intervention counseling aimed at preventing evictions.

Integrating financial empowerment into the practices of City government is a powerful strategy to help us achieve our most important priorities. As we work to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods, and better educational opportunities, we are wholly committed to advancing the financial empowerment of our families.