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Washtenaw United: Using Investment And Education To Build A Better Financial Future

United Way of Washtenaw County
United Way of Washtenaw County

Managing finances can be difficult.  It becomes infinitely more difficult if there is very little money to work with.  COVID-19 has destroyed financial stability for a great many.  Add in issues of racial and economic oppression, and the difficulties are further compounded.  A grant secured via a partnership between the United Way of Washtenaw County (UWWC) and the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development will allow for further investment in teaching residents in need how to build a better financial future.  WEMU's David Fair talks to UWWC financial coach Ugbaad Keynan about the "Financial Navigation" initiative for this week's "Washtenaw United."

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


As a Financial Coach for United Way, Ugbaad works in partnership with individuals to identify and reach their personal financial goals.  Ugbaad’s approach to working with people is informed by her lived experience as an immigrant from Somalia.  Ugbaad brings prior experience working in the financial industry and holds a national Financial Capability certification from NeighborWorks America, the de facto industry standard for financial coaching which takes place outside of financial institutions.


Financial Navigation (Goes live on June 25, 2020)


UWWC, in partnership with the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, applied for and received a grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to pilot a new service, Financial Navigation, to responsively address rising unemployment and financial hardship of Washtenaw County people. 

This new service, Financial Navigation, will serve as short-term “triage” for people in the midst of a financial crisis.  Financial Navigation services include; support navigating unemployment benefits, applying for non-cash income supports such as MI Bridges, applying for direct assistance through Barrier Busters, and providing tools to manage financial stress.  As part of this work, we’re adapting our technology infrastructure to be able to operate all of our services virtually, using platforms like Zoom and online scheduling tools like Acuity. 

Over the course of the next 12 months, Financial Navigators housed at United Way will conduct 30-minute crisis intervention calls/video chats to assess participants' most pressing issues, assist them in managing their expenses and maximizing income while reducing financial stress.  Financial Navigators will then follow up with a recap of the meeting and action steps by email, in essence, a prescription to address financial precarity.  Participants will be able to take advantage of unlimited Financial Navigation appointments.  People will be connected to United Way for financial navigation supports via our website or a local referral (e.g. 2-1-1 or other local human service organizations).  Our goal is to serve between 800-1200 Washtenaw County people in a year.

  • Goal #1: Increase knowledge of effective expense management
  • Goal #2: Maximize participant income
  • Goal #3: Reduce short-term financial stress 

Evidence base: Best practices piloted by the NYC Office of Financial Empowerment during the emergency response to Hurricane Sandy.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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