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Accessible Financial Services

Employer-Sponsored Small-Dollar Loans

Help employers build a better financial foundation for their employees to avoid the high cost of payday lenders, establish or repair credit, and begin to save.

Research shows financial problems of employees cause untold hardship monetarily, emotionally and physically. These money problems affect both employees and employers, reducing productivity, increasing absenteeism, and ultimately affecting employer profitability. To combat this, credit unions can partner with employers to offer small-dollar loan programs to help employees avoid predatory lenders and attain financial health. Loan payments are repaid through payroll deduction and repayment is reported monthly to credit bureaus. Once the loan is repaid, employees continue making payments into savings accounts on an opt-out basis.

Get started now

Credit unions are invited to implement a small-dollar loan program in your community.

The following materials are available for download now, at no cost:

Feasibility Study
Implementation Guide
Marketing Kit
Download all 3 at once

Developed by NorthCountry Federal Credit Union and tested in Filene's incubator over an 18 month period, Employer-Sponsored Small-Dollar Loans (ESSDL):

  • Was implemented in 13 credit unions and 48 employers
  • Generated 1,042 loans with over $1.2M in loan volume
  • Resulted in $42K in savings balances
  • The average loan per borrower was $1,173 and the average savings was $152.

Competition is minimal and often predatory. The small-dollar lending market is dominated by high-cost alternative lenders and underserved by traditional lenders. Implementation is easy. Offering the ESSDL program requires little staff training and minimal changes to financial institution operating systems. The ESSDL outperformed financial projections. With reported loss rates ranging from 2 to 3% during the first two phases of product testing. Participating credit unions reported the program is recognized as a valuable community service. Deepen roots in your community. While employers may offer the ESSDL as a stand-alone asset, partnerships with nonprofit community partners enhance program uptake and implementation and strengthen community bonds.

Background information

In 2007, the United Way in Chittenden County, Vermont, convened a group of employers to facilitate the development and implementation of workplace supports to improve employee productivity, retention, advancement, and financial stability. Among the needs identified by the new Working Bridges employer collaborative was a way to help the growing number of employees requesting pay advances or quitting their jobs to gain access to retirement funds. To address the challenge, Working Bridges employers partnered with NorthCountry Federal Credit Union to design a small-dollar loan to help their employees gain access to emergency cash, avoid the high cost of payday lenders, establish or repair credit, and begin to save. The ESSDL was piloted at Rhino Foods, a specialty food manufacturer in Burlington, Vermont, and gained national attention in 2013 when it was featured on the PBS news and public affairs show Need to Know.

In April 2014, the Filene Research Institute and the Ford Foundation partnered to test the ESSDL within Filene’s Accessible Financial Services Incubator. During the 18 month test the loan was replicated and implemented in eight states. All of the financial institutions that completed the incubator testing program found that the ESSDL was easy to launch and manage, and all reported that they would continue to offer the ESSDL after the conclusion of the test.


 “I could breathe a little easier and also liked that it helps build credit.”

What people are saying

“Extraordinary. It was a Godsend that helped me make 2 goals: to get the vehicle repaired & the payday loan paid off.”

“It helped with my emergency at a low cost and was very simple to go through the application process. It saved me a lot of time and hassle.”

"Making a positive impact on poverty is not an overnight resolution.  It is a journey.  I like to think that we have just made our first few steps on this journey.  And yes, be it ever so small right now, we are making a difference!”
- Georgia Heritage FCU – Robby Glore – VP of Operations

For more details and testimonials, see the Final Summary Report found in the Resources section.

This program is offered in collaboration with FINRA. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation supports innovative and educational projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools necessary for financial success throughout life. For details about grant programs and other FINRA Foundation initiatives, visit

Contact Corlinda Wooden, project manager, to learn more.