Northwest Credit Unions and NWCUF Partner to Provide Timely Financial Assistance

11/13/2020

Credit unions are founded on the “People Helping People” philosophy. That core principle was never more apparent than it was this year, as people looked to credit unions for support.

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early this spring, and in September, when wildfires ravaged parts of the Northwest, thousands found themselves in need of financial assistance. In true cooperative spirit, credit unions answered the call.

Emergency Loan Products Distribute More than $550,000 to Families

COVID-19 touched every person’s life this year, but in some Northwest communities, it caused particular hardship, including those reliant on the agricultural and service industries. Across the region, philanthropic organizations recognized the disproportionate need and looked for ways to invest in organizations who could directly support those who were struggling to pay rent, keep the lights on, and put food on the table.

Working in partnership with the Northwest Credit Union Foundation, funders and credit unions combined forces, contributing funds that made the Emergency Loan Program possible. Credit unions in the Yakima Valley, Southwest Idaho, Portland, and the Puget Sound region began offering a 0% interest personal loan, providing much needed assistance to those who were furloughed, laid off, or economically impacted from the virus.

“Credit unions know how to best serve their members. The Foundation followed their lead, working with our funding partners to provide additional resources that would support the innovative approaches credit unions were already taking,” said NWCUF Executive Director, Sharee Adkins.

As of this fall, 243 households have received emergency assistance through the Emergency Loan Program and Portland credit unions, totaling $574,920 distributed in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

Stephanie Tocher, VP of Lending with Connections, said the credit union has helped 63 families across Southeast Idaho.

“We loaned out $152,504 in funds through the program to 39 existing members and 24 new members,” she said. “We served individuals that were in the service industry that had hours reduced, self-employed borrowers, and even an attorney that had a reduction in income due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Express Credit Union in Seattle also wanted to find more ways to help. Through the loan program, the credit union provided 30 households with emergency funds.

“We were very excited for the chance to participate in this loan program because it meant we could provide added support to those who didn’t receive state or federal aid along with providing additional support to the rest of our membership,” said Elizabeth Escobar, Chief Business Officer. “We were able to approve loans outside of our normal underwriting, which meant we could provide assistance to those who had be laid off or let go due to their employer shutting down, or had a lower than our minimum credit score who maybe wouldn’t have qualified for a personal loan with us otherwise.”

Wildfires Relief Comes Just in Time

Later this year, as COVID-19 continued to impact millions in the Northwest, wildfires swept through the region, burning more than 1,000,000 acres and forcing over 40,000 from their homes. Once again, credit unions raised their hands to help.

They, along with business partners and individual donors, contributed more than $100,000 to the Foundation’s Disaster Relief Program in September. Funds were immediately dispersed to credit union employees who were forced to evacuate or lost their homes.

“There’s a reason I’m a credit union lifer – it all comes back to being about people – our members, our employees and our communities,” said Alisha Oliver with NW Preferred Federal Credit Union in Tigard, Oregon. “I am humbled by the outpouring of support and care our communities have received — both from within in and beyond.”

As the fires raged, credit union employees fled their homes and faced unexpected expenses, including hotel and travel costs. Through  generous donations, 45 people and eight credit unions impacted by the fires received immediate, much-needed assistance.

Recently, credit unions voiced their appreciation in a video, thanking all who gave during a difficult time.

“Credit unions, individual donors, and business partners came through in true ‘People Helping People’ spirit to bring relief,” Adkins said. “The outpouring of generosity was nothing short of amazing.”

Do you want to help strengthen the financial lives of people across the Northwest? Visit the Northwest Credit Union Foundation online to learn more and become a donor today!