A Major Metro Partnership Provides Grants To City Workers

When the coronavirus pandemic created economic hardship for Atlanta contract workers, the city turned to a local credit union to disburse tax-free funds and bridge the income gap.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Georgia’s Own Credit Union partnered with the city of Atlanta in early 2019 to provide low-cost funds to city workers affected by the federal government shutdown.
  • When the coronavirus pandemic created new economic challenges among city workers, Atlanta turned again to the credit union to make a financial difference.

CU QUICK FACTS

Georgia’s Own Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.20

HQ: Atlanta, GA
ASSETS: $2.9B
MEMBERS: 204,695
BRANCHES: 23
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 11.1%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 10.1%
ROA: 1.06%

When the United States federal government shut down on Dec. 22, 2018, an estimated 380,000 federal employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were asked to work without pay until the end of the shutdown. The effects of the 35-day shutdown extended far beyond the DC-area and into the lives of corrections officers, border patrol staff, TSA agents, air traffic controllers, and more across the country. A number of workers in Atlanta, home to the world’s busiest airport, lost jobs or income.

To bridge the income gap of affected city workers and keep them working in advance of Atlanta-hosted Super Bowl LIII, the city partnered with Georgia’s Own Credit Union ($2.9B, Atlanta, GA) to provide low-cost loans during the shutdown. 

According to Shelley Mullett, principal officer of member advocacy at Georgia’s Own, the partnership was so beneficial that the city reached out again to the credit union shortly after the coronavirus pandemic created economic hardship for Atlanta’s contract employees, who couldn’t work remotely.

In early March, Atlanta partnered with Georgia’s Own Foundation to distribute $250,000 in funds to support contract employees who have experienced hardship due to the pandemic. The city has committed to donating up to $1.5 million in donations to the foundation, which the foundation will distribute as one-time tax-free grants of $2,000 to workers.

In this Q&A, Mullett and Marin Kraushaar, executive director of Georgia’s Own Foundation, discuss the credit union’s relationship with Atlanta, the grant application process, the impact of these grants, and lessons learned.

What is Georgia’s Own’s relationship with the city of Atlanta?

Shelley Mullett, Principal Officer of Member Advocacy, Georgia’s Own Credit Union

Shelley Mullett: Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in February 2019. When the federal government shut down in December and January, there was concern that all these people were travelling into Atlanta and the airport workers weren’t being paid. We helped the city develop a low-cost loan program to get money to those who needed it. 

Marin Kraushaar: We’ve been a local financial institution with a presence in the community since 1934. As the city looked for an institution it could trust that workers knew and respected, we were a good fit.

SM: When COVID-19 made it necessary for the city to help its employees again, it remembered our partnership and reached back out. 

The Georgia’s Own Foundation is distributing city funds as tax-free grants to eligible workers. How does that program work?

MK: These are city contract employees. Companies with city contracts identified employees who were severely impacted by the pandemic, whether through complete furlough or lost hours, and provided the credit union with a list. 

Marin Kraushaar, Executive Director, Georgia’s Own Foundation

We have foundation employees dedicated to processing those grants and distributing funds within two business days. This was before the CARES Act and other stimulus efforts really kicked in. People were in a bind, and this was quick relief we could offer until that came through or the economy reopened and they could resume work.

What jobs do these city workers have?

SM: A large number work for various airport management companies. They help staff the airport parking, training, shuttle, and multiple capacities around the airport and the city of Atlanta. To be qualified for the grant, they have to be contract workers that meet defined expense and income guidelines, with most recipients in the $20,000 annual income range — those are the workers who most need the money.

How do these workers apply for the grant?

SM: The city invites them to apply. That invitation includes a link to a brief application on the Georgia’s Own Foundation website. The application, which we created with the city, mainly serves to confirm they are the people who received the invitation and asks them to provide a statement of need. We didn’t want them to be intimidated or think we are running a credit approval. We provide a daily report to the city on who has applied.

How many grants have you disbursed so far?

SM: We received 1,300 applications between the end of March and the beginning of June. From those, we have disbursed 610 grants at $2,000 each. That’s a total of $1.2 million.

It has been a gift to work with the city in a way that allows us to make a real impact. From that perspective, it’s been a resounding success.

Shelley Mullett, Principal Officer of Member Advocacy, Georgia’s Own Credit Union

We had to filter out some applicants who received the link but did not meet the statement of need or did not work for one of the companies.

Did you accomplish everything you hoped at the onset of this partnership?

SM: On the processing side, we are very pleased. We made it a simple, streamlined process and were able to disperse the funds from each approved request in two business days. Our partnership with the city has been phenomenal, and it continues to grow and develop as a result of this effort.

MK: Everyone was caught off-guard when all of this hit in mid-March, and people wanted to know what they could do to help. We believed this would be a tangible way to aid our community and help those who needed it the most, which was why we created our foundation in 2016. It has been a gift to work with the city in a way that allows us to make a real impact. From that perspective, it’s been a resounding success.

What’s next between you and the city?

SM: I’m not sure, but hopefully more of the same. We love to support our communities — our foundation provides one channel for us to accomplish that. We hope to continue this partnership and do more in the future.

What lessons have you learned these past few months?

MK: It’s all been a learning experience. It has been great for us to pull resources from all corners of our organization — business development, marketing, the foundation, and, of course, digital — to work on this project. By helping us set up the online application, our digital team was a huge part of this project. Pooling all these resources and expertise together was a key to success, and I foresee more cross-channel projects like this in the future knowing how well everyone can come together to work on something.

SM: We could not have done this without so many people across the organization jumping in and working to make this happen. It came together quickly, and we really made a difference to our community in its time of need.

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