Fresh Start Banking
Fresh Start Banking
powered by Element Federal Credit Union
2022 Impact Report
First Step Alliance is pleased to share our 2022/2023 Impact Report, highlighting our accomplishments during 2022 and our plans for the coming year. We continue to expand our program partnerships and are working hard to start a new credit union for our community.
Thank you to all of our volunteers, Board and Advisory Council members, and donors for contributing their time, treasure and talent to help us improve the financial lives of justice-involved individuals.
2023 Areas of Focus
First Step Alliance's Fresh Start Programs have reached many incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people through our relationships with reentry and other community-based organizations. In addition to continuing to expand these partnerships in 2023, we will focus our efforts on advancing our effort to start a new credit union dedicated to this community.
Diverge Proposed Federal Credit Union will provide a "financial home" for these individuals and their families, offering access to a wide array of financial products and services specifically tailored to the needs of this community. The Diverge Organizing Members have received extensive support from government regulators, politicians, the credit union industry, and community and social justice organizations. The Organizers are in the process of seeking initial funding to operationalize the credit union and aim to open its doors in 2024. Visit www.divergecu.org for more information about this groundbreaking initiative.
2022 Credit Union Milestones
NCUA approval of Diverge Proof of Concept: National Credit Union Administration approved our request to proceed with a new credit union charter application for this proposed credit union; First Step Alliance also approved as a future Membership Association.
Community Interest Survey: Survey disseminated to community members confirming a high level of interest in and need for this credit union (survey link: https://www.research.net/r/diverge-fsa).
Credit Union Leadership: Formation of leadership team with the experience and passion to continue moving this initiative forward and managing the credit union when operational.
First Step Alliance is deeply committed to advancing financial inclusion for justice-involved individuals. By continuing to work towards a more equitable and accessible financial system, our goal is to help our community members rebuild their lives and achieve financial stability and economic mobility. We look forward to continuing our important work in 2023 and beyond.
Programs & Projects
Fresh Start Financial Education
Knowledge is power. First Step Alliance provides justice-involved individuals with access to a free online financial education learning program that includes many important topics. Certified credit counselors are also available to help people overcome specific financial challenges. This program is available on-demand through a smartphone, computer or tablet, and is designed to accommodate a wide range of people, regardless of financial acumen or learning style.
In 2022 we established several new relationships and continued working with our existing partners:
Bridgeport Reentry Welcome Center
Family Promise New Jersey
Greater Birmingham Ministries
National Cyber Protection & Training Corporation
Right Now/NYC Department of Corrections
Reentry Survivors Inc./P.R.I.D.E Entrepreneurship Program
SCORE Northeast New Jersey
Fresh Start Banking
To improve access to affordable banking products for formerly incarcerated individuals, First Step Alliance introduced our Fresh Start Banking Program in partnership with established credit unions that offer fair and inclusive financial services. The Program features a mobile banking app that can be downloaded on either an iPhone or Android device. Account features include:
No-minimum, no-credit check, no-fee checking account
Visa debit card
Direct deposit of paycheck
Thousands of surcharge-free ATMs across the country
Mobile deposit of checks
Cash deposits through ATMs
2-day early payday with direct deposit
Banking app available in English or Spanish
Alabama ID and Financial Services Project
First Step Alliance partnered with Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Jimmy Hale Mission for an initiative aimed at improving access to identification documents and financial services for returning citizens in Alabama. This collaboration resulted in the publication of the Alabama Reentry Guidebook, a uniform resource manual that includes detailed information on obtaining important ID documents and where to access affordable banking services. The Guidebook is intended for use by the Alabama Department of Corrections, state agencies and local reentry organizations. The Financial Health Network provided a generous grant for this project. Click HERE to access the Guidebook.
Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) Program Cohort
AEO launched the Endeavor Ready initiative to identify solutions needed to successfully prepare returning citizens for entrepreneurship, including early credit-building, right-fit capital, and trauma-informed care. First Step Alliance was selected to participate in its 2022 cohort to help AEO gain additional insight into these challenges and what steps financial institutions can take to improve access to capital.
National Reentry Workforce Collaborative (NRWC)
First Step Alliance was invited by Vera Institute of Justice to participate on an Equity & Inclusion conference panel to discuss systemic discrimination in financial services and how First Step Alliance is addressing this issue. NRWC is the only national organization founded by workforce practitioners committed to advancing socio-economic mobility for people impacted by the justice system.
Building Community Awareness
By leveraging social media and our Google Ads grant, we significantly increased website traffic and raised community awareness for our organization and its mission. Several of our published articles played a key role in achieving these results: Reducing Recidivism: Creating a Path to Successful Reentry (31,000 views) What We Can Learn From Norway's Prison System (22,000 views) The First Step Act - What Is It And How Does It Affect The Justice System? (11,000 views) In addition, several known publications, including American Banker, Business Insider, and Credit Union Times, interviewed or cited First Step Alliance for articles on financial inclusion for returning citizens.