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NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper's Remarks at the U.S. Treasury Department Roundtable on Enhancing Financial Resilience for the Justice-Impacted

January 2024
NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper's Remarks at the U.S. Treasury Department Roundtable on Enhancing Financial Resilience for the Justice-Impacted

As Prepared for Delivery on January 12, 2024

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for convening this important and timely discussion.

The statutory mission of the credit union system is to meet the credit and savings needs of members, especially those of modest means. So, working to create financial inclusion for marginalized communities has long been the work of many credit unions.

For example, minority depository institution credit unions serve communities of color. In doing so, these credit unions are helping to close the racial wealth gap, foster greater economic growth in underserved communities, and increase the ability of people of color to pass on intergenerational wealth to their families.

Another example of the credit union ethos in action is the Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union. Chartered in 2011, Stepping Stones serves a membership in the Wilmington, Delaware, area that includes incarcerated men, providing them with a much-needed financial lifeline. Stepping Stones is also seeking to expand its reach to local women’s prisons and thus open the door to financial well-being and financial security for more justice-impacted individuals.

For our part, the National Credit Union Administration has adopted measures to help people convicted of minor and non-violent criminal offenses get back on their feet financially and attain employment within the credit union sector. We have all made mistakes at one time or another, but far too many Americans still face hiring barriers due to criminal records resulting from those transgressions.

To address this problem, the NCUA Board approved the agency’s Second Chance Interpretive Rule and Policy Statement in 2019, which provided such individuals with greater opportunities to work within the credit union industry. The Fair Hiring in Banking Act passed by Congress in 2022 codified several elements already found in the NCUA’s Second Chance policy statement.

As mandated by that law, the NCUA is now working in conjunction with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on rules that will apply to both credit unions and banks. We hope to finalize that rule in the coming months.

Finally, many of the individuals impacted by the policy statement and proposed rule are not violent or career criminals. They are people who made poor choices at some point and who have since paid their debts to society. What’s more, a disproportionate number of these individuals come from communities of color.

The Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky famously wrote, “[a] society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals.” If our nation is to advance real financial inclusion, equity, and resilience, we as regulators must continue removing barriers to employment and wealth-building opportunities for all populations, including those who are justice impacted. And, if we stay that course, a financial system that works for all — and builds a brighter future for all — is within reach.

Thank you.

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