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Serving the Underserved

​NCUA is primarily focused on ensuring the safety and soundness of the credit union system. As an adjunct to that mission, the agency has developed initiatives to facilitate credit unions more effectively serving their memberships, especially those in underserved areas. The Federal Credit Union Act, governing this agency and federally insured credit unions expects this national system to meet "...the credit and savings needs of consumers, especially persons of modest means."

Expanding Into Investment Areas

Any federal credit union with a multiple common bond field of membership may include in their field of membership, without regard to location, communities satisfying the definition for serving underserved areas. These communities must be located within what is known as an "Investment Area" as defined in Section 103(16) of the Community Development Banking and Financial Institutions (SDFI) Act of 1994. Chapter 3, Part 3 of the NCUA Chartering Manual details the seven criteria's included in an investment Area.

Use these instructions to find investment areas anywhere in the United States.

How do I apply for expansion into an investment area?

You will need to assemble an application package to be sent to NCUA. Use this Sample Letter to NCUA as a guide and include the map and worksheet which you obtained by following the instructions in the previous section. You will also need to include a business plan in your application. This Guideline for a Business Plan will help you create a plan. If you need further assistance, contact the Office of Consumer Protection.


Identifying Investment Areas

View recent Underserved Areas Reports here


Low Income Designation

Finding ways to supply quality financial services to people in need is no small task. For a credit union to benefit from programs available from NCUA to financial institutions that serve the underserved, it must acquire a "low income designation" status. A low-income designated credit union is defined in Section 701.34 of the NCUA Rules and Regulations.

Effective Jan 1, 2009 the NCUA Board amended the definition of "low-income members" as defined in Parts 701 and 705 of NCUA Rules and Regulations. The learning objectives of the following narrated presentation are to 1) outline the benefits of the low income credit union designation for all credit unions 2) define the term low income members based on new rule 3) explain the application process. This presentation is divided into modules to allow you to review the entire presentation or to access the most relevant topics for you. The first module contains a quiz to test your knowledge of NCUA's low income (LI) designation. All the quiz questions are in True or False format. The second module discusses the benefits of receiving the LI designation and why you may want to pursue it. The third module discusses the definition of low income members. The fourth module explains the application process, grandfather provisions and appeal procedures implemented with the new rule. Finally, the fifth module contains resources and contact information.

Credit Unions seeking the designation should become familiar with Chapter 3, Parts 1 & 2 of the NCUA Chartering Manual. If you need further assistance, contact the Office of Consumer Protection.


Empowerment Zones

The Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) initiative is a key element of the government's job creation strategy for America. Its purpose is to create jobs and business opportunities in the most economically distressed areas of inner cities and the rural heartlands.

The program is designed to provide tax incentives and performance grants and loans to create jobs and expand business opportunities. It also focuses on activities to support people looking for work, job training, childcare and transportation. This initiative is different from other similar efforts because the community itself determines through written or quantifiable goals how the money will be spent and what results of the activity will be.

The areas designated as Enterprise Communities and Empowerment Zones are listed on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's website.