Markell signs bill creating Office of Financial Empowerment

DOVER — Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill Thursday that creates an independent state Office of Financial Empowerment within the Department of Health and Social Services.

The governor said the legislation will ensure the sustainability of the $tand By Me program, a financial empowerment program that has operated within DHSS for the past two years.

Gov. Markell was joined for the signing at Dover Downs by primary bill sponsor Rep. Michael Barbieri, $tand By Me program managers, coaches, and clients.

Gov. Jack Markell signed House Bill 10 into law at Dover Downs Thursday afternoon. The law codifies a State Office of Financial Empowerment within the Department of Health and Social Services. (Delaware State News photo by Arshon Howard)

Gov. Jack Markell signed House Bill 10 into law at Dover Downs Thursday afternoon. The law codifies a State Office of Financial Empowerment within the Department of Health and Social Services. (Delaware State News photo by Arshon Howard)

“$tand By Me has touched 30,000 people in Delaware,” the governor said. “This is why we do what we do. It gives people the foundation and stability to try and pursue a better life.”

The program is a coalition of community partners, led by the State of Delaware and United Way of Delaware. It was launched in 2011 in New Castle County, as the organization now offers services statewide.

Its mission is to provide Delawareans with a personal financial coach and a toolkit to navigate the challenges leading to personal financial security.

Rep. Barbieri said getting the bill passed was an easy decision for him.

“This is a wonderful program because of the people who run it and because of the coaches we have and who work it,” he said.

“It’s the way the government should work. It’s a partnership between government and business. It’s really been helping people.”

The program helped Waldemar Colon, a $tand By Me customer, to buy his first house.

“I was able to take advantage of the program,” Mr. Colon said. “About three years ago my wife and I wanted to buy a house and we didn’t have the credit scores we wanted, but thanks to the program I was able to improve that and buy my first house.

“I’m appreciative of the program for giving me a chance and helping me out.”

Gov. Markell said the program is one of the initiatives of which he is most proud.

“The number of people who have improved their credit scores, is absolutely amazing,” he said. “I want it to continue well beyond me. That’s what this bill is about. Thirty-thousand people in 4 years. Fast forward 10 years from now and see how many people we can help.

“These people may not remember our names, faces or this event, but they will know there were a whole bunch of volunteers, funders and coaches who made a commitment to do everything they could to make their lives better.”

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