The Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development and the United Way of Washtenaw County have launched a "Financial Navigator" program to help those who have lost jobs, been furloughed, or suffered other financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Financial navigators are available via phone to help those individuals with applying to emergency assistance funds, maximizing income, prioritizing payments for daily living expenses, and accessing other social services.
Calls are free and last about 30 minutes. Anyone who has experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19 can use the service. After their consultation with the navigator, callers will receive a follow-up message with key takeaways and next steps.
This program is funded through a grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, a national nonprofit that helps local governments implement financial programs to support low- and moderate-income households.
While the United Way of Washtenaw County has offered financial coaching for years, the Financial Navigator program focuses more on short-term, immediate aid for emergencies brought on by COVID-19, says Bridget Healy, vice president of impact and advocacy at the United Way of Washtenaw County.
"When we had this opportunity to offer financial navigation, it felt like the right thing to do at the right time, given the economic impacts of COVID-19," Healy says.
The Financial Navigator program is available until June 2021. Washtenaw County residents can call a financial navigator at (734) 677-7202 or sign up here.
The United Way of Washtenaw County's current financial coaches will be offering the navigation services, Healy says, and during tax season, volunteers who assist in the organization's free tax preparation program will assist.
"This wouldn't be possible without partners to tackle these issues," Healy says. "I think this speaks to the leadership of the county and what's in Washtenaw County's DNA."
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Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.