Health & City Services

Protecting Consumers

To help low-income New Yorkers manage and save their money, Mike Bloomberg created the Office of Financial Empowerment, which launched 25 Financial Empowerment Centers across the city. The centers have been replicated by the federal government in cities across the country.

Financial Empowerment Centers
Created 25 Financial Empowerment Centers that help low-income New Yorkers save and pay down debt.
Tax Credit Campaign
Orchestrated a Tax Credit Campaign that helped New Yorkers claim about $20 billion in Federal, State and City refunds.
Online licensing
Online licensing became available for all 55 industries' Department of Consumer Affairs licenses.

Progress: Protecting Consumers

EDUCATING AND EMPOWERING NEW YORKERS

Office of Financial Empowerment: Created in 2006, this was the first local government initiative in the nation with a mission to educate, empower, and protect New Yorkers with low incomes so they can build assets and make the most of their financial resources.

Financial Empowerment Centers: The Bloomberg administration created the centers to help clients with money management, budgeting, credit counseling, negotiating with creditors, finding affordable banking services, and dealing with debt. They offered these services in multiple languages. From when the pilot opened in 2008 to 2013, the program grew to more than 25 centers and financial counselors have:

  • Conducted more than 44,414 counseling sessions

  • Served more than 26,048 clients

  • Reviewed credit reports with over 19,000 clients

  • Helped New York City residents reduce more than $14.7 million in debt

  • Increased savings nearly $2.4 million

Tax Credit Campaign: The City’s campaign helped New Yorkers claim almost $20 billion in Federal, State and City refunds, including $1 billion directly through the City’s network of free and low cost tax prep sites.

$aveNYC and SaveUSA: A National Tax Time Savings Program: Beginning in 2008, more than 7,000 tax filers participated in the SaveUSA (originally $aveNYC) program. Despite having average incomes of less than $20,000, nearly one-third of SaveUSA participants pledged to save the maximum amount, nearly 75 percent saved for the full year and received the match, and about 40 percent of participants chose to save again the following year.

Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Coalition: Founded in 2008 with former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the twelve CFE cities provided leadership and guidance on how cities can galvanize resources and focused attention on critical issues regarding financial stability. 

Protect Your Money Campaign: In 2010, DCA launched a series of public awareness campaigns under the umbrella of “Protect Your Money” to educate New Yorkers about the services offered to help consumers and business owners protect their hard-earned dollars. 

Identity Theft Prevention Initiative: Beginning in 2008, the annual Shred Fest event helped almost 12,000 New Yorkers shred more than 270 tons of paper.

MAKING IT EASIER TO DO BUSINESS

Online Licensing: Business owners could access licensing services online through the Business Toolbox online.

Business Education Day: The Department of Consumer Affairs visited businesses during its annual Business Education Day to educate them about how to comply with the law without issuing violations.

Industry-Specific Open Houses: In 2011, the Department of Consumer Affairs launched a series of industry-specific, after hours Open Houses to support the 55 industries licensed by DCA. More than 600 business owners attended these events feature to review licensing laws and regulations and enforcement issues.

Reduction in Licensing Requirements/Slashed Wait Times: The City aggressively streamlined license applications, reducing overall requirements by 40 percent.

Sidewalk Café Licensing Overhaul: The City streamlined the sidewalk cafe licensing process, reducing a six-agency, 465 day approval process down to just one agency in an average of 85 days.

Live Chat: In December 2012, the City launched Live Chat, an online opportunity for businesses to ask questions and get answers every day during business hours.

ENFORCEMENT

Debt Collection Reform: In 2009, the Bloomberg administration secured passage of a local law requiring debt collection agencies to adhere to basic guidelines regulating their interaction with New Yorkers.

Undercover Teen Tobacco Enforcement: Compliance from bodegas and small businesses went from 52 percent when the program began in 1998 to 91%.

Inspection Overhaul: DCA Inspectors were deployed from borough offices and cross-trained to enable them to enforce all DCA regulations, which reduced unnecessary visits by inspectors.