Treasury awards $4.4 million in funds to help St. Louis organize low-income banking services

Katie ArnoldJP In The News

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

By Janelle O’Dea

ST. LOUIS — Three organizations dedicated to helping low-income communities in St. Louis have received $4.4 million from the federal government to help residents this year secure loans, buy cars and access fresh groceries, among other things.

The Chicago-based lender and developer IFF was awarded just under $3 million; St. Louis lender Great Rivers Community Capital landed $916,000; and 1st Financial Credit Union got $565,000.

Nutritious food
About $2 million received by the IFF will be dedicated to providing healthier food options in communities known as “food deserts,” where residents have little to no access to affordable and nutritious food.

The remaining $1 million must be matched by the IFF and used to expand low-income residents’ access to financial products and services.

“Many times, the people we’re lending to have been told no by several banks,” said David Desai-Remirez, executive director of the IFF office in St. Louis.

Often, small nonprofits or organizations just starting up don’t meet the regulatory requirements banks are required to follow in lending. Prior IFF clients from the St. Louis area include community development agency Beyond Housing, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis and City Garden Montessori charter school.

Car loans
1st Financial Federal Credit Union will match its grant and largely use the money to help low-income St. Louisans get car loans at much lower rates than typical, said Laura Woods, vice president of marketing and community development for the credit union.

“It’s really impactful,” she said.

There are 203 different communities in the St. Louis region served by 1st Financial Federal Credit Union.

“The need is pretty vast,” Woods said.

Great Rivers Community Capital, the community development lending arm of St. Louis-based nonprofit Justine Petersen, aims to lend to minority and women entrepreneurs, with a focus on those businesses located north of Delmar Boulevard, said Galen Gondolfi, spokesman for Justine Petersen.

The plans include lending to individuals with disabilities to address lifestyle needs, as well as potential small business pursuits.

The money comes from a U.S. Treasury competitive grant program.

Missouri received $6.2 million in the most recent awards, compared with $7.4 million in the prior fiscal year. Illinois was awarded $10.9 million in 2019, compared with $15 million two years ago.

Nationwide, 321 organizations received $182.5 million last year compared with 265 organizations receiving $188.7 million the year before.