Financial Inclusion for Immigrant Consumers: Seattle Roundtable Blog
With the Northwest Area Immigrant Asset-Building Initiative more than halfway through its pilot period, the grantees of the Northwest Area Immigrant Asset-Building Initiative joined staffmembers of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) in Seattle for two days of intensive technical assistance as well as a public training event where nearby credit unions, nonprofits and government agencies gathered to learn more about the grant partnerships and their working models.
Selected in September 2014, the two grant recipients are OneAmerica, which currently collaborates with Lower Valley Credit Union in Washington State to assist clients with citizenship applications and related financing options, and Ascentra Credit Union, which partners with the Diversity Service Center of Iowa (DSCI) to provide quality legal assistance for immigration status adjustments and financing options to pay for application fees. Since the inception of the pilot program, nearly $780,000 of loan capital has been deployed to immigrant individuals and families seeking stability as they assimilate to the US. For LVCU, the highlight has been the number of loans and checking/savings accounts that were added in addition to the citizenship loans which illustrated the positive steps taken to asset-building as well as the need for casting a wider net when addressing the needs of immigrants. For Ascentra, their partnership with DSCI proved vital to the community that are facing dire situations as the partnership was able to help clients successfully apply for provisional waivers and visas for family members.
For day one of the convening, the grantees gathered in the offices of OneAmerica with the goal of sharing best practices, illustrating the current working partnership models, identifying points where adjustments can be made and exploring the longterm sustainability of the partnerships beyond the scope of the grant period. Each partnership finished the day with a set of recommendations provided to scale up current efforts before a group dinner in Chinatown.
For day two, 40 attendees gathered at the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Seattle to learn about current partnership efforts to better serve immigrant communities. With introductory remarks from Seattle’s Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Ms. Cuc Vu, attendees had a chance to hear about the current demographics and migration patterns of immigrants in Seattle, the scope of the Northwest Area Asset-Building Initiative and a group discussion on addressing current critical needs of immigrants and how they might want to partner with each other to leverage each organization’s competencies to complement each other’s work. The group discussions led to some of the next steps ahead to better serve immigrants, namely: better identifying the needs of immigrants and broaden the reach and approach accordingly, the critical need of financial education, better identifying helpful and unhelpful resources that are available nearby and the need for more equitable distribution of resources to help immigrants across Washington State.
With the day’s events coming to a close, many attendees were enthused by the efforts to collaborate and to provide immigrants with vital legal and financial services to complement existing programs. The Federation is grateful to the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, GCIR, Philanthropy Northwest as well as the Northwest Area Foundation for making this pilot possible and the Anne E. Casey Foundation for their contributions to the immigrant roundtables. The Federation looks forward to working with the local credit unions, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and philanthropy in the near future to address this critical issue and to add Seattle to our growing list of cities across the nation where immigrants are embraced and included.
Click here for the event’s program, speakers, and presentations.
Thank you to our partners: Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) and Philanthropy Northwest!