WASHINGTON (6/9/14/)--On the outside, Community Trust Prospera looks like an ordinary check-cashing service in a Latino community. On the inside, however, it holds a credit union and a commitment to people helping people--especially the low-income Latinos who live in the East San Jose, Calif., neighborhood.
The June 6 edition of National Journal featured the work of credit unions and credit union leaders in California, North Carolina, Iowa and Ohio who are bringing banking services to low-income communities.
Community Trust Prospera is a project of Self-Help FCU, $560 million in assets, and its Chief Financial Officer Randy Chambers said it's a "baby step" to get Latinos out of a cash-based world and into one where they can build wealth and credit. The first one opened in 2010, and now all six of the Durham, N.C. -based credit union's specialized divisions count a total 11,000 members and $1.3 million in savings, according to Chambers.
Thirty-six-year-old Darwin Moran first used Community Trust Prospera to cash his paychecks and wire money to his mother in El Salvador. At first, he didn't want an account, but, "I started to become friends with them and slowly I started to change my mind," Moran told National Journal.
He opened a savings and checking account three years ago and recently added a credit-building loan that increased his score by three points. "Fixing my credit and paying my debts was so important to me," he said.
National Journal also noted the relationship between the Credit Union National Association and Coopera, a Hispanic consulting firm located in Iowa.
Coopera CEO Miriam de Dios told the Journal she often teaches credit union employees to recognize the different types of foreign government-issued IDs to help the cash-only community become banked. "They have been missing out. By dealing in cash, you can't build credit. It affects what you pay in rent and your insurance," she said.
National Journal also highlighted President/CEO Sue Cuevas and Nueva Esperanza Community CU--the first one chartered by the state of Ohio to serve Latinos--in south Toledo, Ohio. Less than five years old, the $1.5 million-asset credit union serves about 400 members with savings accounts and personal and auto loans.