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Each year, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and First Lady Kathy Evers honor individuals and organizations for “elevating the financial literacy, capability, and financial Inclusion of Wisconsin’s residents.”
Of the nine individuals and 12 organizations to receive 2022 Governor’s Financial Literacy Awards, five represent the credit union movement, including two credit unions, one league, one foundation, and one employee. Gundersen Credit Union, Prime Financial Credit Union, the Wisconsin Credit Union League, the Marine Credit Union Foundation, and Marine Credit Union’s Zach Hancock received their awards during an April 2023 ceremony at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.
“Financial education gives people the tools they need to achieve their dreams, expand their opportunities, and attain financial security for themselves and their families,” Evers says. “The dedication of these individuals and organizations to help Wisconsinites become more financially secure and achieve their dreams is commendable, and helps ensure not only the future success of individuals and families, but our entire state.”
Read on about the award winners:
The $61 million asset credit union in La Crosse developed a program to assist domestic violence victims with low-rate loans. Participants use the funds to make down payments on apartments, obtain transportation, purchase essential items, and more.
The program allows individuals to open checking and savings accounts solely in their name while they receive credit report reviews and budget assistance to improve their financial well-being.
The $146 million asset credit union in Cudahy was recognized for its commitment to serving the Hispanic community, specifically those who lack a Social Security number. More than 30% of Prime Financial’s employees are bilingual, enabling them to build member relationships and provide better financial education.
Plus, as a certified acceptance agent for the IRS, the credit union assisted 82 individuals in obtaining traditional savings and checking accounts.
The league incentivizes regular saving with Saver’s Sweepstakes®, a prize-linked savings account offered to Wisconsin credit unions. For each $25 a member deposits in grows their monthly balance in a qualified savings account, they earn one entry into a monthly drawing, one entry into a quarterly drawing, and one entry into an annual drawing.
As of April 2023, Saver’s Sweepstakes® had 27 participating credit unions, 15,253 accounts, an average account balance of $1,806, and a collective savings of $27.5 billion.
The charitable arm of $1 billion asset Marine Credit Union in La Crosse was honored for creating “Finding HOME.” The free, long-term financial education and homeownership program is designed for people who traditionally fall through the cracks of existing programs.
Finding HOME, which has served more than 300 households since 2018, includes one-on-one financial coaching, educational courses, and resource navigation assistance. Program graduates are guaranteed access to a market-rate mortgage that fits their spending plan.
Hancock, a senior loan officer and certified financial coach, co-created a financial education course that he teaches to incarcerated individuals at the La Crosse County Jail. The course, created in collaboration with Western Technical College’s Project Proven, aims to prevent recidivism.
It also allows students to receive credit for prior learning in personal finance while improving their long-term financial well-being.
Read more about Hancock’s program, motivations, and goals in this recent CUNA News profile, where he says, “Just because you've been to jail doesn't make you a bad person. I wanted to find a way to help them. They're taking that opportunity to better themselves. It’s a great journey to watch.”