Diversity Insight: How Hope CU makes loans in economically challenged areas

This community development financial institution works to counter racial disparities in the Deep South that deepen the pandemic’s impact.

The economic hammer of the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen especially hard on the Deep South, which only recently climbed back from the Great Recession, says Pearl Wicks, chief operating officer of $350 million/36,000-member Hope Credit Union, Jackson, Mississippi.

Total employment in Mississippi did not recover to pre-recession levels until October 2019, just months before the outbreak led to widespread business shutdowns. The United States as a nation crossed that threshold in May 2014, Wicks notes.

For Hope CU and the economically distressed communities it serves in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, persistent racial disparities and the need for racial and economic justice amplify the impact of the pandemic. Through the end of August, 8% of the credit union’s consumer portfolio, 16% of mortgages and 10% of commercial loans, in total dollar amounts, were in active forbearance.


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