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Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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US Bank partners with 24/7 Blac to bridge income, employment disparity


24/7 Blac, which was established in 2020, focuses on financial empowerment programs such as business creation, career readiness, and homeownership.

The year 2020 was a defining moment for Sharina Sallis and her community.

“It was the perfect storm,” said Sallis, president of the 24/7 Black Leadership Advancement Consortium in Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Iowa. “People were plagued with the pandemic. We were all sent home in isolation from our community. We were watching George Floyd being murdered on TV. As a result, people were slowing down and turning their focus on what was happening in their lives and community.”

That, along with a report naming Waterloo-Cedar Falls the worst metro area in the United States for Black Americans due to income, unemployment, and home ownership disparities, prompted the establishment of 24/7 Blac and an ongoing partnership with U.S. Bank.

“No one wants to hold onto that designation [as the worst place in the U.S. for Black people],” said Joy Briscoe, executive director of 24/7 Blac. “That’s not my Waterloo. Through 24/7 Blac, we are working to address that by specifically working with the Black community around a lack of economic empowerment and financial literacy.”

There are now four core programs aimed at supporting the Black community, two years after 24/7 Blac was founded: career readiness, a business accelerator program, homeownership readiness, and an investment group. U.S. Bank began collaborating with 24/7 Blac in the months following its inception.

“We cannot do this work without partners,” said Sallis. “Partners that are willing to say how can I support you and create space for you.”

24/7 Blac received a $50,000 Market Impact Fund (MIF) grant from the United States in 2021 to advance generational wealth among Black business owners. The Bank Foundation Since their inception in 2019, MIF grants have addressed critical needs in communities across the United States' 26-state footprint. Bank.

“We are trying to change and transform the outcomes for the Black community,” said Ashlei Spivey, a business access advisor at U.S. Bank who spoke at a 24/7 Blac leadership event in June 2022. “To partner with an organization like 24/7, who is leading in their community, we are able to share, learn and be thoughtful about our approach.”

This includes programs such as U.S. Bank Access Home, which focuses on promoting and expanding Black homeownership while also sharing information and resources with the community. That's where Kelly Newton, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area mortgage sales supervisor for US Bank, comes in.

Newton will spend Saturdays discussing how to become mortgage-ready and what the mortgage application process looks like when the second cohort of people goes through 24/7 Blac's homebuying classes this fall.

“Homeownership is the biggest driver toward building generational wealth,” said Newton. “I work with those in the cohort because I want to share what I know and give good information to those who haven’t had access to it and deserve more.”

What Sallis and Briscoe have accomplished in the first two years of 24/7 Blac's existence is just the beginning: 40 businesses have gone through their accelerator program; three business owners have turned it into a full-time job; and three people in the first homebuyer cohort have closed on their new homes.

“We thought we could do a little something when we started, but it turns out a lot of people needed what we were offering,” said Briscoe. “The work we began is now bigger than all of us.”