A Community Development Credit Union serving underserved communities in low-income Appalachia
Appalachian communities are some of the most at-risk in the country, as many in this area live below the poverty line and many people in the region depend on jobs related to the coal industry. While some would argue that this industry contributes to the hardship of the communities in Appalachia due to their dangerous nature and disastrous environment impact, as we move to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, there are few or no alternative opportunities that workers can rely on to provide for their families. While Pres. Trump promised to protect coal industry jobs as part of his presidency, he did not promise to bring back the unions which protected these workers before the 1980s and ‘90s assault on organized labor. In part due to living in a one-industry region for so long, many towns and communities suffer greatly in Appalachia, especially in eastern Kentucky, where the 25% poverty rate is far above the national average of 15%.
A region that faces such hardship is bound to have particular banking and lending needs. Appalachian Community FCU is doing their best to reinvest in the area, their mission being to “improve the financial health of people and businesses who lack adequate access to capital, high quality financial services and financial coaching.” While originally founded in 1932 as a small institution serving employees of a paper mill in Kingsport, TN, they have extended their services, opening seven branches in Southeast Kentucky, Northeast Tennessee, and Southwest Virginia. They provide their members with free financial education workshops as well as free access to over 85,000 ATMs nationwide. As they have been operating in the Appalachia for nearly a century, they intimately know the economic needs of their members and the communities they serve and do their best to meet these needs.
We are unfortunately unable to obtain statistics at this time about their housing lending, but Appalachian Community FCU does a moderate amount of small business lending at about 6% of their portfolio, and all of their branches are located in low-and-moderate-income neighborhoods. They are a CDFI and are a member of the National Federation of CDCUs, which provides them with federal and independent funding, enabling them to provide capital and financial independence to more individuals in this underserved region.
While they offer online banking options, you are unable to become a member of this credit union unless you live in specific counties in their service area. We would recommend this bank to anyone eligible in the region looking to invest in the Appalachia region in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. You can learn more about their membership eligibility here.