Florida's largest credit union is now a low-income credit union, according to its profile page on the NCUA's website.
Under federal statute, a low-income designated credit union can accept deposits from non-members, offer secondary capital accounts, add new member business loans above the statutory cap and apply for grants and loans from the NCUA and other federal agencies.
Perhaps most significantly, a low-income designation can be a key part in gaining recognition as a community development financial institution or CDFI by the U.S. Treasury. Recognized CDFI credit unions can apply for U.S. Treasury grants to help launch new product or service lines, or supplement its capital.
“As you might know, we changed to a community charter earlier this year and this is a natural follow on for our desire to focus on our community more effectively,” Suncoast CEO Tom Dorety told Credit Union Times. He added that Suncoast would use the designation to apply for grants to help finance affordable housing, work with migrant laborers and generally better serve the credit union's lower income members.
He also said Suncoast would apply to for recognition as a CDFI. If it attains the recognition, it will become the largest CDFI in the country.
Federally chartered credit unions can be recognized as low income credit unions if 50% plus one member of its membership qualifies as low income members. Low income members are defined, in part, as “members with a family income 80% or less than the median family income for the metropolitan area where they live or national metropolitan area, whichever is greater,” according to NCUA.
Dorety said state chartered Florida credit unions can be recognized as low income if the NCUA certifies that they qualify and the state regulator authorizes the designation.