OCC announces initiative to expand credit access in Los Angeles

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced a partnership with authorities and businesses in Los Angeles to facilitate initiatives improving access to the credit.

The effort, announced Friday afternoon, is the first local offshoot of the OCC’s Project REACh (“Roundtable for Economic Access and Change”) launched in July. The project is intended to bring together business leaders, government officials and community advocates to help improve financial services options for disadvantaged communities.

The OCC said in a press release that “L.A. REACh” will “promote greater access to affordable housing, enhance small business financing, and create opportunities to reinvigorate area minority-owned financial institutions.”

Kathryn Barger, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said in the press release that Project REACh and its local initiative in L.A. “will eliminate existing barriers that most disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, and open the doors to the free-market system that has brought so many out of poverty.”

Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks, who has spearheaded the effort and cited the summer’s protests following the death of George Floyd as the motivation, said the aim of Project REACh is “to tear down barriers that keep our economy and financial system from providing the same full, fair, equal access to everyone.”

The broader efforts of Project REACh center around convening bankers, regulators, civil rights leaders and community advocates to discuss possible approaches to reforming the credit system, citing the tens of millions of Americans who lack credit scores or have otherwise been prevented from accessing much of the financial system.

According to a factsheet published by the OCC, the project has three core goals: the creation of an “alternative credit scoring method,” expanding banks’ affordable housing portfolios “through low-cost transfer and renovation loans,” and addressing “structural barriers” that frequently prevent or discourage poor communities from using financial services.


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