NCUF Innovation Grant Will Help Union Workers Avoid Job Losses

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To help union workers learn new skills and avoid job losses, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has approved an Innovation Grant of $20,000 to The Union Credit Union.

This NCUF Innovation Grant aims to expand The Union Credit Union’s “Step-Up Program” to more than 500 local labor unions representing 549,000 workers.

“To our knowledge, this innovative program is the first to address workforce development before early intervention,” emphasized The Union Credit Union CEO Demaris Krummel. “The Step-Up Program helps workers access higher education, develop new skills, and take the next step in life: transitioning their education and skills with the changing economy to proactively avoid job displacement and find new career opportunities.”
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Krummel revealed that “The staff and board of The Union Credit Union are inspired by NCUF’s REAL Solutions® program. The concept of our program stems from best practices established by REAL Solutions® and Ed Filene’s revolutionary idea to bring the first financial cooperative to the U.S. to serve his employees. Filene was also the first U.S. employer to unionize his employees and support them in collective bargaining.”

The Step-Up Program employs two strategies consistent with the deployment of REAL Solutions®:
  • Delivering high-quality financial education to people of modest means.

  • Krummel explained how by leveraging The Union Credit Union’s partnerships with unions, the Step-Up Program reaches “working people at their place of employment to help union members achieve financial independence. Union members learn about budgeting and saving, how to increase credit scores, retirement planning, the truth about payday lenders and credit card debt… and much more. Financial education at the workplace can influence behavior over a lifetime of spending and saving.”

  • Delivering innovative financial products and services to people of modest means.

  • The Union Credit Union provides unique “Step-Up Loans” at members’ workplaces and in union halls. These loans help potentially displaced workers finance continuing education and skills transition without using costly credit cards. “This innovative product deployment and affordable service approach attracts new credit union members,” Krummel observed, “while addressing the real needs of working people, the union community, and the American economy.”

    Credit Unions Can Help Union Workers Nationwide

    America’s 15.3 million unionized workers account for 12% of the total U.S. workforce. Washington is the only state where union membership has grown throughout this century, where 2.7 million unionized workers account for 20% of Washington's workforce.

    “Trade union members specifically have difficulty obtaining loans,” Krummel related. “They typically have multiple employers in a short period of time, which labels them as ‘high-risk’ borrowers and makes completing loan applications difficult. The trend of merging credit unions with union select employee groups (SEGs) into community chartered credit unions unintentionally leaves union workers underserved. Union leaders and The Union Credit Union understand this and can fulfill this need by taking education and affordable loans to the workplace.”

    Krummel suggested that the Step-Up Program “can be replicated by any credit union serving union members or workplace SEGs. It’s an innovative solution to the needs of working Americans in the rapidly changing economy.”

    Third of 14 NCUF Innovation Grants

    This is the third of 14 Innovation Grants to be approved by NCUF in 2008. These grants are made possible by investments in the Community Investment Fund (CIF).
    Click to see how to invest in CIF!During the 2008 Innovation Grants application cycle, NCUF received 41 applications requesting over $2.2 million in funding. This was nearly four times the $600,000 budgeted for Innovation Grants through the CIF.

    “Grant requests were much higher this year because the needs are much greater,” relates NCUF Deputy Director Steve Bosack, the Foundation’s staff liaison to the NCUF Grants Committee. “More credit unions are seeking innovative ways to serve people with low wealth and modest means.”

    “More credit unions than ever are investing in the Community Investment Fund,” points out NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin. “Yet here’s the paradox: even though CIF balances reached an all-time high, the fund has returned a much lower percentage of grant dollars in 2008. This is due to federal interest rate cuts from January through September. So especially during these challenging economic times, we thank all 650-plus CIF investors, the NCUF Board and Grants Committee for allowing us to maintain our $600,000 in Innovation Grant commitments and reward credit unions serving low-wealth households.”
    Click here to see how to invest in CIF!