Despite the office being closed physically, Oakland County Michigan Works! staff have stayed busy with programs and assistance to help workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the office being closed physically, Oakland County Michigan Works! staff have stayed busy with programs and assistance to help workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Oakland County Michigan Works! hosts free yearlong financial fitness series

Program expands from one week to full year of workshops

By: Jonathan Shead | C&G Newspapers | Published April 10, 2021

 Career Advisor Heather McKenzie sits at her desk at the Troy office of Oakland County Michigan Works!

Career Advisor Heather McKenzie sits at her desk at the Troy office of Oakland County Michigan Works!

File photo by Deb Jacques

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Oakland County Michigan Works! annual weeklong Money Smart week programming, in partnership with the Federal Reserve, just got longer — by 51 weeks, to be exact.

“For the last six-seven years we’ve participated in Money Smart Week, which was a dedicated week every April in partnership with the Federal Reserve where we offered a week of financial wellness workshops to residents across Oakland County, but as we know, financial wellness and concerns last much more than one week, so we decided to expand it to a yearlong program,” Oakland County Michigan Works! Director Jennifer Llewellyn said.

“Obviously, people are feeling the pain from the pandemic last year, and we’ve got some great virtual platforms. We felt like this was a great opportunity for us to expand that financial wellness series to a yearlong program.”

For a lot of people across the county, the COVID-19 pandemic has been more than a health crisis, Llewellyn said. It’s been an economic crisis too. Job loss and unemployment spiked to roughly 19% at its peak last year during the pandemic, and others were dealing with work hour reductions or having to shutter their businesses and lay off staff.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, financial wellness is at the top of so many people’s minds and getting sound advice from leading experts in the field is important as we all move forward,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said in a press release. “I’m excited to see Oakland County Michigan Works! expand its popular week of free workshops into a full-year schedule. There really is something for everyone, and I hope people take full advantage of this opportunity.”

While some of the workshops may help individuals and families impacted by the pandemic regain some financial stability, Llewellyn said there will be financial topics and tips for almost everybody, regardless of their situation.

“We’re confident that in this lineup there’s something for everyone. Whether you were drastically impacted by the pandemic, or maybe you had a brief furlough, or even if it didn’t really impact them at all, this is a good opportunity to revisit,” she said. “I think it’s also an experience for all of us to take a step back and think if we’re really prepared for the future. If there’s another pandemic like this, are you and your family financially secure in case you’re impacted again in the future?”

The financial fitness workshops began April 6 with the topic “Realizing the American Dream: Achieving Home Ownership,” and it will continue on various dates throughout the year. Llewellyn said the organization currently has workshops slated through June 30.

“We’re going to monitor the attendance on some of the sessions and see where there’s the most demand. We’re going to start with this first quarter and tackle it a quarter at a time,” she said. “If there’s high demand for specific workshops, then we’ll continue to offer those over the course of the year, but we have so many great partners with credit unions, nonprofit organizations and banks that have been really gracious with sharing their subject matter experts with us. We’re really confident that it’s going to be a great lineup throughout the year.”

Later workshops will cover topics ranging from saving money on groceries; identity theft and fraud, which Llewellyn said is timely given the rise in unemployment fraud this past year; and providing resources for students for financial aid and other college funding, such as the Future for Frontliners scholarship or the Oakland 80 initiative, which supports residents earning industry-recognized credentials and degrees.

As we enter into Financial Literacy Month in April, Llewellyn said there’s no better time to reevaluate your financial wellness.

“This was, obviously, launched in conjunction with financial literacy month, and I think the timing of the stimulus checks, the timing of tax refunds as those start to come in, all those things are coming together, and as we come out of the backside of the pandemic, it’s a great opportunity to take a moment and revisit their financial wellness,” she said. “What are they doing with their tax check, assuming they don’t have to pay? What are they doing with their stimulus check and how are we being smart about that as we move into the rest of 2021?”

Llewellyn hopes this program empowers people with the knowledge to be prepared for any financial situations down the road. “It’s such a great opportunity for free workshops (and) free information. They’re interactive workshops. It’s not just sitting at a computer and listening. There are interactive, great ways to ask questions from the safety of your own home,” she said. “It’s a great way to learn at no cost and improve your financial trajectory.”

For more information and a complete list of financial fitness workshops, visit oakgov.com/workforce/Pages/Financial-Fitness.asp.

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