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Financial Help for Local Businesses with Rebecca Worthington

As COVID-19 continues to have a significant effect on the local economy in Chester County, Pennsylvania, businesses and organizations are still in need of options to address revenue shortfalls and cashflow challenges. We turned to Rebecca Worthington from Benchmark Federal Credit Union to chat about the local economy and how that financial institution is supporting folks in Chester County.

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What is the difference between a credit union and a bank?

  • A credit union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative.
  • Members pay a $5 member fee, but then become an owner of the credit union.
  • Members share in the credit union’s profits with higher interest and better loan rates.
  • Most credit unions offer the same services as big banks.

What is the credit union seeing in the economy in Chester County?

  • Many businesses were hurt in the late spring and early summer when lockdown orders were in place.
  • Those small business owners were worried that they would not survive the lockdown period – but many have since reopened.
  • Some local businesses laid off staff, but have since brought some of their people back to work.
  • Many local business owners and leaders are hopeful for a return to full business in the next few months.
  • At Benchmark FCU, there is an emphasis on encouraging folks to shop locally to support the local economy.
  • Lots of businesses across the county have been forced to pivot to engage and serve customers in new ways.
  • Restaurants and hair salons were very adversely affected by COVID-19.

How is Benchmark offering support during COVID-19?

  • As the only credit union to exclusively serve Chester County, Benchmark gives all of its sponsorship funds to Chester County businesses and residents.
  • Benchmark continued to provide event sponsorship and support for local community programs and events during COVID-19 – “If we had it available to give back, we gave it.”

What is the Benchmark Cares Loan Program?

  • Benchmark FCU set aside $1 million for the loan program.
  • Chester County businesses can apply for a loan of up to $50,000 – that is interest-free, due of 10 years, and with the first payment not due until January 2021.
  • The loan program gained momentum in late June and July, once businesses were allowed to reopen.
  • As of the posting of this show, there is still just under $300,000 available in the loan program.

How can local chambers of commerce deliver value to businesses?

  • A local Chamber of Commerce provides businesses with important news, connection to local government, information, and networks for supporting and growing their business.
  • The local Chamber provides a strong connection to the local business community.
  • Benchmark supported the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce by covering the membership fees for 2020 for existing members, so that those local businesses could continue to leverage the power of the chamber.

How can credit unions meet the banking needs of local businesses?

  • Credit unions often deliver exactly the same business services as bigger banks – but often at less costly rates or with lower fees.
  • Credit unions are often hyper-focused on their local area, which can translate to a closer working relationship with business owners and leaders.

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