NEW YORK–Inclusiv, the organization formerly known as the National Federation of CDCUs, said it has launched “Bridging the Gaps: Promoting Financial Inclusion in Rural Communities,” a new financial empowerment initiative made possible in partnership with Capital One.
The program aims to expand financial inclusion and empowerment in rural, underserved areas of the Southeastern United States by providing capacity-building assistance to community development credit unions (CDCUs) embedded in these rural, economically challenged communities, according to Inclusiv.
“Currently in its pilot stage, the initiative awards grants alongside training and technical assistance to hyper-local CDCUs that provide asset-building financial products and services to individuals, families, and small businesses residing primarily in rural, persistent poverty communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana,” the organization said. “The initiative aims to expand the reach and impact of these hyper-local CDCUs through marketing and financial education support and to build their institutional capacity to meet the financial service needs of the rural communities they serve.”
5 CUs Selected
Five credit unions were selected based on their “deep commitment” to underserved communities, according to Inclusiv, including Citizens Choice Federal Credit Union in Natchez, Miss.; Demopolis FCU in Demopolis, Ala.; FOGCE FCU in Eutaw, Ala.; Phenix Pride FCU in Phenix City, Ala., and W.B.R.T. FCU in Port Allen, La. Each credit union is a low-income, minority-designated institution that serves the rural, mostly African-American population in their region, Inclusiv said.
Inslusiv said that since its inception in 1974, it has had a long legacy of promoting financial inclusion in the Southeast together with its member credit unions, state leagues, and fellow nonprofit partners. Collectively, Inclusiv said its network has 90 institutions in the 16 states that comprise the southeastern U.S. that serve 4.6 million low- and moderate-income individuals.
‘Significant Work to Do’
“We’re thrilled that Capital One is investing in expanding financial empowerment in the rural South through CDCUs,” said Cathie Mahon, Inclusiv president/CEO. “Financial inclusion and stability is a keystone of these community-based financial institutions. While we have made great strides, there is still a significant amount of work to do throughout the region. Through the introduction of this new initiative, we are pleased to be able to help bolster the efforts, expand the reach and deepen the impact of these rural CDCUs – the very institutions that have been, and will continue to be, at the forefront of leading this work in the communities they serve.”
In announcing the initiative, Inclusiv noted access to affordable financial services is an especially critical challenge in the South, which has high poverty rates and lower access to mainstream financial institutions than in than other parts of the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.4% of the total U.S. population had income below their respective poverty thresholds in 2017. In the same period, poverty rates of 18% or higher were seen in Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia, where costly alternative providers thrive, “draining precious resources from the communities that need them most,” Inclusiv said.