Reflecting on my own workplace, I am prouder than ever to work for and be a part of a not-for-profit financial cooperative. Our cooperative structure enabled us to create the first Crisis Assistance Relief Loan just days after the pandemic started and offer loan deferments and other forms of assistance to our member owners. Without hesitation, our volunteer board of directors, another benefit of the cooperative structure, supported our efforts to help members and the communities we serve in any way we could because it is our community, too. Cooperatives are not just in a community but also part of a community because they are owned by the people who live and work there.
The concept of cooperation is more powerful and more needed today than in any time in my recent memory. Cooperatives provide a significant positive economic benefit to and impact on their communities. For example, our cooperative structure saved 40,000 member-owners nearly $10 million last year through better rates and lower and fewer fees. Many re-invested those savings back into the community by shopping locally, building locally and giving locally. Overall, the financial benefit provided to the more than 750,000 Mainers who are part of a cooperative add up to hundreds of millions of dollars. The need for co-ops and the support they provide to the Maine economy should be embraced now more than ever.