USAA announced it will donate $50 million over three years to nonprofit organizations to help improve racial equity by closing gaps in education and job training, employment, and income disparity.

Nearly $7 million of the total already has been directed to four San Antonio entities working to improve economic opportunities for people of color and low-income military service members. 

“At USAA, we strive to create an environment where all employees feel like they truly belong and have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Wayne Peacock, USAA president and CEO. “This commitment extends to the communities in which we live and work. We recognize that there is more USAA can do to help close inequality gaps, and these investments are a fundamental part of our efforts.”

In making the announcement, USAA cited an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that found Black-owned, non-employer businesses are less likely to get financing than white-owned firms, and Black and Hispanic workers with bachelor’s degrees and higher had lower median weekly earnings than whites. 

USAA also pointed to research showing that 43 percent of the military community is made up of ethnic minorities and almost half of all USAA employees identify as persons of color. 

The San Antonio organizations and initiatives USAA’s contribution will benefit this year include: 

  • Alamo College Foundation: $2 million to provide 335 Alamo Promise scholarships, emergency aid, and internships.
  • LiftFund: $2 million to provide 60 non-traditional loans with low interest rates for Black/Hispanic entrepreneurs, 240 individuals with mentorship and consultation, and 80 small minority/woman/veteran-owned business participation in an accelerator program.
  • The University of Texas Foundation (UTSA Bold Promise): $1 million to provide approximately 100 scholarships to low-to-moderate income minority students. 
  • Project Quest: $1.2 million to help approximately 175 low-to-moderate-income Black/Hispanic San Antonians receive training for new or enhanced skills in STEM fields.

Project Quest is a job training and workforce development organization that aims to improve access to education and racial equity through better economic opportunities, said David Zammiello, the organization’s president and CEO. “Their economic mobility changes the complete trajectory of not just their own lives, but also the lives of their family members by moving them into the middle class and breaking generational poverty,” Zammiello stated of people in the program. 

Diversity and inclusion are considered strategic imperatives for USAA, said a company spokesman. Efforts on that front internally include appointing a CEO Diversity and Inclusion Council, enhancing its supplier diversity program to invest in veteran- and minority-owned businesses and all diverse categories, and strengthening recruitment, retention, and development practices.

In March, at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in San Antonio, USAA donated $1 million to local nonprofits supporting response to the pandemic. The company followed that gift in August with $30 million awarded to 24 charitable organizations that support military families facing economic hardships. It was the largest one-time philanthropic contribution in USAA’s 100-year history.

The donations announced Monday and previously are “separate from and unrelated to” a recent regulatory rating downgrade for the USAA Federal Savings Bank, said the USAA spokesman. 

In its most recent review dated March 2019, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) found that the bank violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Lending Act, which resulted in a “needs to improve” rating for the bank’s compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The bank’s previous overall rating was “satisfactory.”

The OCC concluded that the distribution of loans by income level of geography for home mortgage loans was “adequate,” but was “poor” for consumer loans. The bank received an “outstanding” CRA rating on the investment test, a “high satisfactory” for service, and a “low satisfactory” for lending. 

USAA is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.