JetStream Federal Credit Union was founded in 1947 in Miami Falls, Fla., to serve the Miami FAA employees and their families. Today, JetStream’s mission is very different; the membership had changed significantly by the time the current CEO of JetStream, Jeanne Kucey, stepped in back in 2009.
In addition to converting from a single-SEG credit union serving Miami-Dade County FAA employees to a community charter, the credit union had also taken in an NCUA-orchestrated merger with a credit union in Puerto Rico decades earlier. By 2011, the NCUA performed a study based on zip codes and discovered that 75% of JetStream’s members qualified as low-income. Kucey realized that JetStream needed more resources in order to expand its products and services to these members and potential members. She also wanted to lend deeper in the credit score spectrum.
JetStream FCU first partnered with CU Strategic Planning in 2010, when seeking CDFI funding to expand its auto lending program. She explained that the local area lacks good public transportation, so much of JetStream’s membership must drive to work. Many of its potential members were low-income or had minimal, poor or no credit history. JetStream won a CDFI grant and was able to make more car loans to hard-working people who needed them most. Eventually, JetStream also started making small business loans after getting many requests from members who were not able to obtain capital loans from banks.
Many of JetStream’s branches are in the three counties near the San Juan airport, and JetStream was able to help those areas get back to normal following 2017’s Hurricane Maria. Using CDFI grants earned after the devastation, the credit union helped members replace items insurance didn’t cover, such as air conditioning units, furniture and appliances.
Building upon past success, JetStream currently has an application in for a solar energy and home rehab grant, to help individuals without equity in their homes and those with challenged credit make repairs and upgrades. Existing homes in Miami-Dade County are old, Kucey explained, and many homes have roofing problems, mold issues or need new air conditioning units. While JetStream offers home equity loans, many people don’t meet the standard underwriting.
“If you have a lot of low-income people who aren’t being served by others, and you need to expand your resources so that you’re able to help more people, I really think it’s not just the best way to go, but the only way to go,” Kucey said, referring to using the grant to fulfill credit unions’ people-helping-people philosophy.
Kucey said the CU Strategic Planning team really understands the process, which has been a weight off her team. JetStream FCU views CU Strategic Planning as an extension of its own operations. The results have also been tremendous for the credit union, earning more than $3 million in grants, helping the credit union realize its goals and assist its low-income and minority members.