NAPERVILLE, Ill. (7/6/10)--IIlinois REAL Solutions partner credit unions met in Naperville, Ill., last month to discuss the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and other initiatives, including a unique homeowner counseling program, according to the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL). During the 2010 tax season, 10 Illinois credit unions worked with the Center for Economic Progress (CEP) to serve as the on-site financial institution partner for VITA sites statewide. This year, the total number of new accounts opened at all VITA sites in Illinois is 1,397, compared with 1,332 accounts in 2009. CEFCU, Peoria; Community Plus FCU, Rantoul; Consumers Cooperative CU, Waukegan; Kane County Teachers CU, Elgin; RIA FCU, Moline; and SIU CU, Carbondale, were first-year participants. Continuing partners are Generations CU, Rockford; North Side Community FCU, Chicago; NuMark CU, Joliet; and Sherwin Williams CU, South Holland. Cornerstone CU, Freeport, presented information about a community partnership program that helps to teach individuals and families homeowner basics, such as advantages and disadvantages of homeownership, the loan process, understanding credit, budgeting and shopping for a home. The mayor of Freeport recommended during a city council meeting that the city discontinue its own homeownership counseling workshops and instead refer people to Cornerstone, especially because the credit union’s sessions are free. The credit union also plans to host home improvement workshops to educate people on how to fix up their homes as an option to selling, given the continuing downturn in the real estate market. The first session will be late summer or early fall. Other projects discussed included:
* Matrimoney, a savings vehicle to help young couples save for their wedding and other life events; * Alternative checking programs; * Efforts to incorporate National Endowment for Financial Education materials into Lincoln’s Challenge, a National Guard program that assists high school dropouts, and Jesus is the Way, a local prison ministry; * High school branches; * Matriculas, individual tax identification numbers, and other outreach efforts to Hispanics; * Bank on Illinois, the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office program in Rockford, Aurora and Carbondale to help the unbanked and underserved; * Chapter-initiated financial literacy activities and events; and * Credit unions’ involvement with Money Smart Week, designated by the Federal Reserve in April in which community groups, including financial institutions such as credit unions, have events to promote personal financial literacy.
The next meeting for Illinois REAL Solutions partner credit unions will be Sept. 15. ICUL and the Illinois Credit Union Foundation have teamed up with the National Credit Union Foundation to offer the REAL Solutions for Low Wealth Households program in Illinois. Currently 48 credit unions are participating. REAL stands for Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing. It operates in 27 states nationwide.