Wealth-Building Program To Expand Into 15 Additional States

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WASHINGTON - As the National Credit Union Foundation officially takes the reins of REAL Solutions from the Filene Research Institute, league officials in 12 states have confirmed that they will participate.

"We are growing faster than our expectations," Lois Kitsch, REAL Solutions program Director, told the Credit Union Journal. "We expect to have 15 leagues involved by the end of the first quarter of 2007."

Kitsch and Jeff Purvis, Program Administrator, transferred from Filene to become employees of NCUF to oversee what will become the agency's signature program. Kitsch, who moved to Baltimore from Florida to be closer to NCUF's Washington office, said that among her present goals is creation of a team of field coaches who will work with leagues to offer REAL Solutions products and services designed to help credit unions attract new members in their states.

Filene first launched REAL Solutions in 2004 in an attempt to increase credit unions' ability to make an impact on low-wealth households by aligning products and services that meet their needs.

They include payday lending, check-cashing services, SAFE accounts, VITA programs and asset-building products.

Filene's intent was to spin off REAL Solutions to an organization that could expand the program countrywide, Kitsch said, adding the NCUF provided the perfect transition.

With NCUF's support, she said her team will develop new partnerships with leagues, provide national workshops so participants can experience finances through the eyes of low-wealth members, boost participation in a payday lending alternative with a low annual fee, and provide a service database that will share best practices on how credit unions are succeeding in this arena.

The team is planning a league orientation program at the end of the month to give participating league officials and overview of REAL Solutions and the products and services available and ready to pass on to member credit unions.

Wisconsin, Ohio and Maryland/D.C. leagues were the first to join Filene's efforts. Kitsch said other leagues that have confirmed participation include Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Virginia. (c) 2007 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com

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