Credit unions in low-income communities recognize that meeting the financial needs of members often means going beyond simply offering products to also providing education and counseling to help their members utilize products effectively and reach their financial goals. Today more than 1/3 of the almost 2,000 low-income designated credit unions and 77% of the 173 CDFI-certified credit unions offer financial counseling. The commitment to financial empowerment is powerfully clear and every day we hear new stories of the tremendous effect that credit unions’ counseling programs are having on people’s lives. And yet, there is more to be done with nearly 68 million unbanked or underbanked Americans relying on costly and unproductive fringe financial products to meet their basic needs, getting people connected to credit union products and services is more important than ever.

When President and CEO, Cathie Mahon joined the Federation in October 2012, she vowed to help credit unions implement financial empowerment services as a top strategic priority. Ms. Mahon started and led the New York City Office of Financial Empowerment establishing more than 20 Financial Empowerment Centers offering free financial counseling and coaching throughout the city. She saw first-hand the impact of financial counseling and coaching on the lives of struggling New Yorkers, serving more than 25,000 people.

The Federation launched the Financial Capability Partnership Initiative with the Center for Financial Services Innovation in early 2013, connecting credit unions to non-profit social service providers to integrate credit union products and services for social service clients through financial counseling in three cities. This year the Federation will expand the financial capability and empowerment work to bring successful financial empowerment models to its members.

Read the full text from The Bridge