Newark Launches Financial Assistance Hotline
Three-day initiative offers advice about credit, bankruptcy, unemployment
Citing Newark's rising unemployment rate and the country's "tough economy," Mayor Cory Booker launched a three-day initiative Thursday to help city residents battling fiscal woes.
Booker said the program, which started Thursday, will give residents free access to financial advice via a telephone hotline routed through Newark's non-emergency call center and in person at a five-hour event dubbed "Financial Planning Day." The hotline is available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The planning day is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Science Park High School.
It is the city's third year operating the telephone help line, but the first year hosting "Finacial Planning Day."
"We've got to attack unemployment and poverty in every single way imaginable," said Booker after the announcement at city hall. "People don't realize with the resources they have right now, they can be making smart decisions and finding ways to save."
The city's unemployment rate hovers around 16 percent — seven points above the national average. Newark's poverty rate was 30.2 percent in 2010.
The mayor said the initiative comes before the holiday season, when people tend to make "generous decisions" with money.
During the three-day program, volunteers from both national and state financial organizations will give residents advice about budgeting, credit and debt, opening bank accounts, personal bankruptcy, unemployment, foreclosure, identity theft, marketplace scams, student financial aid, insurance, investing and taxes, according to officials.
Booker said the initiative will supplement Newark Now's Financial Empowerment Center — a one-room building in the city's North Ward neighborhood that offers advice and financial guidance to residents. The mayor is the founder of the center's nonprofit parent organization, Newark Now.
"This (initiative) can reach a much bigger audience and people can be on the phone with a financial planner," Booker said. "It's like an E-ZPass access to a financial planner."
Some Newark residents say they want that quick access and plan to call the hotline.
Takiyah Gooden and Pamela Dupree sat on a bench in city hall near Booker's announcement.
"A lot of people spend money and, when you save, you build your credit," said Gooden, 19, who said she's in need of financial guidance. The teenager waited in line to the city's Department of Family and Wellbeing as Booker talked.
Dupree, 54, also in the line, said she has no credit, "I want to learn how to do things different and upgrade my status in life."
The call center's number is (973) 733-4311.