RIDGELAND — BankPlus and City First Enterprises of Washington, D.C., are the winners of the inaugural Empowerment Awards, which recognize promising projects that provide or encourage access to safe, fair financial services in underserved communities.
BankPlus won in the Community Development Banking category for its innovative alternative to payday lending, and City First won in the Access category for its online platform for community-development investments.
The awards, which are sponsored by Promontory Financial Group, highlight the unique promise of responsible financial services to empower communities and deliver consumer- and community-oriented financial innovations.
The projects were evaluated based on their effectiveness, innovation, impact and sustainability, as well as for leadership and governance. The Community Development Banking category targets banks that are registered community development financial institutions (CDFIs), while the Access category targets financial and technology firms with less than $10 billion in assets. BankPlus and City First each receive a financial award of $100,000 and pro bono consultations with Promontory.
BankPlus, an independent community bank in Mississippi, is recognized for its CreditPlus program, a small-dollar, short-term loan alternative to payday lending in a state with the nation’s highest concentration of payday lenders. Loan recipients must complete a financial education seminar to be considered for reasonably priced loans of up to $1,000. More than 18,000 people have participated since the program was introduced in 2008, with over 17,404 individual loans totaling more than $13.3 million. Participants are also taught how to save, which is reflected by the related 11,673 deposit accounts totaling over $3.8 million. CreditPlus has produced significant improvement in the credit scores of its participants.
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