NEW YORK -- Four community development credit unions have been chosen by New York City's Office of Financial Empowerment to work with previously unbanked low-income families and individuals through Opportunity NYC, a new incentivized savings account program. The pilot for the project also includes four banks.
The CDCUs that are offering the Opportunity NYC accounts during the current pilot phase are all headquartered in the New York City area: Bethex Federal Credit Union, Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union, Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union and Union Settlement Federal Credit Union.
The new starter accounts are offered on a "no fee" basis, have no minimum balance requirement, have no monthly fees, and provide all account holders with ATM cards. As an incentive, new account holders will receive $50 just for opening the accounts. Qualified low-income residents with existing bank accounts are also eligible to receive the $50 bonus.
"Community Development Credit Unions are a natural partner in this type of initiative," explained Cliff Rosenthal, executive director of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. "CDCUs are community-controlled financial cooperatives with strong ties to the neighborhoods in which they operate. Many CDCUs already provide financial education, business, and homeownership counseling services, and these new accounts should help them reach even further into the low-income communities they serve."
Jack Lawson, CEO of Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union, agreed. "Many people simply don't know about credit unions and the services we provide," Lawson said, "but this program brings people through our front doors so they can see the benefits of opening a new account and taking advantage of our services." Lawson said that new members typically find multiple ways that the credit union can help them save money. "Once a new member realizes that they are also a shareholder in this cooperative," he said, "they never want to pay fees to a check-casher or borrow from a payday lender again."