Content provided by cPort Credit Union, ProsperityME, and City of Portland Office of Economic Opportunity

Maine Credit Union will be joining us August 1

Stay tuned for articles from the experts on Building credit; Buying a house; Planning for education, and more!

The ability to do great things

by Gene Ardito

As a new Mainer, opening an account at a credit union or bank is often the first step to establishing independence in this country. Initially, it’s a place for your paycheck to go, and keep your money safe. But as you learn more about how the financial system in the United States works, it becomes a place to make payments, wire money, and get a loan. This system might be very different from what you are used to, so there is much to learn.

I’m CEO at a Maine credit union. Our vision is to provide the best financial service for our members. We believe that when people have access to money and are financially stable, they have the tools and ability to do great things. This may mean being able to care for your family, start a business, or buy a home. It’s our way of helping build a more equitable playing field in America. We hope to give everyone an equal voice, no matter their background. We are particularly sensitive to the needs of the immigrant community, and we recognize the economic and social matters that often make integrating into American culture difficult. We want to help all people improve their lives by serving their financial needs.

One way we help New Mainers improve their lives is through online banking. With so much to learn in a new country, anything too technical on the computer might be a turn-off to some people. However, these tools are designed to simplify banking. Did you know you can deposit a check using your phone? No more need to travel to the actual bank. You can transfer money from your account to another person’s account, pay a friend, or set up recurring payments so you never forget a bill that’s due each month. This is just a tiny sliver of what you can do with online banking. With this seed of an idea, I hope to encourage you to take the step of reaching out to your financial institution and educate yourself about online banking. Eager people and resources are available to help you learn. If you make the change to online banking, you may find you have more time and energy for important things like spending time with family or learning a new skill. Using online banking can help you establish yourself in your new home. As you master it and become part of this economy, you can put your money to work for you, and that can help you realize your dreams.


Applying for Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness

by ProsperityME staff

The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP Loan, is a federal program run by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), designed to help small business owners and their employees during the coronavirus crisis. The application window for the PPP closes on June 30, but those who were granted loans still have to apply for forgiveness after the loan period ends.

Maintaining communication with your lender during the loan period is important. They can help you understand the next steps and alert you to any important program changes. We hope that by sharing these general program guidelines, ProsperityME can help immigrant business owners manage their loans and successfully apply for forgiveness.

Guidelines for managing your Paycheck Protection Program loan:
1. Track your loan expenses during the lending period. To be eligible for forgiveness, 60% of the loan must be used for payroll expenses. Only 40% can be used for other expenses. Contact your lender if you have questions about what expenses qualify.
2. You must retain or re-employ the original number of employees through the loan period ending December 31, 2020. Money applied to employees who are not retained, rehired, or replaced may not be eligible for forgiveness.
3. Payroll for employees making less than $100,000 cannot be reduced by more than 25%.
4. Funds can be used to pay for eligible expenses during the 24-week covered period. Contact your lender after funds have been spent, or after the 24-week eligibility period ends, for updated forgiveness application information. Your lender can help you determine your next steps.
5. Any part of the loan not eligible for forgiveness will be repaid at a rate of 1% over the remaining 60-month term. You have 10 months to apply for forgiveness before the repayment period begins. We strongly encourage loan recipients not to wait to wait to apply for forgiveness! Contact your lender as soon as possible to review your forgiveness options. You should not have to repay your PPP loan if you are eligible for forgiveness! For best results, give yourself and your lender plenty of time to process your application.

We hope these general guidelines help PPP recipients manage their expenses during this difficult time. A good working relationship with a bank or credit union that you trust will be key to weathering this health and economic crisis. If you have questions about an active loan, contact your lender. You can also contact our staff at ProsperityME if you have questions about financial management or the PPP loan. We are happy to help you!


Systemic inequities and racial disparities

by Julia Truillo

PortLand of Opportunity is a strategic action plan powered by the City of Portland Office of Economic Opportunity. OEO was created to address persistent inequities that challenge our communities of color. Since 2017, OEO has brought light to existing, systemic inequities and racial disparities. It works toward a strong sense of belonging for everyone who calls Portland home, especially our racially and linguistically diverse neighbors.

To highlight the importance of fostering an overarching sense of belonging, our work focuses on Economic Inclusion and Development, Civic Inclusion, Cultural and Social Inclusion, and Welcome-ability.

Everyone can contribute to the urgent work of addressing racism while bringing opportunity to all. This mandate, in the very fabric of our mission, should guide actions as an institution and as individual community members.

Simple steps you can take:
• Educate yourself on U.S. history, including all its shame. White supremacist ideals served as this country’s foundation, embedding racism in our systems and culture still today. “Facing our collective history and how it informs our attitudes and behaviors allows us to choose a world of equity and justice.” (Facing History). It is time to build a collective sense of purpose.
• Insist on the highest standard of collective and individual accountability. Allyship is not only about showing up, but about contributing to change. Being anti-racism doesn’t require you to pretend to be “free of racism.” Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself.
• Listen with empathy. Listen to understand. Listen to intimate stories, around the country and here in Maine. As Bryan Stevenson said at the 2016 Carnegie Summit: We must get “proximate” to suffering and understand the nuanced experiences of those who suffer from and experience inequality. “If you are willing to get closer to people who are suffering, you will find the power to change the world.” Feeling this discomfort is part of the work.
• Engagement and commitment is essential to moving forward. Despite feeling defeated and frustrated, we must find, individually and collectively, ways to keep defeating racism, and keep engaging in productive dialogue and actions, now and for future generations. More brings us together as human beings than tears us apart.
• Check and re-check your narratives to avoid intentionally and unintentionally perpetuating exclusionary language.
• Acknowledge the systematic, pervasive, and painful disparities unique to our African American neighbors, here and across our country, as a crucial first step. “We cannot ignore” as Thomas Shapiro said, “that toxic inequality is not equally distributed.” Inequality across our socio-economic fabric causes our communities of color, particularly the Black community, to fall far behind.
OEO’s new resource page features stories, facts, and reports to help turn frustration into action and sadness into empowerment. Try not to this moment make you feel powerless, but motivate you for the work ahead and the actions we all can take.

Each month, OEO will feature a key organization with tangible resources for expanding opportunity among all of our communities, especially in our communities of color, right here in Portland.