Cutting Edge and Consolidated Community Credit Unions Among Four Awarded CDFI Grants


The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) recently awarded grants to several Northwest credit unions, enabling them to implement services that will directly benefit their members and the communities they serve.

Milwaukie, Ore.-based Cutting Edge Credit Union (CECU) was awarded $600,000 to expand its affordable used auto loan program for low-income members, and Portland-based Consolidated Community Credit Union (CCCU) plans to use its $700,000 grant to expand its real estate lending programs. In addition, Lower Valley Credit Union was awarded $600,000 and Freedom Northwest Credit Union received $700,000.

“The biggest reason so many Northwest credit unions are successful with grant applications is they are mission driven,” said John Trull, AVP of Regulatory Advocacy with the Northwest Credit Union Association. “The boards and management understand they have a responsibility to serve their most vulnerable members. These credit unions are willing to invest in members who might not traditionally qualify for a home loan, car loan, or other form of consumer loan to achieve financial success.”

Cutting Edge, a Select Employee Groups (SEG), $46 million asset, 4,183-member credit union serves the employees of Blount International, a company manufacturing saw chains and other instruments used globally in the forestry, agriculture, and outdoor industries.

“Blount employees work around the clock, running three shifts, so public transportation is not an option for some of our members,” said Brady Howe, President and CEO. “They need reliable transportation.”

Many of the members CECU has proudly served for nearly seven decades are low- to moderate-income people, living paycheck to paycheck, Howe said. When the CDFI funds arrive in the summer of 2019, Howe expects the credit union will be able to positively transform the lives of up to 1,000 members.

“We have research showing that if financial stress is reduced, it helps people at work. They’re more productive, and more likely to be on time. If we can help provide reliable transportation, that reduces some of the stress in their families,” Howe said.

Affordable used car loans provided by CECU will help its members to avoid non-traditional financial services providers such as “Buy Here, Pay Here,” auto dealers, check cashers, and payday lenders who often charge outlandish interest rates.

Howe announced the grant also will enable CECU to expand on its partnership with its community partner, Exceed Enterprises, to offer financial education to adults with diverse abilities.

“CECU is honored to have been selected to receive this important source of funding,” Howe said. “We’re beyond excited for the opportunity to continue to live the credit union mission to serve the underserved.”

Expanding Real Estate Lending at Consolidated

Larry Ellifritz, President and CEO of Consolidated CCU, said his credit union’s CDFI proposal was “based on lending money to individuals of moderate means that have been displaced from traditional home financing.”

“Specifically, we will be rolling out a 100 percent loan product, a construction and development Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) loan, and a non-citizen product that will help fill some much-needed gaps an inefficiencies in the conforming loan markets. Our goal is to invest over $20 million in these low-income areas.”

Consolidated received its CDFI designation in June. The credit union has more than 14,800 members and $235 million in assets. The credit union also processes mortgage loans for 35 credit unions across the Northwest, through its subsidiary Consolidated Mortgage Group.

“With affordable housing and home buyer education being such a need in Portland, applying to become a CDFI was a natural fit,” Ellifritz said. “Real estate lending is the area we can make the most significant impact on our community. Our goals are to assist 135 families that would normally be displaced by the traditional lending markets to obtain over $24 million in loans.”

The NWCUA guides credit unions through the CDFI certification, low-income designation, and the minority depository certification processes. In addition, through NWCUA’s Strategic Link, credit unions can connect with Scott Butterfield at Your Credit Union Partner. Butterfield is a low-income-designation and CDFI expert, and has assisted credit unions across the country, helping them get access to secondary capital and large grants.

National Credit Union Administration Grants

In other recent grant news, the NCUA awarded $2 million to help 203 low-income credit unions improve digital services and security, increase outreach to underserved communities, and train employees. Of the 203 credit unions that received NCUA grants, 18 are in the Northwest, with a grants totaling $156,300. Those credit unions include:


Connections CU – Digital Services and Security – $4,900

Desert Sage FCU – Digital Services and Security – $10,000

Lewis Clark CU – Leadership Development – $10,000

Simplot Employees CU – Digital Services and Security – $10,000


Central Willamette CU – Underserved Outreach – $20,000

Consolidated Community CU – Digital Services and Security – $10,000

Cutting Edge CU – Leadership Development – $10,000

Gateway CU – Digital Services and Security – $10,000

IBEW & United Workers FCU – Digital Services and Security – $10,000

Linn-Co FCU – Digital Services and Security – $10,000

Ironworkers USA FCU – Digital Services and Security – $10,000

Trailhead CU – Leadership Development – $8,000


Calcoe FCU – Leadership Development – $10,000

Lighthouse Community CU – Leadership Development – $10,000

EvergreenDirect CU – WA – Leadership Development – $6,300

Express CU – WA – Digital Services and Security – $10,000

Mt. Rainier FCU – Leadership Development – $10,000

Spokane Media FCU – Digital Services and Security – $2,000

“We look forward to seeing the impact these funds will make on credit unions’ growth,” said Carmen Vigil, NWCUA Director of Corporate Momentum. “Your Association is here to assist in project planning, including ways to utilize awards. We’re also happy to help answer questions about next steps, reporting, or the reimbursement process.”

Forty-four of NCUA’s grant recipients are first-time awardees, and 28 are minority depository institutions. A total of 243 credit unions made grant requests of $2.5 million in this year’s grant round.

“These are investments in fundamentals: protecting credit unions and their members, expanding access to affordable financial services, and building human capital,” NCUA Board Chairman J. Mark McWatters said. “In particular, helping credit unions detect and defend against cyberattacks is essential to keeping members safe and the financial system secure.”

Posted in Community Impact.