Cecelia Black is a VISTA volunteer at Express Advantage, a nonprofit organization which she explains below. Take a few moments to consider your own interactions with financial institutions (positive and negative), and whether you might be able to volunteer to work with Express Advantage.

Express Advantage is asking you to join their efforts in supporting financial resiliency in Western Washington.  Express is a Seattle based nonprofit that focuses on helping low-income members reach financial stability through financial education, community outreach, and access to fair and affordable financial services.

How can you help?  Express is looking for committed volunteers to teach our financial education classes and volunteer in our one-on-one financial coaching program.  No financial background is necessary- the most important qualities are dedication and enthusiasm.   We are now accepting applications for both positions!  Volunteer educator training is April 27th.  The financial coaching training is on May 18th.

Why financial education? Barriers to accessing mainstream financial services are a huge, but often overlooked factor affecting low-income and homeless families.  The FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Under-banked Households conducted in 2009 found that 21.2% of Washington State households are unbanked or under-banked.

Why is this a big deal?  Going “off the grid” and avoiding all those small fees, paperwork, and lines sounds idyllic, but try to think for a moment about any loan you have taken out, any time you have used a credit card, deposited a paycheck or needed a credit score.  Without a positive relationship to a financial institution, things like renting an apartment and securing funds for an emergency become very difficult.  Even more alarming, taking out loans from payday lenders becomes more necessary.  Predatory lenders have capitalized on these situations and fueled their booming industry by trapping predominately low income people in a cycle of debt.   In Washington state, the average Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of a payday loan is 390% (versus a credit card which has an average APR of 15%).    To solve these gaps in financial services, it important that banks and credit unions offer more services to low income communities.  Yet, it is equally critical that people get accurate information and support to safely and confidently utilize financial tools.  Learn how you can be a part of this effort at http://expresscu.org/express-advantage/.

Contact Cecelia Black for more volunteer information and application at Cecelia.black@expresscu.org or (425)359-5256.

One comment

  1. Hi! I would volunteer in a heart beat,however I am in New England and don’t have a program like this that I know of. My heart goes out to the middle class that are being dragged down to the poverty level like our less fortunate citizens who are already there. I happen to be Lisa Gustaveson’s father and certainly agree with her on this issue. She grew up in a middle class family when things were tough and I took anything to make ends meet. My heart goes out to the less fortunate than many of us. I blame the federal government ( both parties) for this mess. When did you hear of a destitute congressman or senator. They feathered their nest while others are suffering. Reteric sounds good but action sounds better. Let’s put people to work! Larry Denis

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