Here's a staggering statistic. According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), approximately 150,000 people in Charlotte work full-time (or full-time equivalent) and earn only 30-35% of Area Median Income (AMI). Despite being employed these workers, with earnings below the Federal Poverty Level, frequently find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. To compound the difficulties, a very high percentage of our low-income wage earners are unbanked due to the inability to meet minimum financial institution qualifications, prior negative experiences with bank fees and/or distrust of financial institutions.
As a result, these economically-vulnerable families live dangerously close to desperation. Many use high-fee, prepaid debit cards for all transactions, limiting the ability to save. Others are forced to turn to predatory lenders, check cashing services, tax refund-advances and rent-to-own purchases. A typical borrower could pay $800 or more for a short-term loan of $350. The disproportionately high cost of these products lessens the opportunity for upward mobility for low-wage workers. Charlotte ranked 50th
out of 50 major US cities in upward mobility, according to a Harvard study.