Wisconsin Credit Unions Honored Nationally for Doing What’s Right, Regardless of Profit

PEWAUKEE, Wis., Nov. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Wisconsin credit unions’ work to develop services that meet pressing needs in communities statewide has captured BEST OF SHOW honors as part of the American Association of Credit Union Leagues’ Pro Award competition. Through their REAL Solutions initiative, Wisconsin’s not-for-profit, member-owned credit unions help real Wisconsinites build financially strong, self-supporting families and communities regardless of whether they can profit by doing so. For example, credit unions offer:

— Affordable loans. Credit unions make loans whenever possible to meet members’ needs, even if the loan is for a few hundred dollars or less. This is an important way for people to establish or re-build creditworthiness or just make it until payday — a growing need in Wisconsin.

— Alternatives to predatory financial services. Credit unions have saved Wisconsin consumers $1 million in fees by offering short-term loans for less than half what payday lenders charge. But beyond cost savings, credit unions counsel borrowers to make better financial choices and transition them over time to more traditional loans charging lower rates. Credit unions also offer lower cost alternatives for check-cashing.

— Safe, reasonable mortgages. As part of their Home Loan Payment Relief (HLPR, or “helper”) program, credit unions are making below-market-rate mortgages available to first-time homebuyers with household incomes at or below the median in their market. The three-year ARM adjusts annually to market rates and caps interest rate increases at one percentage point a year and five percentage points over the life of the loan. This helps borrowers avoid the kind of interest rate shocks that can make monthly payments unmanageable and lead to foreclosure. Essentially, credit unions are eating mortgage costs to help people obtain and keep a home.

— Financial education. Wisconsin credit unions are providing free to all Wisconsin’s public high schools this fall the brass|STUDENT PROGRAM, a personal finance initiative that promotes responsible financial management to high school students through the lifestyle money magazine brass, produced for young adults by young adults. The program includes free online teaching resources – including classroom activities based on state teaching standards – and credit union scholarships for students. Credit unions also operate more than 70 branches in schools to encourage saving and teach responsible use of credit. Credit unions also offer free financial workshops and seminars, deliver presentations on personal finance, provide financial tools online and more. They also sponsor Wisconsin teachers to attend an annual workshop that helps them improve personal finance lessons, and provide the free High School Financial Planning Program curriculum, including teacher’s guides and student workbooks, to schools and local agencies.

— Financial intervention. Credit unions refer their members to state-regulated offices of Consumer Credit Counseling Services for assistance with debt and money management. Many also offer a class called “Get Checking” to help members establish or re-acquire checking account privileges.

— Outreach to other cultures, new Americans. Wisconsin credit unions are creating and tailoring services to address our state’s expanding diversity. Innovative services that help Native Americans, the Hmong community, and Wisconsin’s growing Latino population are growing daily. This unique outreach is especially helpful to new Americans, many of whom don’t trust or understand our financial system. For example, credit unions are opening “safe accounts,” that can help recent immigrants. They’re also facilitating lower-cost wire services and translating information about loans.

— Creative partnerships. By partnering with local businesses, non-profits, government agencies and others, credit unions are solving problems locally. For example, credit unions and Wisconsin counties have partnered to help single parents get loans for affordable used cars or child care so they can access or maintain employment. Another credit union has partnered with Goodwill Industries to offer an in-store alternative to high-cost payday loans and other services. And credit unions across Wisconsin are partnering with the state and AARP volunteers during tax time at free tax preparation assistance sites; by opening accounts into which a filer’s tax refund can be electronically deposited, credit unions offer a fast, no-cost alternative to predatory “refund anticipation loans.”

While these services do not drive profits, credit unions offer them as part of their mission as cooperatives. The purpose of not-for-profit credit unions is to serve members, not make profits.

Wisconsin credit unions’ REAL Solutions effort was previously recognized with a first-ever, 2006 Governor’s Award for Financial Literacy, an honor that acknowledges innovative financial literacy efforts that improve the financial health of Wisconsin’s citizens.

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Source: Wisconsin Credit Union League

CONTACT: Chris Olson of the Wisconsin Credit Union League,
[email protected]

Web Site: http://www.wcul.org/