A community health center (CHC), located in a low-income, urban neighborhood, annually serves 100,000 local residents. Its services include primary health care, dentistry, and mental health services, and extend from there to include legal aid, afterschool programs for youth, senior exercise classes, an urban garden, volunteer tax preparation services, and one-on-one financial counseling. It is a vibrant hub for the community, and other community groups will also use the health center’s space for their meetings and activities.
Staff and residents alike are facing financial stress. For staff, the CHC has processed a number of payday advances. It cuts paper checks for multiple staff who do not have bank accounts. There are a number of residents with unpaid medical bills, and they know the financial counselors are very busy working with residents to find workarounds to issues of credit and debt. There are no bank branches within a 2 mile radius from the CHC – only payday lenders and check cashers, and ATMs in the convenience stores.
When BrightFi staff began to talk with the CHC, it was originally to see if we could approach the clients of the tax preparation site during tax season. The CHC, however, wanted first to see how staff liked the product and if they felt it was a good fit for their organization. BrightFi attended an employee health fair to talk about the product, and signed interested staff up on the spot. We walked those staff through how to request a direct deposit change to their BrightFi account and how to deposit other checks they may be receiving.
After this positive response, BrightFi became a regular fixture at community health fairs and the VITA tax prep clinics, introducing our product and regularly signing up more residents. As the product became more well known among staff, financial counselors began incorporating messaging about the product when meeting with residents who were unbanked or using alternative financial services providers.