“This loan will serve as a bridge between the crisis of today and the promise of tomorrow.”
St. Louis, MO - The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on St. Louis have been vast, collecting victims not only from severe physical health complications, and struggling mental health, but also significant economic hardship. In the month of April, local unemployment sharply increased from 3% to over 11%, leaving over 100,000 St. Louisans without reliable income to protect their families. To aid in ensuring families have access to safe capital at such a significant time, the Community Impact Network and 1st Financial Federal Credit Union, a local Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), have strategically partnered to deploy $100,000 in no interest, fee-free income replacement loans to people living in the Normandy Schools Collaborative boundary.
Throughout the remainder of 2020, the two organizations will work strategically to provide free credit counseling and personal loans to mimic one month of lost income for families that reside in the 63121 or 63133 zip code. The loans were designed by both organizations to be highly accessible, not taking credit score into consideration for approval. Borrowers are only required to show proof of residency and proof of previous income through a bank statement or pay stubs.
In its day-to-day work, the Community Impact Network convenes a variety of partners in order to help organize and facilitate the delivery of resources and services for people living in the Normandy Schools Collaborative footprint. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the St. Louis area, the Network formed and funded an emergency relief task force which included Operation Food Search, the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank, Affinia Healthcare, Beyond Housing, United 4 Children, the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, and the Normandy Schools Collaborative. These partners received grant funding from the Network for immediate needs within the community—collectively addressing issues including food insecurity, rent and utility assistance, COVID-19 testing, and more.
In response to local COVID-19 economic hardship, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union deployed over $714K in Payroll Protection Program loans to small businesses and provided loan payment deferments for more than $27M in consumer loans. As a not for profit, locally-owned St. Louis CDFI, 1st Financial is wholly focused on providing financial tools which have previously been inaccessible or designed to fail.
“A partnership between these two organizations allows us both to leverage every dollar into much more than an interest-free loan”, says Carol Minges, CEO of 1st Financial Federal Credit Union. “We can also provide access to free high yield savings products, free credit counseling, checking account access, and credit-building tools. A collaboration of two mission-aligned organizations such as these allows us to pinpoint struggling communities and offer relief in a way that is completely unique”.
Unbanked consumers in St. Louis spend approximately 5% to cash payroll checks, often turning to payday or installment lenders for access to small emergency loans with an average effective interest rate of 455% in Missouri (Progress Missouri 2015). In many areas of St. Louis, the number of alternative financial service providers (check cashers, title lenders, and payday lenders) far exceeds the number of bank and credit union branches.
Minges went on to say, “We believe that every community deserves a credit union branch and a safe place to borrow for their home and auto. But until we can afford to build that branch, we can efficiently partner with local nonprofits who specialize in disenfranchised communities and help them serve in effective and targeted ways”
Managing Director of the Community Impact Network, Jaison McCall said “The Community Impact Network is excited to work in partnership with 1st Financial Federal Credit Union in the creation of this program for the Normandy Schools Collaborative community. While we’ve heard from our partners serving the area, it was important to hear from the community and provide what they’ve expressed as a need. It is important, especially during our current pandemic, to offer easily accessible financial assistance, however, with this partnership, we purpose to offer more than just an interest-free loan. This loan, accompanied with financial coaching and access to healthy financial relationship with a financial institution, serves as a gateway for families to get back on track or take the next step forward. This loan will serve as a bridge between the crisis of today and the promise of tomorrow.”
Anyone interested in learning more about this interest-free income replacement loan should reach out to Ashley Fischer of 1st Financial Federal Credit Union at AFisher@1stFinancialFCU.org or (636) 896-8235.
About 1st Financial Federal Credit Union
Established in 1968, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union is full-service community development financial cooperative whose mission is to improve the financial well-being of its members. With assets exceeding $250 million, 1st Financial serves more than 35,000 people in the community of St. Louis and St. Charles. For more information about 1st Financial Federal Credit Union, visit www.thebetterwaytobank.org.