New Pennsylvania credit union marks ‘transformational moment’

Lancaster, Penn. (Source: Adobe Stock)

NCUA Board Chairman Todd Harper was on hand Tuesday to open the first branch of one of the nation’s newest credit unions in downtown Lancaster, Pa., about 80 miles West Philadelphia.

The NCUA granted Community First Fund Federal Credit Union ($3.1 million in assets, 60 members) its charter last June.

Community Fund Firstan independent nonprofit community loan fund, sponsored the credit union to create financial equity and economic mobility for individuals and families, especially African Americans, Latinos, immigrants and women, according to a press release from the fund.

Daniel Betancourt, president and CEO of the fund and credit union, said the credit union will work to improve personal financial stability and provide members with the opportunity to obtain affordable, quality housing. .

“We’ve served Lancaster for 30 years by providing access to credit to entrepreneurs who want to make a positive change in the community,” Betancourt said. “With the credit union, our mission is to provide a pathway to financial stability for families. We are excited to expand our service in the community and celebrate this milestone.

Daniel Betancourt Daniel Betancourt

In December 2020, the fund announced plans to launch the designated low-income credit union using part of a $10 million gift from MacKenzie Scott, a philanthropist who was married to the former CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos for 25 years before their divorce in 2019. At the time, Forbes The magazine estimated his fortune at $59 billion. She pledged to give away most of her wealth during her lifetime.

The fund based its plan to launch the credit union on national research that showed:

  • 27% of US households are unbanked or underbanked;
  • Nearly 50% of African American households and 46% of Latino households are unbanked or underbanked; and
  • Nearly 50% of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck and can’t come up with $2,000 for a financial emergency.

To better understand the local need and demand for a credit union, the fund partnered with the Opinion Research Center at Franklin and Marshall College and surveyed Lancaster County residents. The survey demonstrated the need to strengthen the financial mobility of families and that the creation of a financial center would help promote financial fairness and economic prosperity.

Community First Fund FCU was licensed by the NCUA in June 2021 and is one of a handful of credit unions launched nationwide since 2017.

“It’s a wealth-creating institution,” Harper said. “Established by the community and for the community, it is at the very heart of our nation’s credit union system which was built on the principle of people helping each other.”

Community First Fund has received funding from private donors, local foundations such as Calvin and Janet High Foundation, Lancaster County Community Foundation, High Foundation and Ferree Foundation, and national banking partners such as Santander Bank and M&T Bank.

Santander Bank was the first banking partner to commit significant financial funding to launch the credit union with a contribution of $500,000 paid over five years.

M&T Bank, a long-time partner of Community First Fund, was the latest bank lender to contribute operational support. The bank has pledged to provide $1 million over the next five years to the credit union.

Tom Koppmann, regional president of M&T Bank for southeastern Pennsylvania, said the opening of the credit union was part of an effort to expand access to banking and other financial services to communities in the region who have been underbanked for years.

“It’s a transformative moment that could help uplift the whole community,” Koppmann said.

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