Carne Ross, spokesman for the group of 10 activists that he said is behind the effort, told Credit Union Times on Thursday that while founding a credit union right away was an effort the group thought too time-consuming and expensive at the start, that should not be interpreted as meaning that group was against starting a credit union.
The group has said that it had ruled out immediately starting a credit union because credit unions carry field of membership restrictions, but Ross said that once its cooperative was up and running he could imagine it launching a credit union as a way of providing lower cost financial services.
“Certainly, nothing we are doing or saying should be taken as being against credit unions at all,” Ross said.
“We love credit unions and urge people to join one if they can,” he added, pointing out that he is already a member of the 5800 member, $36 million Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union.
Ross said the cooperative had just been incorporated in New York today and added the group was currently raising “several months” worth of operating expenses so that it could hire staff to get it up and running, a figure he estimated would run to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He also said the group had struck upon offering a prepaid card as the cooperative's first financial product because its relative ease of issuing and accessibility made it a good product for the millions of people who can't open credit union accounts.
“While we urge everyone to join a credit union, right now there are 10 million households in this country which can't do that,” Ross said. “The card provides them an easy and affordable way to start getting some financial services.”
He also pointed out that the card will help the cooperative grow and that rising numbers of card users will help make card services that much less expensive per card.
The cooperative will issue the card in partnership with another firm, likely a bank, but Ross would not comment further about which one it might be or what conditions such a card might face.
“Everyone will learn more details about the card when we offer it,” he said, adding that he would not oppose offering the card in partnership with a credit union.
Efforts by another group of Occupy activists in California to start a credit union, meanwhile, have stalled for lack of startup capital, its organizers said.