Salt Lake City will use a $112,000 two-year grant to help consumers work through complaints involving landlord-tenant disputes, impounded vehicles, and suspect financial practices such as payday loans and fly-by-night contractors.
The city will use the money to develop a centralized clearinghouse that residents can contact to get direct assistance or be routed to the right agency, such as the state Division of Consumer Protection. A website is coming, but consumers can start getting help right away by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We want Salt Lake City residents to know their rights and make informed choices for themselves and their families,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a statement announcing the effort.
The majority of the expense will cover the two-year cost of one staffer to run the program, said Lisa Packwood, city director or revenue and collections. More funding might come after the initial two-year effort.
The city will fine-tune the program over time as it compiles data on the most prevalent complaints, Packwood said. That information could also lead to stronger consumer protection laws.
Salt Lake City is one of four cities that won financial backing from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, an initiative started by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and consumer advocates to help local governments enhance consumer protections for their residents. The fund emphasizes efforts to improve financial stability for low- and moderate-income households.
Seed money came from W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The other participating cities are Boston, Denver and Nashville.