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Tennessee CUs step up to help flood victims
NASHVILLE (5/17/10)--Credit unions in Nashville are responding to the needs of their members affected by recent flooding in the area. Vanderbilt University Employees’ CU, is doing “what we need to do to get people’s lives back to the baseline,” said board president William Rochford. Nashville experienced significant rainfall the weekend of May 1-2, which caused severe flooding in the metro area and many areas along the Cumberland and Harpeth rivers. Many residents lost their homes, cars, and even their lives. While the sun is starting to dry up the water, Nashville is working to rebuild. Vanderbilt University Employees’ CEO Michael Bittle said the $20-million asset credit union jumped to help its members immediately after the flood. “We didn’t wait for the first person to ask us for help,” he said. On May 3, after the flooding, Bittle drove into work from his home, which is located in an area that wasn’t hit as hard by the flooding. “I didn’t realize how bad it was,” he said. When he got to work, Bittle called Rochford immediately and said the credit union needed to help flood victims. “If there ever was a place for credit unions to step up and use the philosophy of people helping people, this was it,” he said. Within a matter of days, the credit union assembled a plan to help, including:
* A “People Helping People” flood relief fund of up to $1,000--with 0% interest--to be repaid by payroll deduction of $100 over 10 months; * A one-month deferral of all payments on credit union loans; and * An appliance loan of up to $5,000 for 24 months at 9.9% interest to replace lost appliances.
The credit union also made $250,000 available to members for losses and is working with members who lost their cars in the flood. Also, the credit union will offer services such as a home owner equity line of credit, a personal line of credit and a signature advance personal loan. The credit union itself did not have any damage except for a little water under the windows in Bittle’s office. However, the credit union’s building had some water in the basement. “If [the water] had got into the electrical system, we would have had to move,” Rochford said. “It’s caused us to revisit our emergency response plan.” Some members lost everything. Others had water in the basement or living areas, and had to rip out carpets and replace drywall. Smaller credit unions like Vanderbilt that took action are “a shining example of getting it right,” Rochford said. “This is an example of what [credit unions have] always been about.” “What’s right about America right now--credit unions,” he added. Nashville as a city also has demonstrated the credit union movement philosophy as well as anyone could have. “We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Rochford said. “[Nashville] is a giving community and a caring community.” Another small Nashville credit union, the $29-million-asset Employees CU, will offer an unsecured loan of $2,500 with liberal underwriting. It also will offer 100% financing to members who have mortgages. “We’re going to offer whatever it takes to get the house habitable,” said Phillip Elam, Employees CU's CEO. Members can make penalty-free share certificate withdrawals and Employees CU will replace checks, cards and other items that may have been destroyed in the flood. It also will liberally look at fees charged to members and will grant two- to three-month-extensions on all loans. Elam said he learned that 90% of people whose homes were affected had no flood insurance. Most people had basement flooding, and many lost everything inside of their homes. Some houses had three to six feet of water and the drywall needed to be stripped out. Employees were impacted, also, he said. Two employees had flooded basements, and some employees struggled to get to work after the flood. “Getting to work was an issue on Monday after the flooding,” Elam said, noting that many of the roads were flooded or washed out. The credit union didn’t experience any damage itself. While members are coping with damage to their homes, the credit union expects to also deal with members who lost their cars. Because so many cars were swept away, rentals are at a premium, Elam said. “There are no cars to be had here,” he said.


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