CENTER FOR FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE & INNOVATION
The Center for Financial Independence & Innovation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities and their family members advance their financial independence and security.
CFII is guided by its operating philosophy and core values:
• All people should have the same opportunities to become independent and self-determined;
• The best way for individuals with disabilities to actualize self-determination is to provide opportunities where they can successfully work on goals to a better economic future in an encouraging and supportive environment;
• The values of dignity, independence, individual responsibility, choice and self-direction should be integrated into every aspect of public policy regarding individuals with disabilities.
A Brief History of CFII
In fall of 2003, the Georgia Department of Labor successfully applied for a federal grant that would provide loan capital and operational funds to states who wanted to offer an Alternative Financing Program for individuals with disabilities to purchase Assistive Technology, home and vehicle modifications. The grant was funded with approximately $521,000 from state or private entities (Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission, National Credit Union Foundation) and approximately $1.4 million in federal funds (3:1 federal to state match).
After operating the “Credit-Able” program for nearly 2 years, a stakeholder meeting was held to determine if additional financial products and services should be offered. It was determined that, yes, ancillary services would be an added benefit to individuals with disabilities. All funds available at the time could only be used for loans for Assistive Technology, so the general consensus was to form a new nonprofit entity that would provide the umbrella for additional financial services.
As a result, CFII was established in 2007. CFII still operates Credit-Able. As Georgia’s Alternative Financing Program for Assistive Technology, Credit-Able provides low-interest loans and loan guarantees to give Georgians with disabilities access to affordable financing for Assistive Technology and home and vehicle modifications, including hearing aids, adapted vehicles, ramps, lifts, hand controls, computer equipment and software, recreational equipment, and home modifications such as ramps, roll in showers, railings and hand bars. The direct loan program provides loans up to $5,000. The program is serviced directly by Credit-Able staff. Historically, CFII has partnered with credit unions for larger loans. In this arrangement, credit unions would lend to consumers and CFII guaranteed the loans. We are reviewing our current policies and procedures regarding loan guarantee amounts and loan terms, and are determining how best to proceed. In the interim, the CFII is limiting lending to the $5,000 direct loan cap.
Credit-Able portfolio highlights:
• $2.1M currently loaned (still active); $1.4M principal balance;
• $2.7M paid in full and as agreed (226 loans);
• $187K charged off loans (default rate remains under 4%.
Since September 2014, CFII has contracted with the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Accessibility for All-Tools for Life) to manage Credit-Able’s operations.
CFII has also received statewide certification as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) https://www.cdfifund.gov/Pages/default.aspx. This certification makes CFII eligible to apply for grants and other funding opportunities available to CDFIs and make its services more available for low-income disability populations in Georgia.