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National LISC News

LISC grows Lending Circle connection to help low-income

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is teaming up with Mission Asset Fund (MAF) and JPMorgan Chase to provide zero-interest loans through a program called Lending Circles, which helps low-income people establish and improve credit scores, increase savings, and lay the groundwork for stable and prosperous futures.

LISC is incorporating MAF’s successful Lending Circles program into some of its 80 Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) around the country—building on an early effort with five FOCs, including Chinese Community Center (CCC) in Houston. CCC is a long-time LISC partner that is working to create economic opportunity in the Alief neighborhood.

Nationally, FOCs work with more than 20,000 people each year to bridge educational gaps, train for and find good-paying jobs, manage their money, and save for the future. The Lending Circles program expands that capacity, bringing small groups together to lend, borrow, and save money collectively. For example, a group of 10 people might agree on a plan to each borrow $1,000. Each participant pays $100 per month for 10 months to fund the loans. MAF reports participants’ monthly payments to credit agencies and secures the loans in the event that one member misses a payment; remarkably, MAF has maintained a repayment rate of more than 99 percent.

People all over the world use informal social lending practices when bank loans aren’t an option. Lending Circles, by reporting payments directly to credit bureaus, transforms these practices into a proven way to establish credit and become integrated into the financial mainstream.

“Too often, low-income people are invisible to traditional financial providers,” explains José A. Quiñonez, MAF’s founder and CEO. “Sixty-four million people in this country don’t have credit scores. Another 17 million people don’t have access to a bank account. Our goal is to help them overcome those barriers so that they, their families, and their communities can flourish.”

The majority of Lending Circles participants enroll in the program with the primary goal of establishing or increasing their credit scores. But they use their loans for a range of goals: to pay off expensive debt, establish emergency savings, put a down payment on an apartment, or start their own business.

JPMorgan Chase, a longtime financial supporter of both LISC and MAF, is funding this expansion. Since 2013, JPMorgan Chase has invested close to $3 million in Lending Circles efforts with partners across the country.

“Improving the financial health of households leads to stronger, more resilient communities and economies,” explained Colleen Briggs, executive director of community innovation, JPMorgan Chase. “JPMorgan Chase is excited to help expand the proven MAF Lending Circles model to LISC clients throughout the country. By establishing and improving credit, this partnership will help more Americans improve their financial security and achieve their long-term goals.”   

“Poverty should not be a life sentence,” added Maurice Jones, LISC president and CEO. “As a country, we need to open new doors for the millions of Americans who haven’t been able to share in the opportunities and wealth our economy creates. That means connecting them to the tools they need to earn more, save more, and find a more secure financial footing

About LISC

LISC equips struggling communities with the capital, program strategy and know-how to become places where people can thrive. It combines corporate, government and philanthropic resources. Since 1980, LISC has invested $17.3 billion to build or rehab 366,000 affordable homes and apartments and develop 61 million square feet of retail, community and educational space. For more, visit www.lisc.org

About MAF

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) builds pathways to prosperity through zero-interest, credit-building loans. Over 7,000 people across the country have used MAF’s award-winning Lending Circles programs to increase credit scores, pay down debt, and save for important goals like becoming a homeowner, a student, or a U.S. citizen. MAF currently manages a national network of over 50 Lending Circles providers in 17 states and Washington, D.C.

About JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.5 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.JPMorganChase.com.