MADISON, Wis. (2/2/09)--As credit unions assess the proposals from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) on stabilizing the corporate credit union system, leagues took the opportunity to hone in on the message of the safety and soundness of credit unions. It's a message that has resounded consistently throughout the nation's economic turmoil the past several months. Last September and October, the nation saw a wave of media attention as credit unions and leagues informed people about credit unions' safety, their soundness, and their willingness to lend in a tightened market. Expect another wave as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and leagues help credit unions finetune that message during the latest media attention. The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) noted in a press release Friday that despite losses by the corporate system and actions taken by the regulator, "the credit union system overall is healthy and strong." "Locally, Minnesota credit unions have very strong and stable capital ratios," MnCUN said in the release. Their ratio stood at 10.84% in its most recent reporting period as of Sept. 30, compared with 10.78% at the end of 2003, it said. NCUA's definition of "well capitalized," its highest rating, is 7%. "Consumers can rest assured their money is safe in their credit union," said Mark D. Cummins, MnCUN president/CEO. "This recent action taken by the NCUA has no impact on the ability of Minnesota credit unions to continue serving their members." Credit unions, he said, will continue to lend, offer a safe place for members to save, and provide additional services at no or low cost. "Credit unions are lending responsibly and are still actively extending credit in times when many other financial institutions have cut back," he said. "Due to their prudent lending practices and conservative underwriting standards, the economy has not led most credit unions to face the same problems as other lenders these days." The corporate stabilization plan has prompted leagues to reaffirm the safety message for credit unions. They've begun distributing materials to help credit unions answer questions from media outlets or credit union members. The focus of those materials: credit unions are strong and sound. For example, the Association of Vermont Credit Unions(AVCU) noted that credit unions answering media questions can make several points, the foremost of which is "The national credit union system overall is healthy and sound," and "consumers can be assured their money is safe in their local credit union." "Natural person" credit unions…are well capitalized and strong (nearly 11% capital to assets)," said AVCU. The Michigan Credit Union League created a special Web page with information for credit unions about the plan including similar points credit unions can use to point out their soundness. In its Life is a Highway newsletter (Jan. 30), the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association touted the same information "to help credit unions understand and explain the state of credit unions." Just about every state league has a similar message to member credit unions.