NU Online News Service, June 24, 11:20 a.m. EDT

New York City’s groundbreaking effort at financial education for the poor, which got off the ground with backing from an insurance charity, is expanding.

The city, it was announced, has opened three Financial Empowerment Centers to provide free financial counseling and education to those with low incomes.

The new bilingual centers, that offer help in English and Spanish, were opened in the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

The centers are a part of New York City’s Office of Financial Empowerment, the first local government initiative in the United States designed to financially educate and protect the city’s low-income residents.

The first Financial Empowerment Center, funded by the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, was created in March 2008 in the Melrose section of the Bronx.

The Office of Financial Empowerment said counselors at these centers help with budgeting, financial planning, credit problems, finding affordable banking services, government screenings, and referrals to other organizations and services.

The expansion of the three centers was announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as part of his Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan, designed to help New Yorkers deal with the economic downturn.