​ Financial Empowerment for the Underserved: An Interview with Adrian Gomez of United Way of Pueblo County, Bank On Pueblo County, a component of United Way of Pueblo County located in Pueblo, CO

Financial Empowerment for the Underserved: An Interview with Adrian Gomez of United Way of Pueblo County, Bank On Pueblo County 


Bank On Pueblo County, a component of United Way of Pueblo County located in Pueblo, Colorado, is a coalition working to increase financial wellness efforts in the community. We interviewed Program Coordinator, Adrian Gomez, to learn more about the organization (a Prosperity Now Community Champion!), their Bank On Program, advocacy efforts and goals for 2024.

Tell us some background about yourself – how did you get started with your organization? 

I am Adrian Gomez, Bank On Pueblo County Program Coordinator and lead the Bank On Pueblo County Coalition for United Way of Pueblo County (UWPC) to improve financial literacy and stability. Being a native of Pueblo, Colorado and a Colorado State University Alumni I know the importance of moving the needle on economic mobility in our community.  

The COVID-19 pandemic made me evaluate my career and evaluate the impact I wanted to make in my community. As a result, I became a member of the UWPC team in January of 2022. Joining the team has awarded me with the opportunity to have more resources and support as I continue the work to increase financial awareness in the Pueblo community.  

The organization currently partners with the City of Pueblo to establish financial literacy workshops for residents. In addition, we are working towards expanding meaningful long-term partnerships with community agencies to provide safe, functional, and affordable banking services in Pueblo and its surrounding communities. 

I serve on advisory boards for the Colorado Bank On program, housed in the Colorado Office of Financial Empowerment and Protection, as well as the Bank On Denver Coalition which puts me in the position to collaborate with regional and statewide stakeholders. These partnerships also help maximize efforts that elevate the Bank On Movement.  

What drives you to do work to close the racial wealth gap? 

The most inspiring thing about my role is witnessing collaboration across coalition members and the impact this collaboration has in creating a brighter financial future for all in our community.  

This impacts me personally being an 8th generation Pueblo and Southern Colorado native with a diverse racial background. Being born to teen parents and growing up in a large, low-income family of color, I saw how my parents worked hard to become financially stable to eliminate the need for government assistance, housing, and social services. This experience and realizing my ancestors lived in the Pueblo community before banking institutions were established in the area led to my interest in working to help underserved and disadvantaged communities become financially aware, educated, and stable.  

Learning about racial inequity issues, generational poverty, lack of financial education and pay gaps, to name a few, are topics that I have a lifelong interest in and results in me working to create opportunities for people in our community from all walks of life.  

What work is your organization doing in the community? 

United Way of Pueblo County’s mission is to serve as a trusted community leader by leveraging resources in support of collaborative solutions.  

We have four priority pillars: Crisis Intervention, Youth Success, Economic Mobility and Opportunity, and Nonprofit Capacity Development.   

  • The Economic Mobility and Opportunity pillar has seen incredible expansion since the start of the pandemic and includes Bank On Pueblo County, Pueblo Financial Empowerment Center (FEC), and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Through these programs, we are connecting unbanked residents with safe, affordable, and functional banking services as well as offering free one-on-one, individualized financial coaching, and income tax preparation at no cost.  

  • The Crisis Intervention pillar focuses on addressing basic needs and emergency situations including resource navigation, rent/mortgage, utility and food assistance, domestic violence and child abuse prevention and response.   

  • The Youth Success pillar houses the Middle School Mentoring Program and coordination of the Pueblo Mentoring Collaborative (PMC). 

  • The Nonprofit Capacity Development pillar encompasses the Nonprofit LEAD Center, Community Impact Internship/Fellowship Program, technical assistance, and fiscal sponsorships. 

What are some strengths of your organization? 

As United Way of Pueblo County (UWPC) celebrates 100 years, we proudly recognize that since 1923 our organization has been called upon to fill a critical role in the community from providing basic needs to helping create and build opportunities that will have lasting effects. While the organization has undergone many name changes over time: the Community Chest, United Fund, and finally, United Way, the focus has remained constant—to serve those in our community, build resiliency, and make this region a better place for all those who call it home. Simultaneously, UWPC has facilitated collaboration to support one another in times of need and advocated for equity, strengthening, and healing for all in our community. UWPC has been able to adapt to the changing needs of our community and make sound, strategic investments in programs that help with systematic change and results. UWPC annually partners with more than 75 area nonprofit organizations (NPO’s) through strategic partnerships, program support, and grant awards. In just the past five years, UWPC has leveraged over $17.6 million in funds raised, emergency assistance administration, in-kind contributions, volunteer time, and dollars put back into the community through our outreach/programs.  

What policies, strategies, or programs are you advocating for at the state, local or federal level? 

Locally, statewide, and at the national level, we are advocating for financial empowerment for all and especially for commonly disadvantaged and underserved populations. We work to advance and elevate financial empowerment resources and issues within our networks, corporate, governmental and nonprofit partnerships. Bank On Pueblo County has made strides in connecting migrant farm workers, foster youth, women and children, BIPOC communities and households with low-to moderate-incomes, and the community at-large to our certified bank and credit union accounts.  

Nationally, we look to organizations such as Prosperity Now and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to further inform statistical data of trends and lend credibility to the importance of amplifying this work. 

What challenges is your organization and community currently facing? 

Like many communities in our state and nation, we are attempting to support multi-faceted needs with ever-shrinking resources. Individuals and families in our community are being crippled by inflation-led, high costs of living and stagnant wages. Now, more than in recent years, retaining one’s disposable income is important. Pueblo County has an unbanked rate of 5% and an underbanked rate of 14%. As we know, unbanked households typically spend more than 10% of their income, or $40,000 in a lifetime, on alternative banking services fees, Bank On Pueblo County is hoping to close the gap for these individuals by connecting them with certified accounts that help keep hard-earned dollars in their pockets. 

We are committed to addressing additional financial stability challenges by taking Bank On Pueblo County one step further with referring those in need to financial coaching with the potential to build and/or change financial habits that can unlock financial freedom in ways some may never have imagined.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted broad inequities ranging from technology access and use, lack of ability to weather an emergency, and need for additional programming to foster positive youth development. People in our community are struggling to stay afloat. 

What are your organizational goals for the coming year? 

  • Open a new location for United Way of Pueblo County operations and to expand upon services and supports to serve as a catalyst to nonprofit community partners through the Nonprofit LEAD Center. 
  • Increase program specific grant funding and general operations dollars to support the work of UWPC. 
  • Continue hosting the Financial Empowerment Center - Launched in October 2023, we look forward to witnessing a full year of FEC services to evaluate successes and identify opportunities for improvement. 
  • Gain additional certified financial institution partners for Bank On Pueblo County and expand coalition operations to be more member-led. 
  • Host an additional AmeriCorps NCCC team to partner with VITA volunteers to file more than 3,300 returns and increase amount/reach to Child Tax and Earned Income Tax Credit eligible households. 
  • Increase the number of community volunteer mentors for the Middle School Mentoring Program by 25 for the 2024-2025 school year.