Do I pay rent or buy food?
I’m behind on my mortgage, what do I do?
I can’t make my student loan payments.
If money concerns like these have overwhelmed you in recent months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic or for any reason, there is help. Free help. Available from Opportunity Alliance Nevada (OANV) and their team of Financial Navigators.
OANV is a non-profit organization focused on building sustainable communities to stabilize and improve the lives of individuals and families. They have brought together resources and people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to understand the barriers faced by struggling low- to moderate-income Nevadans and provide pathways to self-sufficiency. While OANV’s financial security agenda predates COVID-19, the pandemic has greatly increased the need for these services, leading them to fast-track development of the Financial Navigators program.
Who Are The Financial Navigators?
The Financial Navigators program is a one-on-one, virtual support service using knowledgeable volunteers. They are not licensed professionals, but caring community members who can work with you to help you better navigate the financial system to meet your needs.
Some volunteers work in industries such as banking, finance and real estate, but they don’t have to be finance professionals to work as Financial Navigators, as all volunteers are trained.
According to Alvin Odom, a volunteer Financial Navigator whose day job is Senior Manager of Diverse Markets at Charles Schwab Bank, empathy is the most important trait. “[Volunteers] simply need to be good listeners who want to connect struggling Nevadans with the financial resources specific to their situations,” he explains.
What Financial Navigators Can Do
“We talk to people daily whose outgoing expenses surpass their income,” explains Odom. “For many, as a result of losing jobs due to the pandemic. The core of what we do is centered on budgeting, which is the first step in charting the path toward financial security.”
Financial navigation is not financial assistance, but it can connect you with resources that support your financial health and the needs of daily living. Navigators maintain a comprehensive directory of federal, state and local resources clients can access to improve their financial stability. This directory is constantly being updated to reflect the latest government and local programs availability and eligibility.
“I was worried about paying my rent,” explains one former Financial Navigator client. “I was able to get help for my basic needs and receive guidance to better budget the funds I am receiving.”
Another client reports, “The volunteer Financial Navigators helped my family with resources and relief from the financial and emotional stress that many of us are currently facing.”
Referrable resources include:
- Rental assistance
- Mortgage relief
- HUD housing & credit counseling
- Food assistance
- Utilities assistance
- Workforce development
- Small Business Administration loans
- Bankers Association updates
How The Program Works
If you or someone you know could benefit from private and unbiased financial guidance, the program is easy to access and quick to begin. There is no eligibility requirement and at the time of this article’s writing, the turn-around time for Navigators to contact clients was 24 hours. It’s four basic steps, although a client and Navigator may communicate multiple times depending on the need:
- Contact OANV to request Navigation services (details below)
- A Financial Navigator will contact you
- You’ll complete a financial assessment
- Based on your assessment, the Financial Navigator will develop an individualized plan of action, including assistance programs that can help free up cash for other needs
Odom and the other Financial Navigators recognize that asking for help can be difficult for some, especially those who find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of economic hardship. The Navigators approach their clients through a lens of compassion.
According to Odom, “Through OANV programs, our fellow Nevadans will be treated with respect and dignity and assisted in finding available resources to help relieve financial stress.”
Financial Navigators are available right now to help, free of charge.
How To Get Started With Financial Navigator Support:
Request a Navigator:
For Spanish speakers
- Envíe un correo
- Llame directamente a un voluntario del Navegador de Finanza al (813) 567-8590
- Envíe un texto a un voluntario del Navegador de Finanza al (813) 567-8590
How To Volunteer As A Financial Navigator
The Financial Navigators program is free to users and relies on volunteers to make it a success. OANV seeks to build a diverse team that represent the people they serve and they welcome people from a variety of backgrounds, including, those in the financial industry (helps meet banks’ Community Reinvestment Act obligations to serve low- and moderate-income neighborhoods), retirees with good interpersonal skills, folks who have successfully recovered from their own economic hardship, or any compassionate person with some time to volunteer.
To learn more about OANV and the Financial Navigators program, visit their website.