NCUA Grants Will Help Six Northwest Low-Income Credit Unions Offer New Products, Train Staffs and Extend Financial-Literacy Outreach

Many of the 5,000 members at Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Federal Credit Union have limited or no access to financial products from conventional financial institutions because of high unemployment in the construction industry, so they often turn to predatory lenders to cover short-term cash needs.

That’s why CEO Teri Robinson says the low-income credit union focuses aggressively on financial education, with a “Making Ends Meet” program and a partnership with three Ironworkers locals that “help us teach financially challenged members and non-members how to pay their bills, including making critical loan payments, even during tough times.”

Low-income credit unions like Ironworkers FCU are often the only source of insured financial services available to their members. And now, six of them in Oregon and Washington will be able to expand services, offer new products and provide additional educational opportunities thanks to grants awarded in August by the National Credit Union Administration.

“Low-income credit unions play an essential role in their communities, and supporting their work is a priority for NCUA,” says NCUA Board Chairman Debbie Matz. “The credit unions that receive these grants will be extending outreach, growing membership and improving income.”

NCUA awarded $871,597 to 126 low-income credit unions across the country through its 2013 Community Development Revolving Loan Fund. The fund was established by Congress to provide grants and loans to credit unions serving low-income communities; since 2001, it has awarded more than $10.4 million.

In Washington, this year’s grants went to:

  • Calcoe Federal Credit Union in Yakima: Calcoe will use its $2,495 grant for training, according to Debra Hickman, director of organizational development. One staff member will attend a six-week IRA training course and then mentor other staffers, and consultant Scott Butterfield will lead seminars on financial statements and risk management for the credit union’s board of directors.
  • Express Credit Union in Seattle: Express will use its $10,000 grant to develop and expand its financial literacy programs for low-income members, “many of whom have never had access to a safe place to put their money,” CEO Sharon Hall says. Express focuses on basic financial education, teaching members how to balance a checkbook, clean their credit, use a debit card, and more.
  • Longshore Federal Credit Union in Hoquiam: Longshore’s Lori Maki says the credit union will use its $1,164 grant to train volunteers and staff, including a subscription to online training materials from CUNA Mutual Group and a BSA Officer Certification Program. “We’re a full-service, two-person credit union, so this provides us a very useful opportunity,” Maki says. “It enables us to broaden our education so that we can not only provide better service to our members, but also look ahead to offering new services in the future.”
  • Lower Valley Credit Union in Sunnyside: Lower Valley used its $438 grant to help send CEO Suzy Fonseca to the Fiserv Forum in Las Vegas, according to risk management supervisor Josh Beck. Industry leaders at the conference discussed ways to use technology to improve payment and processing systems; prevent and mitigate risk; and attract, retain, and grow customer relationships.

Oregon grant recipients include:

  • Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Federal Credit Union in Portland: A $3,000 grant for CUNA’s Financial Counseling Certification Program will assure that every loan officer is certified, “allowing us to offer financial counseling not only during our seminars, but during every member interaction,” CEO Teri Robinson says. “And that will engrain financial education deeper into our credit union’s culture.”
  • Register Guard Employees Federal Credit Union in Springfield: Lee Ann Thompson, who helped write the grant proposal with CEO Carolyn Stahly, says the credit union will use the $13,900 grant to upgrade its home-banking services, including development of a mobile app.

Grants from the NCUA’s Community Development Revolving Loan Fund reinforce success at the community level, says William Myers, director of the Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives, which administers the funds.

“We’re supporting the kind of innovation,” Myers says, “that has a direct and positive result on people’s lives.”

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

Posted in Federal, NCUA.