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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Financial Institutions Could Play Role in Shrinking Wealth Gap

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Monday, August 14, 2023   

The United States' wealth gap is a persistent and complex issue. Financial institutions could help chip away at it.

The top 10% of income earners own 69% of the wealth, while the lowest 50% have less than 3%.

President and CEO of Verity Credit Union in Seattle Tonita Webb said the issue is even greater between Black and white Americans.

Black people have a long history of being denied loans from banks and other financial institutions. Webb said the first step is for these institutions to understand what communities need.

"Listening to communities to figure out where their roadblocks are, where they have run into challenges," said Webb, "and be able to work at changing the system based off the feedback and co-create solutions together."

Webb said financially underserved communities have lacked the ability to grow generational wealth, which increases the country's wealth gap over time.

She said institutions could also change the way credit scores are calculated.

Credit scores like FICO are used to determine someone's eligibility for a loan. But Webb said Verity Credit Union has been using an Artificial Intelligence program for the last year to calculate it in a different way.

"It takes into consideration reputation," said Webb, "how long you've been at a job, how you pay your rent on time, and other things that FICO doesn't necessarily capture."

Webb said using this new system, her credit union has seen an increase in lending to people who were previously denied.

She said financial institutions can also shrink the wealth gap by increasing homeownership. Programs that require little or no down payment and assist with interest rates can get more families into homes.

Webb said all of this is personal for her because she came from an underserved community.

"I want to change that for underserved communities," said Webb, "and be able to put families in the position to leave something for their kids to build upon, and that is what we're missing."




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