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Serving Low-Income Households

Credit Union :Santa Cruz Community
Assets :$84,354,000
Address :P. O. Box 1877 | Santa Cruz, CA 95061-1877

Details :

Key Credit Union Data:

  • Loan/share ratio: 92%
  • # Members: 9,300
  • Avg. shares/member: $7,560
  • Avg. loan balance: $15,120
  • Yield on average loans: 6.6%
  • Membership growth in 2009: 4.2%


Santa Cruz County is a mixture of high and low income neighborhoods. The southern part of the county is home to a sizeable immigrant population, primarily from Mexico that works in the agricultural industry. Sheila Schat, director of community development and outreach for Santa Cruz Community CU (SCCCU), estimates that 75% of households in south Santa Cruz County are Latino. She also estimates that median household income in the county is $65,000, which may sound high, except that the average purchase price for a home remains extremely high, around $550,000 to $650,000 – even after the housing decline.

Santa Cruz Community CU is committed to the community it serves by “contributing to lasting social and economic justice.” Its core community development programs include child care, financial education, Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites, and microenterprise lending. To accomplish its community-based mission, it established Santa Cruz Community Ventures, a 501©(3) nonprofit affiliate, to secure outside funding for these programs. SCCCU extends its outreach to underserved households by leveraging its expertise through partnerships with community agencies, educational institutions, and county government. Says Schat, “The value of collaboration with other agencies is critical to the success of our outreach efforts.”

Products/Services Offered:

  • Individual Development Account Program (IDAs) – a dollar for dollar matched savings account up to $2,000 ($4,000 with match) for an individual and $4,000 ($8,000 with match) for two-person households, to build assets for higher education, starting or expanding a business, or purchasing a home.
    • To date, 86 participants have completed the IDA program for a total investment of $997,580. One successful participant was Holly who stayed with the program for seven years to realize her dream of home ownership. Her impetus was her son Winter. She wanted him to feel they were both safe, secure, and free from a cycle of poverty.
    • With local foundation funding, SCCCU expanded its IDA program to partner with the Independent Living Program to assist at-risk, foster youth ready to age out of the foster care system when they reach 18. Participants hold jobs, attend four financial education workshops and save $500 over two years. Savings are matched 2:1 for a total savings of $1,500 that can be used for a car, rent, or essentials for college. Schat reports the program has netted five graduates and seven more are ready to start the next session. Participants also receive a financial incentive of $50 to start their savings account.
  • Child Care Revolving Loan Fund – low interest loans up to $15,000 that are provided to child care providers serving low-income families. The sources of these funds are from grants and thus SCCCU is able to make the loans as low as 3% APR and the funds can be used to upgrade child care programs or facilities. The loans are paired with technical assistance provided by retired business people or former child care providers and a local small business development center. The center offers workshops for small businesses and these can be tweaked to address child care matters. As loan funds are repaid, they become available for other child care providers.
  • Economic Justice Project (EJP) – a partnership with La Manzana Community Resources and the Watsonville Law Center to provide participants with money management workshops and social and legal assistance. La Manzana is a magnet to the Latino community, says Schat, and as such, is able to screen and refer people to the program which provides free legal and social services and four financial education workshops.
    • Schat tells the story of one EJP participant, Mr. G, a native of Mexico who has lived in California many of his 44 years and is married with children. Mr. G was owed three months of back wages that his employer refused to pay him. He had heard of the EJP program from another participant, came to La Manzana Community Resources, met the EJP criteria and enrolled in the program. Mr. G attended all of the EJP education classes. Although he already had a checking and savings account, Mr. G reported the classes were very valuable to him in pointing out the importance of having an emergency fund and good credit. Not only was Mr. G’s wage problem resolved by the law center, but he was rehired by the company. He has recommended the program to his friends and other family members.
  • Free Tax Assistance – through VITA sites and other partnerships, SCCU helped 441 tax filers in 2007 receive free tax assistance and Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). The EITCs averaged $1,555, more than the amount of a monthly paycheck for low-wage families.
  • Accepts Matricula Consular card as ID and ITINs in lieu of SSNs
  • 2nd Chance Checking – if Chexsystems record is at least 6 months old
  • “Get Green” loans for solar panel installation or energy efficiencies
  • One-year Partnership Certificates – when opened with a regular certificate, both certificates receive .25% additional interest. Interest on Partnership Certificate is donated to a designated nonprofit at maturity.
  • Community Visa Card – SCCCU contributes $.05 for each card transaction to a pool. Members vote annually for local top five non-profits and the pool of funds is divided equally among them.
  • Small business lending with 50% of loans going to microenterprises.

Additional Information:

Santa Cruz Community Credit Union’s vision is one of economic justice where “all people have full access to economic opportunity, and have the resources to make effective financial decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities.” It strives for a “triple bottom line” that demonstrates financial responsibility, social impact and environmental stewardship. These efforts are evidenced through the many community partnerships and programs in which the credit union participates. “We believe in creating relationships with our community members and helping them achieve financial stability,” concludes Schat.