A center to help residents in North Lake Charles with their finances is set to open in early 2021, officials announced at a press conference Wednesday.

The microbranch facility, or financial empowerment center, will be housed inside the Southwest Louisiana Center for Health Services, 2000 Opelousas St. It is a partnership with the health services center and the Southwest Louisiana Credit Union, both of which are area nonprofits.

Chad Miller, SWLA Credit Union CEO, said residents can't become financially educated without "convenient access to financial services." He said the microbranch will mainly focus on providing financial education and counseling, with residents being able to open accounts, make deposits and fill out loan applications.

"We always realize that people want a hand up, not a hand out," he said. "Everyone deserves financial empowerment and can benefit from that. We want to be your go-to for all those right answers for what to do with your money."

The center will also include an interactive branch kiosk, an ATM to take care of transactions that are usually done in person.

JayVon Muhammad, CEO for the SWLA Center for Health Services, said one of the poor social determinants of health is lacking access to financial education and opportunities. She said the microbranch will serve as a vehicle for North Lake Charles residents to take control of their finances

"I can envision the community being empowered and learning to become homeowners and save money and invest in things," Muhammad said. "They can begin to achieve the economic status that we need to be more successful … so our community can have equal access to opportunity."

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Online: swlacu.com, swlahealth.org

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