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Houston Metropolitan FCU Receives CDFI Grant
Wednesday, December 23, 2015 7:00 AM

The Houston Metropolitan Federal Credit Union (HMFCU) has been awarded a grant by the U.S. Treasury Department, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. The HMFCU is a recognized CDFI with the mission of offering affordable financial products and services that meet the unique needs of economically underserved communities.

“Access to affordable financial products and services is critical to families and individuals who find themselves in an ever-widening circle of debt,” says HMFCU president Malcolm Rene. “One of the opportunities we see with these grant funds will be to attract those City of Houston employees, who are currently unbanked, to the many services offered by our credit union.”

Partnering with HMFCU is the Bank on Houston program, an initiative in the City Controller’s office. Bank on Houston works with area banks and credit unions as well as non-profit financial education agencies in assisting un-banked families and individuals build a relationship with a bank or credit union. There are 60 Bank On programs in the U.S.; Houston’s was initiated in 2008 by then-Controller Annise Parker.

“These grant funds will allow us to expand our offerings to our current member-owners and potential member-owners,” says Rene. “CDFIs can be a real lifeline in communities. In 2014 alone, CDFIs in the U.S. financed more than 28,000 affordable housing units and more than 9,000 small businesses and provided financial education services to more than a quarter million individuals and families.”

The partnership between the HMFCU and the City of Houston dates to December 2013, and a memo of understanding (MOU) signed by Mayor Annise Parker, Controller Ronald Green, and then-HMFCU president Barbara Stephens. Some of the objectives of that MOU are:

  1. create a broad community development program… which will benefit low-wage city workers;
  2. increase the credit scores of low-income City of Houston low-wage employees;
  3. decrease the number of predatory, rollover payday loans by low-wage COH employees;
  4. move low-income COH employees from debt to asset building; and
  5. resolve crisis financial situations for vulnerable COH employees and their families.

“That MOU was our impetus,” says former HMFCU President Barbara Stephens. “I knew the Treasury Department’s CDFI program had a mission fairly identical to ours. Credit unions are committed to the financial health of their members and their communities as a whole. These grant funds will go a long way towards stabilizing the finances of a lot of low-income families, and we are thrilled to be part of that.”

The CDFI grant for the HMFCU totals $1,456,250. Major disbursement will occur before the end of 2015.

“The HMFCU and City of Houston partnership is a logical and mutually beneficial endeavor,” says City Controller Ronald Green. “Our office will identify those City employees who are unbanked—about 250 of our 11,000 employees do not have direct bank deposit—and provide the information about the benefits of joining the credit union to them. Of course it will be their option to proceed, but it’s hard to argue against the wisdom of joining a credit union.”

About Houston Metropolitan Federal Credit Union
Established in 1945, Houston Metropolitan Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative based in Houston, and provides a wide range of financial products and services to its nearly 12,000 members. To learn more about Houston Metropolitan FCU, please visit hmefcu.org.