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HOPE Credit Union ensures vulnerable customers have access to services across the South.

For years, Bill Bynum and the HOPE Community Credit Union have been serving vulnerable populations across the mid-South. HOPE gives customers who live in banking deserts (communities traditional banks have abandoned for not being profitable enough) access to safe and secure savings & checkings accounts, as well as providing affordable home, auto, and small business loans to people who would otherwise be at the mercy of loan sharks and payday lenders. These communities have the least amount of cushion to weather external shocks like natural disasters, let alone the health costs and extended economic drought brought on by this pandemic.

The crisis has, of course, made in-person banking extremely difficult. Like many institutions, HOPE has made available (and has always had available) options for banking and even applying for loans online, on mobile devices, and over the phone. However, HOPE knows that assuming everyone has access to these methods leaves out precisely the vulnerable populations that HOPE was designed to serve. So, HOPE is doing what it can to make sure it keeps open as many branches as possible for drive-up banking. In addition, HOPE is keeping ATMs functioning at many more locations, so customers can safely deposit cash and feel secure knowing they have access to their money.

HOPE is delivering information to its customers about how to make sure they receive their stimulus checks, and is helping them navigate the Small Business Adminstration loan process, as well as loans through the USDA Rural Development department. There are also guides for applying for unemployment benefits, student loan forbearance, and the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. Naturally, HOPE is encouraging all customers with loans to contact them at 1-866-321-4673 about how to handle that debt until the crisis passes, and has a portal to help them pay loans to non-HOPE lenders.

A crisis is also always a prime opportunity for the unscrupulous to take advantage of people, and so HOPE has also posted guides for avoiding fraud and scams preying on the uncertainty stirred up by the pandemic:

Finally, and most importantly, HOPE will be providing recovery loans. Much of HOPE’s mission was born in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged some of the least-banked and least financially secure areas of the south. The lack of access to formal credit hamstrung the region’s ability to recover, motivating Bill Bynum to expand HOPE across the region. In the coming weeks and months, they will be helping the region get back on their feet with access to credit for the customers who need it most.

If you believe in HOPE’s mission and the power of responsible, compassionate lending to stimulate local economies and empower people in the way banking is meant to (as opposed to how it is commonly practiced in the United States), consider supporting and amplifying their mission. You can make a tax-deductible donation to the Friends of Hope organization to help defray their operating costs as they respond aggressively to the crisis, or contribute directly to HOPE’s loss reserves by emailing or calling 601-949-2808. One especially effective way to support hope is to make a Transformational Deposit - HOPE is currently seeking 1-5 year certificates at a rate of 10 basis points, federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration up to $250,000. These crucial instruments allow HOPE to make the emergency loans it needs to while maintaining the reserve it needs to operate safely. That can be done online or by emailing HOPE, or calling 601-944-9307.

HOPE has always operated in communities that live day-to-day in crisis, and has been preparing for 15 years to help the South recover from the next Katrina, whatever form it took. That expertise and that preparation will be called on like never before, but we are proud to support their efforts and confident in Bill Bynum and the entire HOPE team as the right leaders for this challenge.

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