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'It Can't End Here'

TAMPA, Fla.-NCUA showcased a variety of ways credit unions can work with advocacy groups and government agencies to improve the communities they serve at a recent Economic Empowerment Summit here.

The Summit was part of the regulator's Access Across America (AAA) initiative that was founded by former Chairman Dennis Dollar and is being carried on by current Chairman JoAnn Johnson. The goal is to encourage credit unions to reach out to the underserved.

In addition to the speakers and programs highlighted on this page, other speakers included representatives from the FDIC's CDFI program, the IRS, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and NCUA.

"The key to these economic empowerment seminars is that it can't end here," Johnson told The Credit Union Journal. "It requires action on the part of the credit unions here today." -By Lisa Freeman

For More Info:

NCUA's Access Accross America: www.ncua.gov.

1. GUS Is In The House

TAMPA, Fla.-The U.S Department of Agriculture's Single Family Housing Guarantee Program was created to establish and maintain successful relationships with lenders and other real estate professionals to help serve rural and low- to moderate-income homebuyers.

The advantages the program offers, said Daryl Cooper of the USDA's Single Family Housing Guarantee Program. include over-par premium pricing, 100% LTV for the first mortgage guaranteed loan, no mortgage insurance premiums, government fixed rate 30-year loan and no cash reserves. USDA is also working on creating the Guarnteed Underwriting System (GUS), an online application that allows lenders the to upload loan applications directly into the system. GUS will then analyze the credit probability and eligibility of the applicant, with lenders and reply to lenders within 30 minutes. Unlike other guaranteed loan programs, this program cannot advertise.

"We hope you will spread the word about this program and get involved," he said.

For More Info

U.S. Department of Agriculture: www.usda.gov

2. Teaching Teachers Finances

TAMPA, Fla.-The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) is a private national foundation created to improve the financial well-being of all Americans, primarily through financial literacy education efforts. CUNA, along with numerous credit unions, has teamed up with NEFE to help promote financial literacy.

One of the typical challenges faced by the NEFE high school program is getting schools to sign on for the program because many teachers aren't "fluent" in financial literacy themselves and are not comfortable teaching this subject, according to NEFE Director of High School Financial Planning Programs, Elizabeth Schiever.

When one credit union attendee detailed how it only managed to get a small number of teachers interested in learning more about the program so they could begin teaching the subject matter, Schiever suggested that is not only a common experience-but it can be turned into a positive.

"Sometimes, what it takes is for just a few teachers to show interest, and then it grows from there," she related. "You are planting the seeds. As one or two teachers begin to buy into the program, you'll see more interest from other teachers. Don't give up, yet."

For More Info:

National Endowmnet for Financial Education: www.nefe.org.

3. From Flames Comes A Spark

TAMPA, Fla.-Operation Hope was founded immediately after the 1992 riots in South Central Los Angeles by investment banker John Bryant, who grew up in South Central. With his success as a banker, Bryant moved to Malibu, but turned on the TV to see his old neighborhood burning amidst the riots. He made it his mission to help revitalize the area by bringing the banks back to South Central LA.

As Operation Hope SVP Jena Roscoe explained, at the time of the riot there were a handful of CUs and a single bank serving the area. Operation Hope helped bring mainstream financial institutions back to the beleaguered neighborhood, and today the organization is in a variety of underserved neighborhoods across the country. Operation Hope has partnered with NAFCU, Wescom CU, Alliant CU, Tower FCU, Navy FCU, Pentagon FCU, Bank Fund Staff FCU, Northwest FCU and others.

One goal of the program is to increase homeownership among the underserved. Currently, Operation Hope has been providing opportunities for credit unions to work in the FEMA tents sprouting up across Florida following the four hurricanes that have devastated the state. "We want to help the victims of the storms rebuild their lives," Roscoe said.

For More Info:

Operation Hope: www.operationhope.org

4. Revitalizing Homeowners Helps Revitalize Their CUs

TAMPA, Fla.-A Congressionally funded, nonprofit organization since 1978, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation's aim is to revitalize older, urban neighborhoods. One of the key ways to do this is to increase the number of homeowners, because homeowners have a vested interest in seeing a neighborhood thrive, according to Donna Tally of NRC's NeighborWorks Homeownership Center. The NeighborWorks Homeownership Centers offer a one-stop shop for everything a new home buyer needs: loan products, insurance products, appraisal services and more through the NRC's industry partners. Would-be homeowners benefit from learning what it takes to buy a home and a keep a home by having access to quality financial services partners, and the financial services partners benefit by being matched up with new home buyers who are not only interested in the products, but also being educated in how to use them properly, Tally said.

For More Info:

Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation: www.nw.org

5. High Schoolers Getting Failing Grades On Finances

TAMPA, Fla.-The Jump$tart Coalition is dedicated to promoting financial literacy among students. "High school graduates are ill-prepared to make basic financial decisions," said Bill Cheeks, regional director of Jump$tart, noting the coalition tests students across the country every two years, and thus far, American students' financial literacy rates have gotten a failing grade. Students planning on going to college tend to score higher than students who will immediately enter the workforce upon graduating from high school. While that may be good news for college-bound students, it indicates that the students who are most in need of financial education at the high school level are not getting the knowledge about how money works in high school. "Credit unions are our major partners across the country," Cheeks added.

For More Info:

Jump$tart Coalition: www.jumpstart.org

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