Alternatives FCU launches loans for people undergoing gender transition

alternativesAlternatives FCU in Ithaca has launched a loan program for people undergoing gender transition. The program, which was announced in June, is intended to provide loans to support transgender and non-binary people with funds to cover costs, including hormone replacement therapy, surgery, travel to appointments, vocal coaching and even the loss of a job or housing due to discrimination, according to online news publication, Ithaca Voice.

The loan program includes both personal loans and lines of credit, designed to accommodate one-time and ongoing needs associated with the transitioning, Alternatives told the publication.

“While specific plans will be tailored to each individual’s financial position and needs, the upper limit for borrowers is currently $20,000,” Carol Chernikoff, chief lending officer at Alternatives, said to the Ithaca Voice.

The TransAction Financial Empowerment Program has been introduced by Alternatives in partnership with Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes and is believed to be among the first of its kind nationwide, according to the article.

“There’s quite a lot of expense that goes into someone trying to socially or medically transition,” Devon Ritz, LGBTQ patient navigator and outreach educator at Planned Parenthood, said to the publication. “It just kind of compounds itself after a while and makes life difficult.”

“In 2018, the PPSFL served 482 people,” the Ithaca Voice stated. “Many of those patients, staff realized, were paying large sums out of pocket and taking on significant credit card debt to access care.”

According to PPSFL, some of its patients have traveled for hours to reach its clinics, and many faced high deductibles and prescription costs even if their health insurance covers some medical expenses.

“We thought, how can we step up with a program and product that’s going to have an impact and not just be lip service to ‘we welcome everybody”? Chernikoff said to the publication. “We do welcome everybody, but we want to do better than that.”

Reiley Schoen, chief operations officer of Alternatives, told the Ithaca Voice that the credit union’s leadership discussed the financial challenges transgender and non-binary people in the community face and saw an opportunity to help.

“I’m a trans person myself and I thought this was a really great idea and a unique way to support the community,” Schoen stated to the publication.

According to the Ithaca Voice, Liz Hudson, director of development for Alternatives, secured federal funding for staff training and program development from NCUA. Schoen and Chernikoff worked with Ritz to create a referral program to bring people who are transitioning through Alternatives’ door and to put best practices in place to ensure they feel welcome, the publication stated.

For more information and to access resources for transgender and non-binary people, visit Planned Parenthood’s website.

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