PHILADELPHIA (9/24/15)--Two community development credit unions have been awarded $1.725 million each in NEXT Opportunity Award grants to expand their products and services in the low-income communities they serve.
Freedom First FCU (FFFCU) in Roanoke, Va., a previous 2014 NEXT Opportunity Seed Capital Award recipient, this year was granted $1.725 million to expand its new low-cost workforce development loan to tackle high poverty and unemployment rates in rural Virginia.
FFFCU’s loan, which was piloted with a tractor-trailer training program partner, offers affordable short-term financing for job certificate or licensing programs that provide individuals a better opportunity to obtain or advance in jobs with livable wages. The loan also exposes borrowers to FFFCU’s full range of financial products and services.
The credit union will use the grant to expand the loan to more fields such as healthcare and welding through partnerships with additional employers.
Lower East Side People’s FCU (LESPFCU), New York, won its $1.725 million award to expand its range of consumer financial products and services to three neighborhoods: Manhattan’s East Harlem, Jackson Height in Queens, and Staten Island’s North Shore. The areas need affordable, responsible financial services, loans and education.
LESPFCU’s expansion strategy includes opening new branches, expanding its innovative mobile bus services and developing new community partnerships in the three neighborhoods. The strategy can serve as a model for other CDCUs. Its membership is primarily low-income immigrant communities.
The credit unions were among six community development institutions and individuals granted a total of nearly $6 million in awards to improve product offerings and services to consumers. Funds were provided by Wells Fargo.
They demonstrated how their common-sense budgeting, savings and credit products can address more than one-fourth of the nation’s households that are turning to high-cost financial products and services because they do not have access to responsible ones. The awards aim to transform how the underbanked and unbanked in Native, immigrant, rural and urban communities receive responsible personal financial products and services.