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Express CU helps break payday-lending cycle
SEATTLE (5/28/09)--The Express CU in Seattle is targeting thousands of people not served by any traditional bank to help break the payday lending cycle in the area, according to The Seattle Times (May 24). Roughly 20% of Seattle's adults don't have a bank account, reports a Brookings Institution study. Many of them use check-cashing outlets and payday lenders. Express CU, an $8.8 million asset credit union, is expanding with the help of the area's largest credit union, BECU, and a number of foundations that provide charitable support where needed. The credit union aims to bring back the best of old-fashioned neighborhood banks and services to help people better manage their money. Because getting to the bank is hurdle for many low-incomers, the credit union sends mobile community-service representatives into local communities. They set up shop and maintain regular hours at 16 nonprofiit offices such as Hopelink, Solid Ground, YWCA, Catholic Community Services and Neighborhood House. The representatives help people open accounts, deposit paychecks and apply for small loans, but they don't handle cash. Members go to the main office or use ATMs and BECU branches to get cash. By meeting people where they are and building on trust, Express is doing something no other financial institution has tried, Marilyn Mason-Plunkett, CEO of Hopelink, told the newspaper. Many people don't understand how financial services work, said Brenda Kurz, CEO of Express CU. "The bank models are focused on efficient ways to do business. That's different than monitoring and assisting folks with unique needs." The credit union hopes to expand to 7,500 members in King County in the next five years. It has raised $2.29 million in charitable support from the Medina Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Safeco Foundation and Boeing. BECU provides logistical support, such as legal, accounting and information technology services, at no cost for up to five years. Kurz told the Times the credit union hopes to be self-sustaining by its fourth year. The institution is 70 years old but recently expanded and reorganized to focus on helping people break the payday lending cycle. The article outlines how Express is different and interviews members about the services they've received. For the full article, use the link.
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