COVID-19 has challenged us all in many ways; for most, the financial challenges have been some of the hardest. Fortunately, the City of Norfolk has recognized the importance of financial literacy long before this crisis. In 2016 the City of Norfolk joined Bank On Hampton Roads to bring free financial literacy classes to our city. In this ten-month series, participants develop skills and behaviors to empower them to make smart decisions with their money. They attend monthly classes and personal coaching sessions that focus on budgeting, savings, paying debt, and understanding credit. Bank On participants, past and present, are now putting what they have learned to the ultimate test.
As COVID-19 rapidly started to change our lives and we all found ourselves at home practicing social distancing, the regional partners of Bank On responded quickly and transitioned the program to an online format. The monthly classes that took place at various community spaces throughout the cities are now being held virtually; monthly coaching sessions once held face to face are now done over the phone or virtually. Initial efforts were not without the technical difficulties that we can all relate to as we familiarize ourselves with virtual platforms; strange echoes that seem to come out of nowhere, frozen screens, and learning how to use the mute button. Yet everyone remained patient and understanding as we worked through (and laughed through) these hick-ups in order to get down to what really matters.
The program would be nothing without our volunteers who continue to show up as instructors, creating engaging and meaningful classes through Webex, and as coaches, who are finding new ways to connect one-on-one with their mentees. In addition to keeping our participants afloat and on track with their financial goals, classes and coaching sessions also offer the opportunity for assistance in navigating through all of the COVID-19 related updates; stimulus checks, postponed due dates, loan forbearance, and other opportunities available during this time. Further, they provide a place to exchange experiences, offer tips, and find support.
While we continue to execute our regularly scheduled Bank On program, the regional coalition has also been putting together a new five-month program that is set to launch in September. Surrounded by a very palpable reminder of the importance of financial literacy, our volunteers are motivated and working hard to fine tune our new program. It will bring the same financial empowerment and behavioral changes as our original ten-month program, but modified to a shorter version so that it is more approachable for more people. Look for more information and a chance to register later in the Summer on our website http://www.bankonhr.org/.
In the meantime, for those who are not enrolled in the Bank On program, you can check out our free virtual series, Master Your Money, which launched this week and goes through mid-June. Each week covers a different topic- from savings, budgeting, and spending plans, to understanding credit and negotiating with creditors. For more information on Bank On , contact NorfolkRC@norfolk.gov.