March 17, 2017 – LSA hosted a celebration of a “pop-up” credit union financial health initiative, in collaboration with The Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment, the New Economy Project and the LES People’s Federal Credit Union.
The two main parts of the initiative are, first, the deployment of a mobile banking branch of the LES Credit Union – a 40-foot bus – to promote financial health in the neighborhood, with a focus on Spanish-speaking and immigrant members of the community. In addition, a team of community members recruited through LSA Family Health Service serve as financial health promoters, or promotoras. These promoters are peer educators who conduct workshops and speak with people one-on-one to provide information about financial rights and opportunities with respect to banking. They also share information about the LES Credit Union which is an affordable banking option in the community. The goal is to bridge the financial services divide by delivering reliable, accessible information and high-quality services in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Lorelai Salas of the Department of Consumer affairs attended and commended the work of the promotoras: “the promotoras do is key… and we are grateful to be working with them.”
The initiative began with workshops with community members to understand the needs in the neighborhood. As part of their training, promotoras visited all the banks in the community and discovered that many of them had fees and ID requirements that were prohibitive and kept people from opening accounts. “In East Harlem there is a financial divide,” said Deyanira Del Rio of The New Economy Project. “There are 2 pawn shops or check-cashing places for every bank… What we’re doing today is celebrating a campaign we designed to eliminate some of the barriers to financial opportunity.”
Alicia Portada of the LES People’s Federal Credit Union described how grateful the credit union was to work with the promotoras: “For us it has been a good lesson to get feedback. [The promotoras know about the financial dynamics in the community. It has also been an excellent outreach tool — we have reached more people than we would with a flyer or an email. I want to thank the women, and I really hope that we can continue to work together.”
Guillermina, one of the promotoras shared her own story in Spanish: “I am grateful because I had an account in a bank that charged me every month for being below the minimum. I didn’t know that I could have an account without those fees. When I learned, I changed my account and myself became part of the credit union.”
The pop-up mobile banking bus will be at LSA every Friday during the month of March for people who want to open account.