<p>WASHINGTON – NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar unveiled a new initiative, called Access Across America, whereby the agency will continue to streamline the procedures through which credit unions can add underserved areas to their fields of membership and “partner” with other federal agencies to help make sure that credit unions are able to do that. “Credit unions are already serving underserved members,” Dollar said. “Access Across America will help other credit unions understand better what they can do,” he said. Although details are sketchy, NCUA sources say the new program will aim to partner with other federal agencies to help them recognize credit union potential for serving underserved people as well as work with credit unions to make them more eligible for participating in other federal agency programs. The program will also seek to streamline still further the NCUA requirements for adding low-income areas, sources said. The previous time frame for adding a low-income area to a credit union field of membership used to be 12 to 18 months, Dollar said, now it has dropped to 6 to 8 weeks. Now it will drop even further, he said. “The long struggle to the American Dream for some becomes even more of a battle when they have no partner to work with them in dealing with the financial aspects of the fight,” Dollar said “The dream of home ownership, saving for a child’s college education, or investing for the future is seldom achieved when an individual’s primary financial institution is the local pawnshop, title loan company, or check-cashing outlet.” Dollar added that credit unions have a “long standing commitment to member service and volunteerism which makes them a natural partner for these communities” and that serving these communities is a “win-win” for the credit unions and those they serve. He also said that NCUA, as a regulator, would also be a “winner because we can match credit unions with needs for financial growth with communities who need for financial empowerment.”</p>

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