Community Bank in Bronx Tries to Get NYers Out of Habit of Borrowing Money

A community bank in the Bronx is trying to get New Yorkers out of the habit of borrowing money. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

When Denise Ortiz and her boyfriend moved in together, she found herself in a bind, needing a couple thousand dollars to cover expenses. She didn't want to ask her family for money, and she knew getting a typical bank loan would take time.

"It takes forever. It takes like a month. Literally, it takes like a month to do this and to do that," Ortiz said.

That dilemma is something Ortiz's employer, BOOM!Health, has seen too often. Employees needing quick cash often raided their 401ks, incurring financial penalties, or they took out pay day loans with sky-high interest rates that plunged them further into debt.

"It does affect your performance because you're constantly trying to make ends meet," said Inez Segarra, senior vice president of human resources for BOOM!Health. "You're living paycheck to paycheck."

Enter the nine-year-old Spring Bank, the first bank to open headquarters in the Bronx in a quarter century. Spring has arranged with businesses like BOOM!Health to offer a an employee loan program that gives up to $2,500 with no minimum credit score to qualify. BOOM!Health and the other participating businesses help assesses whether the applicants can afford paying back the loans.

"Our partner employees verify for us that folks are, in fact, employed and how long they've been at that employer, and based on that, we turn around the loans very quickly," said Melanie Stern, director of consumer lending for Spring Bank.

The goal is to help people in minority and immigrant communities who are working but might not have great credit histories. There's also an emphasis on building savings so there's no need to turn to loans again for small financial shortfalls.

"You're getting $50 every two weeks taken out of your paycheck. It doesn't really bite. We'll continue to pull those payments into a savings account," Stern said. "Next time something happens, you've got that little chunk of money sitting in a savings account."

For more information about the Employee Opportunity Loan Program, visit springbankny.com.

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