In addition to asking about how individuals have been financially impacted by COVID-19, the Morning Consult survey also asked about people’s financial needs during this time. Specifically, the Morning Consult survey asked what financial solutions would be most helpful. Restructuring loans and mortgages to lower monthly payments, delaying payments on existing home mortgages and loans, and cash donations to local charity groups (e.g., local food banks, shelters, medical clinics) emerged as the most helpful (i.e., “very helpful”) for all adults and across income and racial/ethnic groups. By contrast, a smaller percentage of all U.S. adults irrespective of income or racial/ethnic group say that that small-dollar loans with 3 months deferred payment would be a very helpful financial solution. By far the largest percentage of Black adults say that a 90-day credit card payment deferral would be a very helpful financial solution.
Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of all socioeconomic levels are often underserved, face additional barriers, and may have different preferences and needs when it comes to financial services, according to the Filene Research Institute.
We know the COVID-19 crisis is threatening the financial health of households of color and low-income households, rendering both particularly vulnerable. Using a DEI lens in our efforts to meet the needs of our most vulnerable members will help to ensure we explicitly consider their situation and are intentional in our efforts to address their needs.
Here are six ways to use a DEI lens in crafting responses to COVID-19 to help our most vulnerable members and staff:
Credit unions across the nation have quickly responded to the COVID-19 crisis with a robust suite of responses that line up with the financial needs expressed by consumers. Take stock of particular challenges vulnerable populations face to ensure that you’re responsive to their needs.
These challenges include:
Credit unions can support vulnerable populations during these difficult financial times by continuing to provide financial counseling and debt consolidation assistance.
When making changes to your organization, products, and services, ask who benefits. How are you supporting the most vulnerable? Who might be harmed? What unintentional consequences should you consider?
Consider insights your frontline staff may have regarding member needs. They will have a finger on the pulse of a dynamic environment.
If you have members who are non-English speakers, translate your COVID-19 communications into the relevant language and make it accessible via multiple channels (i.e., website, email, and flyers posted in branches). Coopera, for example, has developed useful COVID-19 related Spanish-language resources for credit unions.
Also, consider staffing your branches and phone lines with bilingual staff so non-English speaking members can receive equitable service.
Some members may not have smartphones, tablets, or computers. This poses a barrier to their access to online banking and information about their credit union’s COVID-19 response.
Drive-thru windows, ATMs, phone service, and informational flyers posted on credit union branch doors/windows are a few ways to address this challenge.
Staff members who are asked to work remotely may similarly not have access to technology or internet service, making loaner laptops and assistance with access to internet service important.
This will be critical to staff morale. This means creating a virtual community through regular virtual updates and check-ins where you listen to staff about how they’re feeling, acknowledge their critical role on the front lines, reaffirm your commitment to keeping employees safe, and ask what the credit union can do to make sure they have what they need to continue to serve members.
For more on inclusive leadership during a pandemic, check out this article by the Filene Research Institute.
We are living in highly uncertain times with no playbook to follow. So, connecting with others who face similar challenges may ease our burden.
This might mean connecting with peers at other credit unions through virtual check-ins, emails, or phone calls. Or credit union leadership and staff could share how they’re juggling working from home on their own or with kids (the two- or four-legged variety).
Recognize that uncertainty and moments of crisis are incredibly stressful. Make time to tend to your own physical and emotional needs. Doing so allows all of us to refuel and bring our best and most authentic self to work.
Recognize that while all of us are affected, Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income people are among the most vulnerable. Using a DEI lens to develop our response to COVID-19 will ensure we explicitly consider the needs of our most vulnerable members and staff and work to support them.
Our cooperative values, people-helping-people philosophy, and democratic structure mean our success is bound up in that of our members. Ultimately, all will benefit when we work to support the most vulnerable.
We’re in this together.