Wednesday, September 3, 2008

GOP reps tour low-income CU facility during RNC

ST. PAUL, Minn. (9/3/08)--Two members of Congress took time out of their busy schedules Tuesday during the Republican National Convention to visit a credit union branch located in a low-income area of St. Paul, Minn.

U.S. Reps. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) and Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) toured and heard stories from those whose lives were improved by the Eastside Financial Center--an alliance between U.S. Federal CU of Burnsville, Minn., Thrivent Financial, and Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota.

The center opened in January and is a not-for-profit alternative to check cashers and payday lenders who frequently charge predatory rates and do little to promote savings, money management and financial independence.

According to U.S. Federal CU President/CEO Bill Raker, the credit union operates a branch within the center, offering a "full menu of products complemented by specific services designed to meet the needs of the local neighborhood."

Those services include check cashing, bill payment, remittance services, and access to affordable, short-term emergency loans.

During the center's first six months of operation:

282 new members have joined U.S. Federal CU and opened savings accounts at the Eastside Financial Center branch;

57 people have received bundled services in financial counseling, employment coaching and public benefits access and are working toward financial stability;

32 families have opened individual development accounts, which offers a three to one matched savings account for the purchase of a first-time home, starting a small business or higher education; and

222 people have received financial counseling related to budgeting, credit and debt management.

In his remarks, Ramstad praised the facility's work calling it "important."

"We should replicate this in other neighborhoods," Ramstad told Raker and Minnesota Credit Union Network President/CEO Mark Cummins.

He said this work is not a "hand out, but rather a hand up."

Rep. Bachmann said the center's mission is the focus of her interests in Congress--a reason she fought to earn a slot on the House Financial Services Committee.

Attendees of yesterday's ceremony also heard testimonials from two individuals whose financial lives were improved through participation in the Eastside Financial Center's products, services and training.

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