Citi Community Development, the City of New York and National Disability Institute Launch New National Initiative Aimed at Building the Financial Security of People With Disabilities

Jan 29, 2018 11:30 AM ET

NEW YORK, January 29, 2018 /3BL Media/ - Today, Citi Community Development, the City of New York, and National Disability Institute (NDI) announced the launch of Empowered Cities, a new national initiative enabling municipalities to expand financial empowerment and economic inclusion for people living with disabilities and their families. Also announced was EmpoweredNYC, a collaboration with the City of New York, specifically the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) and the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), focused on enabling New Yorkers with disabilities across the five boroughs to build their financial security. EmpoweredNYC is the first local program of Empowered Cities. 

Through the Empowered Cities program, NDI will hold national convenings with community stakeholders; conduct trainings for service providers and financial counselors, nonprofits, and municipal staff; produce a catalog of new publications and training curricula; and deliver national program management. Building on the EmpoweredNYC model, NDI will inform, document, and build field knowledge about how to deploy tailored, citywide financial inclusion models to meet specific needs of residents with disabilities that can be implanted in cities across the country.

Empowered Cities was launched with $2 million in support from Citi Community Development, $1 million of which is being used to fund EmpoweredNYC.

More than 50 million people live with a disability in the U.S., and 25 percent of households include a child or an adult with a disability. According to research by NDI, even the most financially stable individuals with disabilities have difficulty managing household finances and navigating the complexities of benefits, insurance, medical costs, and long-term supports while still preparing for retirement. Compounding these challenges, more than 46 percent of working-age households with disabilities are either unbanked or underbanked – greatly limiting their ability to prepare for the financial volatility that is associated with living with a disability.

"Cities neglect the most vulnerable in society when they take a one-size-fits-all approach to the allocation of services and resources," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "I am proud that EmpoweredNYC will act as a nationwide model for how cities can better serve people with disabilities by offering tailored information that will level the financial playing field for them and their families."

“National Disability Institute is enthusiastic about today’s commitment by Citi Community Development and is honored to be a key partner to advance a better economic future for people with disabilities nationwide,” said Michael Morris, Executive Director, National Disability Institute. “With Citi’s and NYC’s leadership, we will begin by testing new strategies in New York City that can improve financial capability for people with disabilities and enable and empower their future financial decision making. The New York City efforts will help inform a national initiative that enlists municipal and state government, community nonprofit organizations, financial institutions and other key stakeholders that can design programs, products and services that are scalable and sustainable.”

“People with disabilities and their families often have to make critical and complex financial decisions almost daily, navigating insurance, health services, benefits, education and employment decisions, which makes financial planning and security challenging,” said Bob Annibale, Global Director, Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance. “The national Empowered Cities initiative, together with the local EmpoweredNYC partnership, represent an important and collaborative first step toward supporting municipalities, financial counselors and nonprofit service providers with specialized training and resources to ensure that they are better positioned to serve the needs of all residents in our communities.”

According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, nearly one million people in New York City live with a disability, a group comprising 12 percent of the city’s population. They are twice as likely to be living in poverty as those without disabilities, 30 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Co-developed and supported by founding corporate partner Citi Community Development, EmpoweredNYC is a collaboration between MOPD, OFE, National Disability Institute, The Poses Family Foundation, and Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City to test, adopt and promote new solutions throughout New York City. DCA, which operates the City’s NYC Financial Empowerment Centers that provide free, professional financial counseling, will oversee the program management of EmpoweredNYC, as well as design and implement a new training for financial counselors, along with a new approach to financial counseling intended to reach more individuals and families with disabilities. The City will use the insights gained to better reach the community and tailor its services.

EmpoweredNYC will employ a consultative, three-tier approach to advance financial capability and counseling for people with disabilities and their families:

  • Tier 1: Broad engagement and education. Nonprofit service providers, caseworkers, and others will engage in developing information and training to better understand and address individual’s financial situations, deliver a consistent message about financial capability and benefits (including the paths to and rewards of work), make appropriate referrals to one-on-one financial counseling, and strengthen service providers' competence in serving people with disabilities.
  • Tier 2: Revolutionized one-on-one financial counseling with new expertise, outreach and tools. This tier will pilot a new financial counseling model comprising trainings, tools, and strategies customized to provide meaningful one-on-one guidance to people with disabilities.
  • Tier 3: Specialized benefits support services for people transitioning to work. This tier will focus on strengthening the provision of in-depth financial and benefits guidance for people with disabilities seeking to transition to employment.

EmpoweredNYC will also create a learning community for newly trained counselors and service providers, as well as contain a robust evaluation, and citywide marketing campaign to promote the new services and the overall initiative. To guide this multi-faceted program, an NYC Advisory Board composed of commissioners from various City agencies and senior leaders from government, nonprofits, philanthropy, and the private sector will be assembled. Advisory Board members will bring expertise in municipal strategies, financial capability, and disability community priorities to inform the new strategies, programs, and services.

“EmpoweredNYC couldn’t come at a better time,” said MOPD Commissioner Victor Calise. “In the face of the federal government’s current position on benefits, fear among many people with disabilities has intensified. Reducing reliance on Social Security would be catastrophic for people with disabilities. But we’ll respond with sustainable, well-paid employment opportunities and resources for financial empowerment. With the right resources and our current partners, people with disabilities can ease their fears and become contributing tax-payers and included members of society.”

“DCA’s Office of Financial Empowerment assists New Yorkers by developing and offering innovative programs and products to increase access to high-quality, low-cost financial education and counseling, safe and affordable mainstream banking, and access to income-boosting tax credits and savings,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “We know that New Yorkers living with disabilities face unique financial challenges. That is why the City of New York is embarking on this new partnership to help people living with disabilities become more financially secure through revolutionized one-on-one financial counseling. We are committed to developing new strategies like this that help all New Yorkers achieve financial health.”

“When all New Yorkers can fully benefit from all of our City’s educational, cultural and economic opportunities, we all benefit,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, Chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC.  ”With access to training, counseling and expanded resources New Yorkers with disabilities and their families will have more of the tools they need to lead successful, independent lives.”

"We know that financial inclusion is critically important to New Yorkers with disabilities, many of whom face significant financial insecurity. This public-private partnership will propel our work forward to develop new ways of achieving broader inclusion of all of our citizens by leveling the economic playing field," said Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships. "New York City has always been at the cutting edge of new models for equity. With this new initiative, undergirded by the generous support of our long-time collaborators at Citi Community Development, we are pleased to be at the forefront of such important work."  

“Talking about money is very difficult, almost frightening. It is deeply personal and not easy to share with others. People who are poor, including a disproportionate number of people with disabilities, feel powerless about their finances,” said Judith Heumann, Senior Fellow, Ford Foundation. “The Empowered Cities initiative will give people with disabilities the knowledge and confidence to make wise financial decisions to gain more control and choice over their lives. Empowered Cities is about engaging all of us to change our expectations, our thinking and our actions. I applaud Citi Community Development and the City of New York for moving forward with this important initiative.”

“The Mayor’s Fund is proud to support this timely initiative to revolutionize financial capability and counseling for individuals with disabilities,” said Darren Bloch, the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “This collaborative work will develop tools, services, and strategies to enhance financial capability and inclusion of New Yorkers with disabilities and create a foundation for ongoing efforts nationwide.”

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About Citi Community Development

Citi Community Development leads Citi’s commitment to financial inclusion and economic empowerment for underserved individuals, families and communities across the U.S. Through innovative collaborations with municipalities, community groups and leading nonprofit organizations, we harness Citi’s expertise, products and services to help expand opportunity for all.

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About National Disability Institute

National Disability Institute (NDI) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building a better economic future for people with disabilities. The first national organization committed exclusively to championing economic empowerment, financial education, asset development and financial stability for all persons with disabilities, NDI affects change through public education, policy development, training, technical assistance and innovative initiatives. NDI and its Real Economic Impact (REI) Network have helped more than 2.3 million people with disabilities receive nearly $2.3 billion in tax refunds and credits. To learn more, visit Engage with NDI on Facebook: RealEconImpact or follow NDI on Twitter: @RealEconImpact. Take the pledge to DISABLE POVERTY at

About the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

The Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), in operation since 1972, works to ensure that New Yorkers with disabilities can lead happy, healthy and productive lives and works hand-in-hand with other City offices and over 50 agencies to ensure that the voice of the disabled community is represented and that City programs and policies address the needs of the nearly one million New Yorkers with disabilities and the 6.8 million people with disabilities visiting New York City every year. In addition, the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities works with organizations on specific issues affecting people with disabilities, and aims to bring about dialogue that leads to meaningful outcomes for those living with disabilities. MOPD’s strives to make NYC the most accessible city in the world. For more information about MOPD, call 311, visit, or find it on social media, Twitter or Facebook

About the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs

The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCA protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCA empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.