Kansas City payday loan industry alternative gets $1M grant

December 08, 2018 - 10:37 am

A startup that launched in Kansas City as an alternative to the payday lending industry has been awarded a $1 million grant to expand its services.

The Rockefeller Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative recently announced that Onward Financial Inc. is one of 10 companies to be awarded a grant from the Communities Thrive Challenge, The Kansas City Star reported.

The grant roughly triple's the startup's budget and will allow Onward Financial to hire more employees and expand its services.

"I've been working on this for about two years," founder Ronnie Washington said of the personal finance app. "It means everything, quite honestly."

Onward Financial operates a program through an app that employers can use to encourage workers to start a savings plan, learn about personal finance and borrow for emergencies at low interest rates.

Washington, who is based in Washington, D.C., decided to launch the project in Kansas City because of the payday loan industry's presence in the area and the illegal schemes found in the industry.

Leawood businessman and race car driver Scott Tucker operated an illegal $2 billion payday loan operation in Kansas City. The city's payday lending industry has also seen companies and groups face bankruptcy, indictments, financial penalties and imprisonment.

Kansas City officials have been trying to combat the illegal activity by nurturing Onward Financial through the city's 2017 Innovation Partnership Program. The startup also partnered with the Kansas City Credit Union to get Prier Products employees involved in the program.

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