When Moani Vertido couldn’t easily get a loan to pay her college tuition for her last semester in graduate school, the Chaminade University alumna turned to one such program at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The 33-year-old aspiring nurse practitioner qualified for $6,300 at 4 percent, a low rate that she didn’t qualify for at any local bank in Hawai‘i.
“The loan amount was enough to pay for my last semester,” said Vertido, who earned her master’s degree in nursing in 2012. “I needed the loan quickly to graduate.”
Over the next 16 months, OHA will be making $10 million in Mālama Loans available to Native Hawaiians who need to access cash to start businesses, improve their homes, consolidate debts and continue their education.
The outreach is part of a broader effort to help improve a sense of economic well-being among Native Hawaiian consumers. The outreach is also expected to help cement the program’s status as a lender of last resort to Native Hawaiians, who are among those increasingly getting squeezed by tight lending standards at Hawai‘i banks.
Since it was created in 2007, OHA’s Mālama Loan Program has given out more than $34 million in low-interest loans to an estimated 2,000 Native Hawaiian consumers.
Behind the numbers are Native Hawaiian consumers like Vertido, who graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1998 and completed in one year her master’s degree in nursing thanks to her loan from OHA.
“Working full-time while attending college was difficult,” Vertido said. “My biggest challenge came when I entered my final semester and ran out of money. I was so close to getting my master’s degree. If I didn’t finish in 2012, I would have missed the opportunity to complete my master’s in one year and I would not be where I am now – enrolled in the UH (University of Hawai‘i) Nursing Program and working at Shriners Hospital as a care coordinator for Quest patients.”
For more information on the Mālama Loan, call (808) 594-1835.