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Proposed Federal Credit Union for Returning Citizens Gets Green Light To Apply For a New Charter

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has extended its approval for a new charter application to the Organizing Members of Diverge, a Proposed Federal Credit Union (PFCU). Diverge PFCU is a groundbreaking initiative that will expand financial access for historically unbanked individuals and their families. The initial focus of the proposed credit union is to provide a financial home for marginalized people in the justice-involved and LGBTQI+ communities. An estimated 2 million people in these populations are unbanked. First Step Alliance is one of the NCUA- approved Membership Associations for this new credit union.

This radically inclusive not-for-profit financial institution will offer safe and affordable products to address the unique financial needs and circumstances of unbanked individuals, helping them create a path to long-term financial health. “I’d like to commend the team behind Diverge PFCU’s charter application. Their concept is an example of true financial inclusion, and it’s also an example of why reforming NCUA’s chartering process is one of my top priorities,” said the Honorable Kyle S. Hauptman, NCUA Vice Chairman.

Individuals, businesses, and other organizations will be able to join the new credit union through two non-profit associations whose membership is broadly open to people in these communities, their families, and supporters: First Step Alliance–a 501(c)(3) organization advancing economic empowerment for justice-involved individuals through improved access to banking services and financial education–and the Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR)–a 501(c)(4) organization forwarding economic empowerment for LGBTQI+ communities with research and advocacy to support access to inclusive financial services.

“Justice-involved individuals frequently encounter a financial system that doesn’t welcome them into the mainstream, often forcing them to use check cashers, payday lenders, and other high-cost, non-bank options. This has a disproportionate impact on people of color and women,” Nancy Eiden (she/her), Founder and Board Chair for First Step Alliance said. “Everyone deserves a fair chance to restart their lives, and access to financial services is an integral part of successful reentry.”

“LGBTQI+ people face discrimination and a lack of sensitivity in many parts of the financial services industry, which particularly harms people of color and transgender people,” said Spencer Watson (they/them), President and Executive Director for CLEAR. “Diverge PFCU will uplift the most financially vulnerable LGBTQI+ people so they can access banking and credit services they, their families, and their communities need to thrive.”

The Diverge PFCU organizers also include credit union professionals passionate about ending discrimination in mainstream financial services.

“Serving underserved, disenfranchised, and non-traditional communities is in the DNA of credit unions. This new credit union will bring needed mainstream financial services to those that truly have very few options. We are going back to our roots of serving those who are overlooked and marginalized,” said Thomas O’Shea (he/him), former CEO of Aspire Federal Credit Union.

“Diverge credit union will provide opportunities for the oppressed in the financial services sector that is much needed and long overdue,” said Dan Marquez (they/them), of Corelation, Inc.

“It is imperative that we create spaces like Diverge PFCU, where folks feel confident in taking ownership of their financial journey and choose the path that fits who they are, what they need to be successful, and know we are truly there for them– meeting them where they are,” said Ari Farrell (they/Ari), of Northwest Community Credit Union.

There are several ways individuals and organizations can get involved and show their support for the project:

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