Increasing Economic Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated People

Apr 28, 2023 9:15 AM ET
Campaign: Financial health
Anthony Hingle
“The Fountain Fund put me back in a situation where I can live my life more freely without having to worry about transportation.” - Anthony Hingle

Anthony Hingle was ready for a new beginning. Sentenced for a felony in 1988, he spent 32 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary (commonly known as Angola). After a vacated conviction and amended charge, he was released in April 2021 on time already served.

Embracing his second chance, Mr. Hingle found employment at VOTE (Voice of the Experienced), an organization dedicated to advocating and organizing for criminal justice reform. A short commute from his home in New Orleans, the job offered him the promise of reacclimating to society while earning a living wage for his family.

Mr. Hingle and his wife owned two vehicles, but when a minor accident left them without the means to repair his car, they had to make do the best they could with only one. Commuting to his job became much more difficult, a situation that impacted his entire family.

Thinking back on that time, “it was a real strain on the family, being forced to share one car,” Mr. Hingle recalled.

​Mr. Hingle heard from a friend about the Fountain Fund which provides low-interest loans and financial coaching to formerly incarcerated people, helping them build credit and stabilize their finances.

“It almost sounded too good to be true and I had a lot of questions,” said Mr. Hingle.

The Fountain Fund: Enabling Life-Changing Opportunities 

Paul Yates, Director of Economic Empowerment at the Fountain Fund is used to that type of skepticism. “Our clients are used to hearing ‘no’ every time they try to better their situation through things like loans,” he explained. “We don’t tell them ‘no’, we advise them on the specific steps they need to take. Many people tell us that it’s the first time someone has believed in them, the first time someone trusted them. You can see the change in their confidence. They’re so used to people saying no. We try to figure out how to get them to yes.”

After meeting with the Fountain Fund, Mr. Hingle was told he would be able to get a loan to repair his car. They offered him 24-month repayment terms with 3% interest, much lower than the typical 17-18% interest a bank would offer, if he could even qualify for a loan.

“After a 32-year sentence, most places say you need at least two years of credit building and I couldn’t qualify,” said Mr. Hingle.

In addition to loans, the Fountain Fund helps loan recipients by reporting their loan payments to the major credit bureaus to help people build credit. They also offer one-on-one financial coaching services and, when clients are ready, assistance with setting up saving accounts and opening credit cards. To date, the Fountain Fund has dispersed more than $1.5 million in small dollar amount loans, with more than $750,000 paid back and supporting additional recipients.

For Mr. Hingle, the Fountain Fund helped set up his loan, ensured he had the ability to repay it, and made it seamless to make payments. With the loan secured, he was able to repair his car, easing his family's daily stress over their commute and giving precious time back for them to be together.

Expanding access to credit and affordable small dollar loans

Thanks to recent grant funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation and CBA Fund, a CDFI intermediary, the Fountain Fund has been able to expand its credit building loans to New Orleans and other communities.

As part of Wells Fargo’s commitment to opening pathways to financial inclusion, Wells Fargo provided $1.65 million in grant funding to CBA Fund in 2021 to expand access to small dollar consumer loans which can help families reduce debt, build credit and savings, and start building wealth. CBA Fund was able to provide loan capital, capacity building grants and technical assistance to 14 nonprofit leaders, including Foundation Fund, ultimately helping hundreds of consumers like Mr. Hingle access safe and affordable credit to meet their short-term cash needs while helping establish or improve their credit scores.

“[The loan] meant a lot,” he explained. “It took away unnecessary strain and worry around whose turn it would be to be late or how we would get our granddaughter to school. Today, I’m able to start off my day well, knowing I can get to work on time. The Fountain Fund put me back in a situation where I can live my life more freely without having to worry about transportation.”

​For more information about CBA Fund and how it empowers life-changing organizations like the Fountain Fund, visit: