In An Economically Challenged Region, A Federal Grant Helps One CU Reach Out

In An Economically Challenged Region, A Federal Grant Helps One CU Reach Out

In An Economically Challenged Region, A Federal Grant Helps One CU Reach Out

Jar with money spilling outPeninsula Credit Union is based in Shelton, Washington and serves 17,500 members in an area with numerous financially disadvantaged households. Many of these are unbanked or underbanked. A $2 million Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) grant recently gave the credit union additional resources to help fulfill its mission. In the words of Peninsula President/CEO Jim Morrell, this includes reaching out to its communities “whether low to moderate income or wealthy, unbanked or underbanked, by listening to people, serving their financial needs with affordable financial services, and helping to achieve financial stability.”

The CDFI fund tapped by Peninsula CU was established by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to promote economic revitalization in low-income communities. The fund applies federal resources to invest in local financial institutions and build their capacity to serve low-income people and communities that lack access to affordable financial products and services.

Grant Comes at Critical Time

“The grant comes at a critical time due to continued high unemployment, plant closures and a growing sense of financial insecurity in our service area,” said Morrell. About 12.6% of the regional population lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census, and the FDIC reports that in 2013 about 50,000 households were considered unbanked.

Peninsula is the only financial institution in 2015 to receive a CDFI grant in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and one of only 31 credit unions nationwide to receive the grant.

“The grant will enable us to provide more affordable loans to lower income families,” said Morrell. “In the next five years, we plan to provide an additional $42 million in loans to people who today may not be able to borrow even at reasonable interest rates, if at all. By helping to bring affordable loans to families in need, we hope to help revitalize the local economy at the same time.”

A Bevy of Helpful Programs

Peninsula CU has previously introduced innovative programs to serve the region’s lower income and underbanked/unbanked populations. The programs include such products as “Borrow and Save,” which can help members extricate themselves from the sky-high interest of payday check cashing; and “Save to Win,” a prize-linked program to promote the value of savings.

Peninsula CU is also a participant in the CO-OP ATM and CO-OP Shared Branch networks, ensuring that all members have convenient, fee-free access to their accounts, wherever they may be in the state or nation. CO-OP ATM has 30,000 ATMs nationwide, including more than 1,200 in Washington State; and CO-OP Shared Branch offers 5,200 branch locations across the country, including more than 200 in the state.

In addition to meeting the immediate needs of families, the CDFI effort holds broader, longer term potential. In Morrell’s words, “Peninsula CU will also dedicate part of the CDFI grant to increase our work in financial education and outreach to people who may not otherwise have access to those services with the goal of enriching their lives and helping them to achieve financial stability.”

Read more about how CO-OP-client credit unions are pursuing their social mission in the white paper available here.