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Ice storm disrupts communications in New England

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CONCORD, N.H. (12/15/08)--An ice storm Friday that knocked out power to more than a million homes and businesses in New England and New York created some intermittent communications problems for some area credit unions. “We had weird electrical problems and problems with phone lines and the Internet,” said Rob Kimmett, senior vice president of public relations and marketing at the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Credit Union Leagues. “It was more of a nuisance, rather than any severe communications problems,” he told News Now. While it rained in metro Boston, the areas west and north of Central Massachusetts and New Hampshire got one to two inches of ice. The areas hit included Manchester, N.H., home of the nation’s oldest credit union; and Worcester, Mass. The governors of New Hampshire and Massachusetts declared emergencies. They predicted it might take several days to get power back to all customers. The storm toppled trees and power lines in those states, as well as Maine and Vermont.

Rhode Island CUs to help raise capital for small biz

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (12/15/08)--Eight credit unions and banks in Rhode Island have pledged $165 million for loans to small and midsize businesses during the next two years as part of a state economic stimulus package announced Thursday by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri. The six-part stimulus package aims at assisting smaller businesses with the recession and credit crunch (The Providence Journal Dec. 12 and Providence Business News Dec. 11). The credit unions’ and banks’ efforts will be monitored by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (EDC). Another $2.4 million from the same credit unions and banks will be placed into an existing small-business loan fund, monitored by EDC. In addition, the plan will:
* Provide an increase of $240,000 to $700,000 in the amount that EDC’s small-business loan fund sets aside for micro loans of less than $50,000 for very small businesses run by young, new entrepreneurs. * Offer state-backed guarantees for certain small-business loans to supplement loan guarantees by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), to help reduce loan risk to lenders. * Restore a state tax credit to help small businesses cover the cost of fees paid on SBA-guaranteed loans. * Offer $5 million in loans pledged by the Business Development Co. of Rhode Island, a non-bank lender, for businesses needing more financing than their senior lenders are willing to provide.
The credit unions and the sums they are pledging include Navigant CU, Smithfield, pledging $5 million; and Coastway CU, Cranston, $25 million. Banks in the program include Bank Newport, Bank Rhode Island, Citizens Bank, Webster Bank, The Washington Trust Co., and Randolph Savings Bank.

Mississippi Maxwell Desjardins awards go to Keesler FCU

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JACKSON, Miss. (12/15/08)—Keesler FCU received first place in the Mississippi state Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award and Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award competitions. The awards were sponsored by the Credit Union National Association and the Mississippi Credit Union Association. The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award recognizes a credit union for its community involvement in an activity that helps others or strengthens the structure of a community. Biloxi-based Keesler participated in the 2008 American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life--as it has the past four years--and is a repeat recipient of the “Team Spirit” award. Keesler also received special recognition for being the top overall fundraiser. The Desjardins Award considers all activities supporting the personal financial education of youth. Keesler provides classroom presentations and conducts activities to spread financial education to the youth of the Mississippi Gulf Coast area. Keesler FCU also designed a four-week in-depth financial education program, MoneyTalks, which provides financial education to area high school juniors and seniors. “Our goal is to help students realize their financial dreams while managing money responsibly,” stated Dawn Power-Pernaciaro, Keesler FCU community education specialist. Keesler has $1.6 billion in assets.

SECUs temporary location returns to its roots

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RALEIGH, N.C. (12/15/08)--State Employees’ CU (SECU) recently relocated its Salisbury Street branch to the site of the original 1937 SECU location in the basement of the State Agriculture Building in downtown Raleigh.
Click to view larger imageState Employees’ CU, Raleigh, N.C., has temporarily relocated to the site of its original 1937 location at the State Agriculture Building in downtown Raleigh while its new facility is built. (Photo provided by State Employees’ CU)
The historic move paves the way for a new state-of-the-art credit union facility, providing SECU with a permanent footprint in North Carolina’s State Government Complex, SECU said. While the move to the agriculture location is temporary, it offers SECU and its members an opportunity to reflect on the humble beginnings of their cooperative, SECU said. Starting with 17 members and $437, the credit union now serves 1.5 million members with nearly $17 billion in assets. SECU’s growth has resulted in the need for a larger facility in the downtown state capital area. The building is expected to positively impact the growth of the downtown area, helping to boost North Carolina’s economy. In conjunction with SECU’s privately funded expansion, the state also will expand the nearby North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and other state government offices. Ninety-five-year-old Mary B. Lassiter, who joined SECU in the 1930s, said she was excited to hear of the recent relocation back to the State Agriculture Building. She recalls when nearly all North Carolina banks had been liquidated, and SECU was established as an alternative for state employees. “SECU began in a tiny room in the Agriculture Building, and my first deposit was around 50 cents,” she said. “It is amazing to see the power of a cooperative and how our credit union has flourished throughout the years, but always remained true to its roots--providing loans for those who need it most and giving North Carolina’s state employees financial services at fair and reasonable rates.”

MCUA new official meet on CUs fin-ed role

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ST. LOUIS (12/15/08)--Missouri State Treasurer-elect Clint Zweifel (D-78) met with Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) representatives recently to discuss financial education efforts in the state and opportunities for credit unions to assist with the efforts, said MCUA.
From left, Missouri State Rep. Clint Zweifel (D-78) and staffer Jon Galloway meet with Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) President/CEO Rosie Holub and Peggy Nalls, MCUA senior vice president of public/legislative affairs, to discuss financial education. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association)
Zwiefel and staffer Jon Galloway visited MCUA’s office in St. Louis Dec. 5 to meet with MCUA President/CEO Rosie Holub and Senior Vice President of Public/Legislative Affairs Peggy Nalls (The Missouri difference Dec. 10). The group discussed the importance of financial education and the possibility of introducing state legislations to increase the financial education requirement for high school graduation. “We are pleased that the Treasurer-elect has reached out to the Missouri Credit Union Association as a knowledgeable consumer finance resource, and we look forward to working with his office in the coming year,” Holub said. Zweifel, who is finishing a term as state representative, has been supportive of credit union issues, said MCUA. He takes office as State Treasurer Jan. 12.

Illinois foundation awards 178253 in 08

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (12/15/08)--The Illinois Credit Union Foundation (ICU Foundation) awarded $178,253 in scholarships during 2008, as well as Community Service, Marketing and Business Development, Small Credit Union Development (SCUD), and Financial Independence and Revitalization Effort (FIRE) grants. The ICU Foundation also provided financial support for the Illinois Credit Union League’s (ICUL) Small Asset Size Credit Union Conference and for Bank Secrecy Act training sessions for small credit unions. The awards and their corresponding amounts for 2008 included:
* Community Service grants totaling $16,500, awarded to five chapters, seven credit unions, the Washington Credit Union Foundation for underwriting support of Biz Kid$, and the World Council of Credit Unions for general support. This program is designed to encourage and reward chapter or credit union participation in local community projects. Credit unions and chapters can qualify for grants by hosting an established event, creating an event, or volunteering at an established event. * FIRE grants totaling $20,000, awarded to two credit unions. The FIRE Program provides assistance so credit unions can expand their ability to build and maintain viable communities by providing credit and financial services to residents and businesses in low-income and underserved areas of Illinois. The goal of the program is to enhance membership services for credit unions located in economically disadvantaged areas. * Marketing and Business Development grants totaling $16,300 awarded to five credit unions. Established in 2006, these grants help credit unions with assets of up to $30 million to start or expand outreach efforts. The maximum grant award is $5,000 per credit union, per year. * SCUD grants totaling $80,710, awarded to 37 credit unions. The grants are designed to help credit unions with assets of less than $10 million remain competitive in an increasingly complex marketplace. Grant funds can be used for items such as computer equipment, software, new products and services, and planning sessions. * Scholarships totaling $39,305, awarded to 46 credit unions and six chapters. Individuals and groups (such as a chapter or group of credit unions) can apply. Scholarships may be used toward ICUL’s educational opportunities and Credit Union National Association schools.
“The foundation was able to provide these scholarships and grants thanks to the generosity of credit unions and individuals who provide financial support," said Vicki Ponzo, ICU Foundation executive director. For 2009, grant application review deadlines will be March 31, July 31, and Oct. 31. The main scholarship application deadline is March 31. Grant and scholarship seekers should complete and return the application form to the foundation as early in the year as possible, since both are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, said the foundation. Online and downloadable ICU Foundation grant request forms are available via the league's website. Eligibility is limited to Illinois credit unions and chapters.

IN.Y. TimesI CUs part of Bank on California effort

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (12/15/08)--Several California credit unions are participating along with banks in a new program announced Friday to create 100,000 accounts over two years to allow the poor and immigrants to open and maintain accounts at financial institutions. The program, Bank on California, will be funded with grants from the William J. Clinton Foundation and will be implemented in five cities: Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. The program is modeled on a Bank of San Francisco program that has been running for two years, resulting in 31,000 accounts opened by first-time users (The New York Times Dec. 12). Currently, 12 credit unions have signed up to participate in the program and another eight to 10 are exploring the possibility, Rita Fillingane, director of research and information for the California Credit Union League, told News Now. “The league has encouraged credit unions to get involved,” she said. “The object is to bring unbanked consumers into the mainstream banking ranks. Credit unions have done that all along anyway, so it’s a perfect fit for them to participate.” The five cities chose to participate because they have high unbanked populations, Fillingame said, adding that the program will be rolled out to other California cities in the future. She said financial institutions are asked to offer starter accounts through the program with baseline features, including:
* Low-cost accounts; * No monthly minimum balance requirements; * The waiving of one set of non-sufficient fund fees; * Acceptance of alternative forms of identification for account holders; and * Tracking of accounts, so credit unions and other financial institutions can report back to the governor’s office regarding the success of the program.