Belleville Hosts Launch Of New Finance Program For Veterans — Friday, July 20, 2012

Belleville Times

New Jersey veterans who served their country in past conflicts, or are just returning home from action overseas, will now have access to financial advice thanks to a new initiative unveiled Friday in Belleville.

The Financial Resource Education and Empowerment (FREE) Program for Veterans was launched on Friday morning by New Jersey Citizen Action, the state's largest citizen rights watchdog organization, with seed funding provided by Citi Community Development. A kickoff event was held at the American Legion Post 299 on Belmont Avenue in Belleville, and was highlighted by an appearance by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.

The FREE Program is designed to provide financial education workshops and one-on-one financial and housing consultation for veterans in New Jersey, along with other financial matters such as banking, budgeting and credit.

"The return of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan has called attention to the huge need for comprehensive financial education and counseling services for veterans and their families across New Jersey who are often faced with numerous financial barriers," said NJCA executive director Phyllis Salowe-Kaye in a statement. "The launch of this program gives us the opportunity to serve all veterans and their families across the state."

"Veterans are deservedly among the most respected and revered members of this nation, but we need to do more than salute them for their duty," said Menendez. "Many return to find a complicated financial system which they have to navigate alone. This program makes sure they aren't alone."

Also speaking about the program on Friday at the American Legion were Citi Senior Manager Robert Annibale and Community Development State Director Helen Steblecki, U. S Army National Guard medic and Essex Community College Urban Institute Director Dr. Margaret Stevens, Commission of Women Veteran Mary Bencivenga, and Vietnam veterans Ken Dalton and Greg Payton.

The FREE program is also designed to provide veterans with foreclosure prevention counseling, along with workshops on predatory lending, scams, fraud and housing discrimination, including aiding those veterans who are homeless.

"In a country that has so much wealth, the word homeless should not even be in our vocabulary, and the words homeless and veteran should never be seen together," said Dalton.

Copyright 2012 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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