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CU seeds services for Calif. farm workers
SALINAS, Calif. (3/24/14)--Time and again, credit unions have proven they can mold their services around the needs of their members. Teachers, for example, may have their loan payments lowered in the summer by credit unions when they're not pulling in regular paychecks.

In a similar vein, a Salinas, Calif.-based credit union has started offering services to another type of member with non-traditional income schedules: farm workers ( The Salinas Californian March 20).

Recognizing that farm workers are employed seasonally, allUS CU, with $34 million in assets, will chop down loan payments after season-ending harvests--a time when many workers begin relying solely on government benefits.

"We can adjust loan payments around seasonal employment," Robin Ceralde, allUS loan manager, told The Salinas Californian . "We can lower the payments during the off-season, constructing a loan around their budgets."

But it's not only farm workers allUS has started to serve of late. Formerly the Monterey County Employees CU, the institution renamed itself last year and has now rolled out a plan to reach many underserved individuals in the area, including seniors and people with disabilities.

At a workshop held last week to discuss the new direction of the credit union, allUS President/CEO Patrick Redo cited several stark statistics illustrating how the financial industry is leaving out large chunks of the population.

More than 50% of black residents are considered unbanked or under-banked, he said, and 43% of Latinos have little contact with financial institutions. By contrast, only 18% of white residents experience similar circumstances.

The terms unbanked or under-banked refer to those who either don't have a bank account or may have meager savings accounts, but no checking account.

About 11,600 residents in Salinas are considered unbanked, Redo said.

For those who already use the credit union, meanwhile, allUS will host a "Banking 101" session in May, another valuable service in financial literacy the credit union provides its growing and diversifying membership.  

"We have heard clearly from our members and the community that they want to build better money habits, but often lack straightforward and accessible guidance," Redo told The Salinas Californian .


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