Annual Report 2020

Dear Members, Partner and Friends,

During times of crisis, people respond in different ways: We see the worst of humanity and we see the very best. Last year, amid terrible losses and traumas, again and again Self-Help saw the best.

We saw our partners and allies quickly respond to advocate for justice and meet urgent community needs. We witnessed the determination and resilience of our members and borrowers. And we stand in awe of our staff, who worked day and night to provide COVID-19 relief loans, to find solutions for members who were struggling to pay bills, and who provided financial services as safely as possible during a global pandemic.

In the spring of 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide COVID-19 relief loans to small businesses and nonprofits. Both of our credit unions, Self-Help and Self-Help Federal, mobilized quickly to offer those loans. This effort involved nearly 200 members of our staff, many of whom worked evenings and weekends to help borrowers navigate a complex application and approval process. As of June 1, 2021, we have closed $253 million in forgivable PPP loans, helping the businesses and nonprofits we serve to maintain 27,401 jobs.  

We were among the CDFIs that helped direct PPP funds where they were needed most. Sixty-five percent of our loans went to small businesses or nonprofits led by people of color. Our median loan was less than $21,000 —an insignificant amount for some of the larger businesses that received PPP funds, but our smaller loans were often a matter of survival for the smaller businesses and nonprofits devastated by the economic crisis. Each loan created a ripple effect of relief in thousands of communities, supporting vital work such as rural healthcare in western NC, services for youth in San Bernardino and legal services for immigrants in Chicago.

While providing much-needed COVID-19 relief, we stayed focused on pursuing our mission. As illustrated in this report, we continued helping members repair blemished credit, build savings and buy their first homes. Just a few highlights:
The pandemic struck at a time when many consumer protections already had been weakened or dismantled. Through the Center for Responsible Lending, we had an intense focus on advocating for those disproportionately affected by the pandemic while continuing the fight for fair lending practices. Working with partners, CRL was successful in federal stimulus negotiations to strengthen PPP lending policies and provide protections from evictions and foreclosures. CRL also continued fighting for student debt relief, and with allies had a major victory in Nebraska to stop harmful payday lending.    

As you know, last year was a time of unprecedented trauma and grief. COVID-19 claimed far too many lives and inflicted severe economic hardships, disproportionately impacting communities of color. The brutal murder of George Floyd triggered a long overdue racial reckoning in our country that has underscored the urgency of our work. It also prompted us to examine our own internal systems and practices for embedded racism. We are grateful to our staff for their important work in leading conversations, identifying training and envisioning a deeper commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at Self-Help.  With support from expert consultants, we are laying the groundwork for increased accountability to ensure that we are fulfilling our mission and responsibility to our staff and the communities we serve, now and in the future.  

Last year we marked Self-Help’s 40-year anniversary. Because of the pandemic, it wasn’t possible to celebrate that occasion with a gathering of members and friends. In a year when we couldn’t shake hands or give hugs, we did our best to touch many lives for the better. We are grateful to all of you who have supported us and made our work possible.

Please join us in rolling up your sleeves to be vaccinated if you haven’t already, and let’s keep walking arm-in-arm to build wealth and economic opportunity for all.

With warm regards,
Martin Eakes – Executive Director/CEO
Lewis Myers – Board Chair, Center for Community Self-Help