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ST. PAUL, Minn. – Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union here has reached out to Minnesota’s entire unemployed segment with an array of products to help them through a tough financial stretch. “At Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, our charge is clear – do whatever is right for the member,” said Dave Larson, director of branch services for the $800 million institution that has 110,000 members. “Each and every employee of our company is empowered to work with members to determine and implement personalized financial solutions that will ease them through financial hardship,” he added. Specialized services include gap loans between past and current income, short-term hardship loans, consolidation loans, interest-only payments on existing loans, deferring payments, and waiving fees, he explained. And the services are not available to only those who find themselves in financial difficulty because of employment problems. Other reasons include divorce, illness, the loss of a loved one, serving in the military, etc., the credit union said Because Affinity has a state-wide charter, the credit union said that one of every two Minnesotans is eligible to become a member and take advantage of the special financial hardship services. Elizabeth Hayes, senior vice president for corporate development at Affinity said the credit union, which was founded in 1930 as State Capitol Credit Union, had a long-standing relationship with state government and state employees that facilitated it having roughly 1,000 SEGs. Essentially, almost everyone that is part of something that gets money from the state, either directly or indirectly, is eligible to become a member, she explained. That means that workers in state hospitals, higher education employees, students and their families and many others can join Affinity, she said. Those who cannot join from their association with a school or place of employment can do so by becoming a client of the Affinity Plus Foundation, a non-profit organization the credit union founded to further financial education and personal financial management, she added. While this close connection to the state carried benefits in good times, Hayes admitted that downturns in the state’s economy has brought bad times too. “With so many state employees among our members, we have seen many laid off because of budget cuts and funding shortfalls around the state,” she said. This downturn did not give birth to the idea of personalizing services to the unemployed, Hayes explained, but it sharpened the personalized approach the credit union had already started to develop. She said the credit union remained committed to its members and potential members going through hard times financially because Affinity had discovered that members who are helped during the rough times would remember the credit union when their circumstances improve. “We recognize that they are not going to be unemployed and struggling forever,” Hayes said, “and when they are back on their feet again and needing other financial services, they will remember us.” Hayes could not estimate how many Minnesotans might become Affinity members because of the credit union’s services to the unemployed. [email protected]

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