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Texas foundation hosts statewide NEFE training

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DALLAS (2/13/09)--The Texas Credit Union Foundation will host free, statewide "Train-the-Trainer" seminars to arm credit unions, educators, non-profit organizations and community leaders with skills to motivate youth into adopting positive savings and spending habits. The seminars will employ the National Endowment for Financial Education's (NEFE) curriculum. "There is a mounting body of evidence that suggests our youth have very little understanding of how to manage their personal finances," said Jill Pharr, executive director of the foundation. "Not realizing the importance of savings, wise use of credit, or the difference between the wants and needs can easily lead to financial disaster," she added. The program will help young people obtain a higher level of financial understanding so they avoid poor financial choices, she added. The High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP), for use in the state's high schools, is sponsored by NEFE in partnership with the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service; US Department of Agriculture, participant Land-Grant University Cooperative Extension Services, as well as the Credit Union National Association and America's credit unions. Courtney Nickles, associate director at the foundation, noted there is a tremendous demand from schools, educators and community organizations for financial education and that credit unions are taking a leadership rolein working with schools to provide the interactive, seven-unit HSFPP program. Nickels will lead seminars in Corpus Christi Feb. 20; Abilene March 20; Longview April 3; Waco May 8; Houston June 12; San Antonio July 17; Austin Oct. 16; and El Paso Nov. 13.

CU System briefs (02/12/2009)

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* WACO, Texas (2/13/09)--A man who sprayed a credit union teller with mace before robbing the credit union was sentenced Wednesday to more than 17 years in prison. Christopher Jerome Brinkley, 39, also was fined $2,000, after pleading guilty to robbing the Waco, Texas-based lst University CU on Sept. 30. Court records filed in U.S. District Court said Brinkley walked into the credit union at about 4 p.m., sprayed the teller, then swiped about $8,500 from the teller drawer. He was caught by police 15 minutes later while changing clothes (Tribune-Herald via Cox News Service Feb. 12) … * LINTHICUM, Md. (2/13/09)--A hologram missing from a driver's license of a person trying to deposit a $12,490 check in October made a staffer at State Employees CU of Maryland suspicious enough to call police. Police said Anthony Girrard Ward, 34, a special-education teacher, admitted to a plot to swindle more than $36,000 in student loans. He promised to meet police to disclose others in the plot but failed to show up. He was arrested Jan. 9, when he presented a fake driver's license during a traffic stop. Ward, who was put on administrative leave Monday by the school that employed him, is charged with 11 felony charges including identity fraud, property theft and forgery (The Washington Times Feb. 11) … * HARAHAN, La. (2/13/09)--The East Orleans and West Orleans Chapters of the Louisiana Credit Union League have scheduled a special meeting Tuesday morning in New Orleans so their credit unions can get their questions answered about the National Credit Union Administration's Corporate Stabilization Program. Jon Flagg, supervisory examiner with NCUA, will present information on the program and address questions (eNews Feb. 11) … * SYDNEY (2/13/09)--Australian Central CU said its net profit dropped 32% to $4 million in the last six months of 2008 while revenue rose 8.1% to $125.3 million. Assets under management increased 16.8% to $3.1 billion, and member deposits were up 8.7% to $3.1 billion. Managing Director Peter Evers noted that business is strong and still growing, with an increase in member deposits and assets under management. He said member demand for new loans fell the past several months with many lowering their debt levels. The loan portfolio saw no material increase in delinquency or write-offs, the credit union said. (Australian Company News Bites Feb. 11) …

Ratings groups react to corporate CU plan

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NEW YORK (2/13/09)--In light of the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) efforts to stabilize and support the corporate credit union system, Fitch Ratings Tuesday announced it has upgraded the "Support" and "Support Floor" ratings for all corporate credit unions to "1" and "A+," respectively. However, it also adjusted downward eight corporates' individual ratings. Use the link for the ratings. In upgrading the support level ratings, Fitch noted NCUA's proposal for a $1 billion capital contribution to U.S. Central FCU, its plan to infuse capital into all corporate credit unions, as necessary, from the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), and the agency's development of plans to restructure the corporate credit union system (Business Wire Feb. 10). Fitch said it took action on ratings of individual corporate credit unions due to market dislocation reducing liquidity in the system and the possible sizeable realized losses in some investment portfolios. "By their nature as nonprofit cooperative systems," said Fitch in press release, "corporate credit unions are highly leveraged institutions that generate lean earnings. Meaningful realized security losses, including other-than-temporary impairment charges, could impair the capital positions of corporate credit unions." The ratings also consider the corporate credit unions' exposure to potential write-downs of their paid-in-capital (PIC) and PIC II investments in U.S. Central following its recent report of a $1.1 billion loss for 2008 and NCUA's intervention, Fitch said. Another ratings agency, Standard & Poor's (S&P), which took a tougher position, noted that NCUA's and the movement's support is important in rating the corporate credit unions. "This explicit support for the corporate system has become a major ratings factor for all rated corporates," S&P said. "We still believe that this support should provide U.S. Central and the corporates with the means to weather their current stress and fulfill their mission to members," S&P said. However, citing concerns over opposition to NCUA's corporate stabilization plan, S&P said it has placed counterparty credit ratings of nine corporate credit unions into "CreditWatch with negative implications" category. A 10th credit union is already at that rating. In announcing the ratings, S&P Credit Analyst Robert B. Hoban Jr. said the credit union system's opposition to NCUA's plan "could complicate the regulator's and the industry's efforts to address the deterioration in many of the corporate credit unions' holdings of mortgage-backed and other structure securities." S&P will monitor the progress of the efforts to get additional aid for credit unions from the federal government. It could affirm the ratings if the movement's efforts bear fruit, S&P said.

CUs are first in NCBA video series on co-op benefits

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MADISON, Wis. (2/13/09)--A video has been created to educate the media and general public about the value of credit unions, how they work and why they are different from banks. The eight-minute informational video, produced by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) and Cabot Creamery Cooperative--a co-sponsor of Home & Family Finance Radio--features interviews with credit unions members, employees and industry executives. The credit union video is the first in a series of videos about the benefits of cooperatives to consumers. An accompanying online resource helps consumers locate credit unions in their area. “The credit crisis and subsequent bank bailouts reinforced consumer perceptions that large, for-profit financial institutions are indifferent or even hostile to the interests of their customers,” said Paul Hazen, CEO of NCBA. “Credit unions have stood apart during this crisis. While many banks have faltered due to high-risk, high-reward investment practices, credit unions stuck to their tried and true practice of making responsible loans to their members,” Hazen added. To view the video, use the link.

VITA programs at CUs help taxpayers avoid scams

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (2/13/09)--Credit unions nationwide are helping taxpayers avoid scams by offering Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs.
United Way Tax Preparation volunteers work at Pacific Service CU, Fresno, Calif. Volunteers offer free tax preparation assistance for people with low- to moderate-income levels. (Photo provided by Pacific Service CU)
With tax season here, the Better Business Bureau is warning people about scams--such as tax reduction schemes, refund anticipation loans, and phishing e-mails--that can leave consumers even worse off in tough economic times (LoneStar Leaguer Feb. 11). Credit unions in many areas are making sure this doesn’t happen:
* Pacific Service CU, Fresno, Calif., is providing access to free tax preparation assistance for people with low- to moderate-income levels. Certified volunteers from the United Way and VITA programs will assist individuals with filling out tax returns and applying for the EITC. “The VITA Program is a great opportunity for the people of the Central Valley,” said Dennis Potts, Fresno branch manager. “The volunteers are certified, the program is free, and the taxpayers will receive their federal refunds quickly.” * First CU, Chandler, Ariz., is sponsoring three VITA sites at its Chandler Corporate branch, its Devonshire/Phoenix branch, and its Glendale branch. Internal Revenue Service-trained and certified volunteers will staff all three branches. * US FCU, Burnsville, Minn., is partnering for the sixth consecutive year with AccountAbility Minnesota to provide free tax assistance for low-income individuals. The credit union also offers Express Refund Loans that allow the taxpayer to access the tax refund in one-to-two business days. The interest-free loan is paid back through the direct deposit of a member’s refund. * GHS FCU, Binghampton, N.Y., is offering free VITA to help community members save money for necessary expenses such as household and childcare. The volunteer tax preparers are students from Broome Community College, Binghampton. GHS is offering free tax preparation from Feb. 2 through April 4. * WESTconsin CU, Menomonie, Wis., and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Student Accounting Society are offering free return preparation assistance for individuals with an annual income of less than $30,000 per year.
Other ways that credit unions are helping people with taxes include offering tax seminars. BELCO Community CU, Harrisburg, Pa., is offering two. “Tax Management” helps attendees learn about the 2008 tax-return changes and first-time homebuyer’s credit. “Strategies for Reducing Taxes and Funding IRAs” educates attendees on investment strategies for a difficult market, and evaluating retirement plans.

BrightStar CU student branches spotlighted on radio

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MIAMI (2/13/09)--BrightStar CU’s student credit union branches at three schools in the Broward County, Fla., area were profiled in a recent radio story by WLRN/Miami Herald News. Pembroke Lakes Elementary, Flanagan High School and Terra Vella High School have BrightStar branches in their schools. The credit union uses the branches to teach students how to manage their money. Students can open accounts and work at the branches. BrightStar staff members also talk to students in the classroom about auto financing, credit cards and earning interest. One student that WLRN interviewed, Jessica Alvarez, works at the Flanagan High School branch. She plans to attend college to study business or finance. “It’s a really good experience and not everyone gets to do this,” Alvarez told WLRN. To hear the story, use the link.

GTE FCUs work pays off for Super Bowl security

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TAMPA, Fla. (2/13/09)--GTE FCU hosted the Super Bowl XLIII operations center where more than 200 representatives of 31 local, regional and federal law enforcement and emergency medical management agencies provided security Feb. 1.
A mobile command center was set up in the rear parking lot of GTE FCU, Tampa, Fla., to help with security operations during Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1.
The fourth floor of the GTE FCU administration building was used as a secure room to house security and emergency operations for Super Bowl XLIII. (Photos provided by GTE FCU)
The center was responsible for security operations during the game. There were no bomb threats, hazardous materials spills, terrorist attacks or other potential catastrophes at the Super Bowl. Because GTE FCU leadership was supportive, representatives from the National Football League, Tampa’s police and fire departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs, Homeland Security and others worked under one roof for the first time in Super Bowl history, said Stephen Foster, GTE FCU vice president of real estate. He oversees security, facilities and land acquisition for the credit union. Two years of training and coordination--along with some sophisticated surveillance and communications equipment--ensured that all Super Bowl activities went according to the security and emergency team’s playbook, said the $2.189 billion asset Tampa, Fla.-based credit union. Several weeks before the Super Bowl, operations center team members began working in spaces on the second and fourth floors of the GTE FCU administration building, just north of downtown Tampa. A mobile command center also was set up in the credit union’s rear parking lot. Having all security personnel in one location kept costs down because additional facilities did not have to be built, as was the case in Arizona for last year’s Super Bowl, said Chauncia Willis, emergency coordinator for Tampa Fire Rescue. The only construction project needed for the Super Bowl XLIII security and emergency operations team was the building of a secure room on the fourth floor of the credit union’s administration building. “GTE FCU met a lot of the needs for different agencies,” Willis said. “The NFL felt very comfortable with our decision to use the facility to house multiple command centers for Super Bowl XLIII.”