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Editorial: Credit unions offer fresh start for violence victims

Victims of domestic violence are frequently shut out from financial resources by their abusers, making fleeing an abusive relationship, getting a job and building credit that much more daunting.

Fortunately, a trio of credit unions is stepping up with a unique program to provide financial assistance and specialized loans tailored to help people without a stable job or credit. The CU SAFE program – a partnership among U.S. Eagle Federal Credit Union, Rio Grande Credit Union and Coast360 Federal Credit Union in Guam – began operating in New Mexico last month, offering domestic violence survivors the needed resources to transition toward financial independence.

Survivors are referred to a credit union through the Domestic Violence Resource Center in Albuquerque and assigned a specialist. Depending on their situation, unsecured loans are available. To avoid hefty up-front payments, the loans will be structured so recipients pay interest only on the portion of the loan they’ve drawn from for the first year. Applicants go through a different vetting process and pay lower interest rates than those of a typical bank.

Pamelya Herndon, a board member at U.S. Eagle, is credited with coming up with the innovative idea. She says there’s a great need for such a financial service in New Mexico. Walt Agius, CEO of CU SAFE, says he hopes the program will have 10 to 20 participants by the year’s end and that it will spread across New Mexico and the nation.

Giving domestic violence survivors a financial leg up is a commendable effort by this trio of credit unions. Removing financial restrictions will hopefully give many survivors the fresh financial start they need in their new lives.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.