RACINE, Wis. — Racine Mayor Cory Mason announced the launch of the state’s first Financial Empowerment Center Monday, promising Racine residents free, one-on-one professional financial counseling as a public service.

FECs across the country are assisting residents struggling with COVID’s economic challenges,” Mason said. “We know the Racine FEC will do the same.”

The new service will offer low and middle-income residents guidance on managing finances and debt, increasing savings, and improving credit to qualify for loans and other banking products. Funding for the FEC comes from local and national groups, as well as a grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. Racine applied to the CFE Fund to establish a financial empowerment center, and worked for 14 months after its selection to prepare for its launch.

Racine begins with two full-time financial counselors, Curtis Szymczak and Xenia Jackson, who both grew up in the city. They will conduct one-on-one consultations through virtual meetings from their offices in the Racine Public Library.

Jackson, who is Hispanic and offers bilingual financial counseling, said her own experience growing up in a lower-income household motivated her to get involved with the FEC.

“I think if I had a service like this, or someone who could help me, I would have been a lot further along financially,” she said.

An initial appointment with the Racine FEC will last 60 to 90 minutes, reviewing a client’s credit and setting goals and expectations for their financial future. Jackson and Szymczak expressed hope to work with any person in Racine feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by their economic situation, especially if pride has prevented them from seeking professional advice in the past.

“Don’t let that get in the way,” Jackson said. “This is completely judgment-free, confidential, secure and we are here to help you from Day 1.”

Racine residents can schedule an appointment at racinefec.org.