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Credit and Finance: We have options for Tribal members

HOLLYWOOD — One of the enterprises of the Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc. is the Credit and Finance department.

Bob Maza is the director and has been in the position since 2002. He and his staff of six work with Tribal members to make funds available through various loan programs.

Maza said a lot has changed since he began working for the Tribe about 18 years ago. Namely, the department is working with assets that are literally about 100 times greater than before.

He said the department now processes about 2,000 loans every month.

“As the years have gone on, more programs and funding has been made available to meet the needs of Tribal members,” Maza said. “There hasn’t been one year that we haven’t grown.”

The team at the Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc.’s Credit & Finance department includes, from left, Natasha Corona (loan assistant), Bob Maza (director) and Alexis Collard (office manager). (Photo Damon Scott)

Maza said the board has been able to offer programs with greater flexibility to those who are interested in paying down debt and making their finances more streamlined and stable.

Two of the five loan programs that are of particular value to a wide variety of Tribal members, Maza said, are the debt consolidation loan and the short term loan.

Through the debt consolidation loan, Tribal members are able to consolidate current loans they have up to $25,000.

For example, consider a Tribal member who is paying on several different loans (credit card, vehicle, bank, etc.) totaling $23,500 with monthly payments of $1,030.

Through a debt consolidation loan, the payment could be reduced to $490 a month at a 9% interest rate.

Maza said many, if not most, interest rates under the scenario would be higher. The consolidation also frees up a client’s cash flow.

“It’s used to free up money on high interest loans and high payments,” he said. “You can pay [creditors] off and lower the monthly payment. This is the one that’s most effective and valuable to Tribal members.”

Maza said the department has enrolled over 700 Tribal members in the program since it was revitalized in 2012.

Credit and Finance is currently running a special on the short term loan program. Maza and his staff have been promoting it for the past couple months.

“The [short term] loan limit used to be $10,000, but now it’s $15,000,” he said.

Maza said the short term loan can be used for just about anything – vacations, holiday purchases, supplies for kids, smaller vehicles or to catch up on bills.

The loan is offered at a 14% interest rate.

“It basically works like a small mortgage, if you keep the loan open for one month and pay it off it will be prorated,” Maza said.

The most common loan by volume at Credit and Finance is the dividend advancement program.

It was created in 2004 to combat the predatory practices of lenders who were taking advantage of Tribal members with exorbitant interest rates – often at a 10% interest rate that compounded monthly.

“The board and council said: ‘Let’s create our own program to combat unscrupulous lenders with [a] 3.5% [rate] instead of 10%,’” Maza said.

The program typically operates as a one-month loan used for a particular need.

The other two available loan programs are the agribusiness loan and the payroll loan.

The agribusiness loan can be used for any type of business that is related to agriculture.

Maza said it was previously only offered to cattle owners, but has been expanded to any agribusiness, for items such as supplies, soil, equipment and fencing.

The loan is offered up to $50,000.

Finally, the payroll loan program is available to any Tribal member who is also a Tribal employee.

Under the terms, a Tribal member can borrow up to $2,500 at a flat fee of 6%, Maza said.

Maza wants Tribal members to know that his department is available to assist.

“If a member comes in and wants to borrow money for whatever reason, we always look for ways to help them,” Maza said. “Maybe you’re in a financial hardship and need to borrow $5,000. Even if you are maxed out, we’ll still look at debt consolidation. We try and figure it out.”

For more

Each of the five loan programs has its own set of policies and procedures. Maza said changes to loan policies are typically made known to Tribal members through community meetings and email.

Credit and Finance has three operational offices in Hollywood, Brighton and Big Cypress. There are also satellite offices in Immokalee and Tampa.

The Hollywood office is located at the Seminole Estates Clubhouse at 220 Escom Lane.

Call 954-966-6300, ext. 10977 for more information.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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