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CU movement responds to Midwest disasters
MADISON, Wis. (6/18/08)--Credit unions are coming through for Iowa and other Midwestern credit unions caught in last week's flooding, but it is too early to gauge what will be needed. The Iowa Credit Union Foundation (ICUF) has opened an appeal for donations to a disaster grant fund, Marybeth Foster, ICUF executive director, told News Now. Credit unions in Iowa are being provided with applications to the fund. The grants are $500 each and go toward emergency needs. ICUF has received 20 applications for aid in two days and expects more. The floodwaters in Iowa haven't gone down enough for everyone to assess damage, Foster added. The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) also has opened up an appeal for donations to CU Aid, the national online relief center for credit unions, and people can donate through an online application, Foster added. The Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) board of trustees approved a $5,000 grant to go toward disaster relief for credit union employees in the affected areas of Iowa, according to LoneStar Leaguer June 17). “What is happening in the Midwest is tragic,” said Jill Pharr, TCUF executive director. “As families and communities struggle to get through this difficult time and begin the process of rebuilding, they can take comfort in the fact that credit unions from across the country, the people who serve them and the members who believe in the cooperative structure of the movement, have compassionately responded with aid and support,” Pharr added. More than 20 credit unions in Iowa were forced to close because of the floods, especially in hard-hit Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Des Moines and Waterloo areas. Other credit unions offered assistance. Metco CU, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was evacuated June 11 because of flooding. The credit union set up a temporary location on Thursday and was able to re-open Friday, Brad Mertens, Metco CU CEO told News Now. "We were only shut down for a day," he said. Metco is sharing space with Quaker Oats CU, Cedar Rapids. He said the credit union's disaster preparedness plan to share space with the credit union was successful. "You hope you never have to use those plans, but it's worked well so far." The credit union will likely offer "no questions asked" emergency loans up to $500 with low interest rates, he said. Metco is still assessing its damage--nobody has been able to get to the credit union since the evacuation because the area around it is flooded. Metco members, like many Iowans, are struggling, Mertens said. "It's pretty devastating," he said. "This event touched a lot of people." Metco is chartered to serve city and county employees. Their offices have been affected by the floods, leaving many members out of work, he added. Marine CU, Fond du Lac, Wis., has made $1 million of 0% interest loans for victims of flooding in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa (The Fond du Lac Reporter June 17). The money aims to cover costs of cleanup, temporary housing or other needs. The money will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and is limited to $5,000 per borrower. The loans are interest- and payment-free for the first 120 days, the newspaper said. Even credit unions not directly affected by flooding are indirectly impacted. Energy Plus CU, based in Indianapolis, has three branches--one of them in Reedsburg, Ind. It experienced power outages, and its employees needed time off to deal with water and power outages. "One woman had no power for four days," said Cari Palmer, marketing coordinator. She added that washed out roads created difficulties for employees, whose commutes were tripled in time. Energy Plus CU is offering members storm damage loans of up to $2,500 with 7.25% interest for 12 months. "We announced it Tuesday morning and sent out e-mails, posted flyers, and sent information through inter-company mail for our employee groups," Palmer told News Now. "We're waiting for responses. They will need it for their deductibles," she said.
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