Credit unions across the country are expanding into poor communities.
Since July 1994, when the federal government liberalized membership rules, 28 credit unions have moved into low-income communities with a total population of 580,963, according to the National Credit Union Administration.
In December, two credit unions that expanded weren't venturing into the unknown: They were reaching out to people in their backyard.
Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, Universal City, Tex., added the town of Seguin to its membership base.
The town, with a population of 18,853, is near one of the credit union's sponsors, Randolph Air Force Base. The $696.3 million-asset institution had a presence in Seguin because many of the residents are military or civilian personnel of the base, said credit union spokesman Chris O'Connor.
The credit union decided to reach out to the whole town after finding the average income of Seguin was below the national average, which complied with the NCUA's definition of a low-income community.
ASI Federal Credit Union - which originally served employees of Avondale Shipyards Inc., now called Avondale Industries - extended service to all residents of Westwego, La., where it is based. The town's population is 11,297.
"We are in the community, we are one of the few financial institutions in the community, we felt it was a natural step," said Audrey D. Cerise, chief executive of the $76.1 million-asset institution.n