When immigrants move to the United States, their professional certifications don’t always transfer over. One Louisville nonprofit is offering small loans to help former doctors, nurses and others overcome the financial obstacles preventing them from pursuing their professions in their new home.
Ricardo Gonzalez moved to Louisville from San Juan, Puerto Rico, earlier this year after meeting a Puerto Rican woman who has lived here for decades. He was previously a real estate developer, attorney and U.S. government contractor in Puerto Rico.
“I moved to Louisville not only for love, but also for the stable economy,” he told a group of supporters Tuesday at an event for LHOME, a local nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution, which is providing loans to people like Gonzalez.
Puerto Rico is an American territory, but Gonzalez needs to study for and pass the Kentucky bar exam to practice law here.
When he came to Louisville, he got a real estate license but said he could not afford to pay for bar review courses and the test itself, until he got a loan from LHOME’s JobUp! program. He is one of three people to receive a loan since the program launched in October, according to LHOME. The JobUp! program is funded by Fifth Third Bank and provides loans up to $6,000.
LHOME CEO and president Amy Shir said the loans her organization provides are below market-rate, and that specific rates vary.
Mayor Greg Fischer spoke in support of the program at an announcement event, where he said most of Louisville’s population growth comes from foreign-born residents.
“Many of these immigrants come with tremendous skills from their home countries. They can be doctors and nurses, engineers,” he said. “But when they come to America, those skills don’t translate to what the American outline is.”
LHOME provides loan services to low- to moderate-income individuals, particularly in west and south Louisville. The organization also helps some people pay their property tax bills.