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Belvoir ready for federal budget cuts

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WOODBRIDGE, Va. (2/12/13)--Belvoir FCU is preparing for the possibility of $1.2 trillion in automatic U.S. government spending reductions by offering emergency loan products and services for its members.

Congress is working to avoid the massive spending cutbacks, also known as sequestration, set to take effect March 1.

"We truly hope a sequestration is averted and Congress comes to an agreement," said Patricia Kimmel, president/CEO of the Woodbridge, Va., credit union. "However, if a concession is not attained, Belvoir Federal stands ready to serve our members by providing financial options and supportive services during this strenuous time."

In the event of a sequestration, $298 million asset Belvoir FCU will offer an emergency loan with a 0% annual percentage rate for the first 60 days. The credit union also will facilitate loan workouts and skip-a-pay options to help members avoid defaults on existing loans.

Belvoir FCU also will provide financial coaching to members in need of guidance.

CU System brief (02/12/2013)

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  • EAST LANSING, Mich. (2/12/13)--John Burnell, former chairman and director of Farmington Heights, Mich.-based Community Choice CU has died, according to the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor Feb. 11). He served Community Choice for more than 30 years. In 1976, he began as a volunteer on the board at Redford Township CU, one of Community Choice's founding credit unions. He served as chairman of Community Choice's board from 2001 through 2004 and again from 2006 to 2007. Burnell was the first inductee into the Community Choice Volunteer Wall of Fame.  Visitation will be Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Charles R. Step Funeral Home in Redford. A memorial service will be at Covenant Baptist Church, West Bloomfield on Saturday at 11 a.m. …

Texas league backs bill to double CUs' board size

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AUSTIN, Texas (2/12/13)--The Texas Credit Union League is backing a provision in a Texas Credit Union Department omnibus bill that seeks to provide state-chartered credit unions with an increase in the size of their boards.

Senate Bill 244 has several housekeeping measures to update the Credit Union Act, said TCUL in one its legislative updates (The Advocate Update Feb. 8).

"The Texas Credit Union League is seeking an increase in the number of advisory directors that can serve on a state-chartered credit union's board," Jim Phelps, TCUL vice president of advocacy, told News Now. "Current law limits Texas credit unions to appointing three honorary or advisory directors; TCUL is seeking to increase this limit to six honorary or advisory directors.

"Making this change would allow credit unions the opportunity to identify and engage new directors who wish to serve in a board governance role, and, facilitate the transition of long-term directors who may no longer wish to serve as an active member of the board, but whose institutional knowledge will continue to benefit the credit unions and its members," he added.   

The Credit Union Department of the Credit Union Commission has regulatory authority over state-chartered credit unions.

S.B. 244 allows credit unions to provide financial services in an efficient manner and ensure sound practices among state-regulated institutions, said a state analysis of the bill. The bill clarifies supervisory and regulatory matters, removes outdated references, enhances corporate governance, and provides rules for the disclosure of information.

S.B. 244 also provides guidance for compliance with federal and foreign credit unions, clarifies the process by which a state-chartered credit union converts to a federal credit union, and gives state-chartered credit unions limited parity with federal credit unions on interest rates for certain losses.

TCUL said it expects a Senate committee vote on the bill later this week. The bill has not been introduced in the state House yet.

Pa launches 2013 iBelong campaign this week

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With three new 30-second spots, and three new 15-second video spots, the 2013 iBelong campaign is running in six of Pennsylvania's seven media markets this week (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
HARRISBURG, Pa. (2/12/13)--The 2013 iBelong campaign is running in six of Pennsylvania's seven media markets this week, with three new 30-second spots, and three new 15-second video spots created to emphasize lending, said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association.

The iBelong campaign is a cooperative campaign designed to build awareness of credit unions and to assist consumers in finding a credit union that's right for them. The campaign originated with support from credit unions affiliated with PCUA. It also is supported by credit unions in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi and Vermont.

To view the six spots, which feature testimonials from people and businesses that went to credit unions for their lending needs, use the link. Credit unions can see the media schedule for their market and obtain graphics on the iBelong page of the association's website (Life is a Highway Feb. 11).

The association board also authorized up to $250,000 to use with voluntary contributions from credit unions in existing media markets throughout Pennsylvania. Participating credit unions are highlighted in the search results of iBelong.org.

Reality Fair during GAC to showcase youth fin ed

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MADISON, Wis. (2/12/13)--The National Credit Union Foundation will conduct a Financial Reality Fair in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., for a third consecutive year.

Volunteer and National Credit Union Foundation Deputy Executive Director Tom Candell counsels a teen on her budget after she visited all the booths at last year's Reality Fair during the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference. (Photo provided by the National Credit Union Foundation)

A Reality Fair is an interactive financial literacy tool for high school students.

"Conducting a Reality Fair at GAC is a great way to expose legislators and their staff about the unique and impactful financial education programs that are offered by credit unions," said Lois Kitsch, NCUF national REAL Solutions program director. "Not only are area high school students benefiting from the experience as well, but we welcome GAC attendees to the fair to see the benefits of holding a reality fair in their community."

The fair will be at the Rayburn House Office Building on Feb. 27, from noon to 2:00 p.m., with students attending from area schools--Capital City Public Charter School, Luke Charles Moore Academy, and Washington Metropolitan High School. GAC attendees can visit anytime to observe the fair.  

Last year, NCUF held a Reality Fair on Capitol Hill for Roosevelt Senior High School students. Afterwards, students indicated that almost 90% will start to budget their money every month, and 100% of students said it changed the way they will save and spend money.

The GAC event is sponsored by NCUF with support and expertise from:

  • The Credit Union League of Connecticut;
  • Maryland and D.C. Credit Union Association;
  • Congressional FCU, Washington, D.C.;
  • HEW FCU, Alexandria. Va.; and
  • GPO FCU, New Hartford, N.Y.
In the Reality Fair concept, students experience financial challenges similar to what they will face when they start life on their own. Students identify their career choice and starting salaries then complete a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing and food. Expenditures such as entertainment and travel are factored in as well.

Throughout the fair, students experience many temptations for additional spending and learn to balance their wants and needs to live on their own. After the students have visited the booths, students balance their budget, and then sit down with a "financial counselor" for review.

Nebraska legislature passes CU-supported ATM disclosure bill

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OMAHA, Neb. (2/12/13)--The Nebraska State Legislature, in a 47-0 vote Monday, passed a bill to eliminate the requirement for a physical disclosure on ATMs notifying consumers of fees they may incur while using the ATM. The bill was supported by Nebraska's credit unions.

"Credit unions appreciate and support sound regulations that protect consumers and promote fair play in the marketplace," said Nebraska Credit Union League Director of Governmental Affairs Brandon Luetkenhaus during testimony at a Jan. 22 public hearing on the measure before the state Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee.

"However, sometimes well-intended regulation can be unnecessary and burdensome, and we believe that's the case with these physical disclosures," he said.

Luetkenhaus cited that LB 100 would eliminate the physical disclosure but keep in place the requirement for an electronic notification.

LB 100 was introduced on Jan. 10 by state Sen. Dan Watermeier (NP-District 1).  It follows legislation passed unanimously by Congress late in 2012 that eliminated the physical disclosure on ATMs. That measure was backed by the Credit Union National Association.

Nebraska, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Vermont and Wyoming were the only states with statutues requiring the dual disclosures.  Nebraska is the first to amend its statute to conform with the fedearl law.

Congress' ATM bill, H.R. 4367, was the result of a CUNA/league-sponsored Hike the Hill event. CUNA, leagues and credit unions had noted that outside notices on ATMs were sometimes being intentionally removed or destroyed without the financial institution's knowledge. Perpetrators would then photograph the vandalized ATM and allege the financial institution was not in compliance with Regulation E.

Nebraska's LB 100 included an emergency clause that would cause the bill to go into effect immediately upon receiving the signature of Gov. Dave Heineman.

WVa CUs continue to thrive, league tells media

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (2/12/13)--Consumers have lost trust in the financial services industry, but West Virginians continue to show faith in their credit unions, according to the Charleston, W.Va. Sunday Gazette-Mail, the state's largest daily newspaper.

Members show that trust by increasing their deposits, year after year. Credit unions are in very good shape, despite two difficult years in the financial industry, and have seen record growth, said Ken Watts, president of the West Virginia Credit Union League, in the article.

Credit union assets in the state grew 7%-8% to $3.1 billion, and the league expects the state's 100 credit unions will have about $3.2 billion in assets by year-end, Watts told the publication.

As of June 30, West Virginia's credit unions had 388,492 members, who are "safe and confident [in credit unions] and continue to bring in more money," Watts added.

Credit unions face a number of regulations, he said, adding they are paying for problems they weren't responsible for and are affected by a "broad-brush approach" in regulations. 

The article also noted that banks are phasing out products such as free checking accounts, and credit unions have found a way to compete. It cited Charleston-based Pioneer WV CU's two free checking and savings accounts that offer rewards to members who meet monthly qualifications. Kasava Cash is a free checking account with high interest--up to 3%--for members who sign up for electronic statements and use their debit cards a minimum number of times each month.

To read the full article, use the link.

New England getting back to normal after blizzard

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BOSTON and MERIDEN, Conn.  (2/12/13)--New England's credit unions were still digging out Monday from three feet of snow this weekend dropped by Winter Storm  Nemo, but services were up and running ahead of schedule in the Boston area. Connecticut credit unions likely will be open today.

No New England credit unions reported any closings to the Massachusetts Credit Union League, New Hampshire Credit Union League or the Association of Rhode Island Credit Unions as of Monday afternoon, said Rob Kimmett, league senior vice president, public relations and marketing at the Massachusetts league.

"A lot of people were doing hand-to-hand combat with the storm this weekend," Kimmett told News Now. "It does not seem to have affected credit unions, however."

Boston's Logan Airport received 24.9 inches of snow, but by Monday Boston's subway and bus systems were working and residents had dug their cars out from snowdrifts (USA Today Feb. 11). The newspaper said electric power was restored in most areas, commuter trains and Amtrak were running, and airports were open.

In Connecticut, it was another matter. Hamden, Conn., got 40 inches of snow, the most recorded, said the National Weather Service.  

The Credit Union League of Connecticut was closed Monday but expected to be open today and said it expected most credit unions will be open as well.

"The governor declared a state of emergency Saturday through Monday, ordering nonessential personnel to stay home," said Tony Emerson, president/CEO of the league. "A good number of credit unions were closed or had delayed openings [Monday]," he said.

"We had to work out of the office today," said Emerson told News Now Monday night.  "Meriden, where our offices are located, got about 37 inches of snow. The parking lot was not yet plowed as of this morning."

Connecticut had about two to three hours of freezing rain first thing Monday morning. "The highways were a mess, with the rain exacerbating everything," he said.  One credit union told him its driveway was cleared but staff couldn't get into the building because the snow plow had pushed the snow against the front door. "There's no where to put the snow," he said.

Idaho league supports governor on insurance exchange

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BOISE, Idaho (2/12/13)--The Idaho Credit Union League Thursday offered its support for Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter's position to form a state-based health insurance exchange.

"Credit unions believe that a state-based health exchange will be best for employers, and for their employees, resulting in more efficient administration, operation and lower costs," said Alan Cameron, league president.

The league advised Otter of its support at its annual Governmental Affairs Conference, held Thursday in Boise, where Otter spoke to participants about his long association with credit unions.

"I've always appreciated that credit unions have a local focus, and they're attuned to the needs of their members," Otter said. "It's my goal to advocate for Idaho citizens in the same way. That's why it's so important for Idaho to have a voice in designing and implementing a state-based health insurance exchange."

Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, states can choose to operate as a state-based exchange, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will establish and operate a federally facilitated exchange for the state.

In a federally-facilitated exchange, the state may pursue a state partnership exchange, in which it administers and operates exchange activities associated with plan management and/or consumer assistance. States that elect to participate in a state partnership exchange will administer these functions in both the individual and the small-group market.

MCUL provides input on state's 'blight' measure

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LANSING, Mich. (2/12/13)--Sponsors of state legislation that reintroduces proposed fines and other sanctions for blight violations issued by qualified municipalities are working with the Michigan Credit Union League & Affiliates and other groups to modify the bill.

The modifications to Senate Bill 35-39 would be based on recognition that the legislation is designed to target "bad actors" and that financial institutions largely are not the cause of damage to neglected properties, said the league (Michigan Monitor Feb. 11).

"Michigan has gone through extremely tough times over the past several years, and issues related to blight must be addressed in comprehensive fashion," said MCUL CEO David Adams (Michigan Monitor Feb. 11). "This includes a necessary recognition that financial institutions need to be partners in this effort, and not just deeper pockets to target for fines."

The legislation "must also include a larger discussion about abandoned property, the length of the foreclosure process and resulting property damage, criminal activity and enforcement capacity for protecting vacated homes," he added.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 5 took testimony on S.B. 35-39., whose key sponsor is Sen. Virgil Smith (D-Detroit).  Gov. Rick Snyder had called for action on the legislation in his State of the State address, said the league. 

The legislation may become part of an umbrella initiative on blight, which includes stronger regulation of the scrap metal industry to prevent the stripping of metal from residential property, procedures to identify abandoned property and expedite its foreclosure, and possible reforms to the foreclosure process, said the league.

"We applaud Sen. Smith and his colleagues for their recognition of the broader issues involved, and the positive role that credit unions can and do play in this process," Adams said.

CU Social Good site has 500 doing-good stories

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BISMARCK, N.D. (2/12/13)--The Credit Union Association of the Dakotas announced its CU Social Good website has just passed the 500 mark--with 500 stories about the great things that credit unions do each day accumulated and archived in one place for all to see. 

The stories are all about credit unions' charitable contributions, volunteer work, fundraising activities, financial literacy efforts and scholarships--among others.

CUAD announced the official launch of the new website last month.

Credit unions give back to their local communities in creative and generous ways, and credit union employees and members are well known for their volunteer work and charitable fundraising events, said CUAD. CUAD encouraged credit unions nationwide to contribute their stories.

Another site credit unions are being encouraged to visit is aSmarterChoice.org, established in 2011 by the Credit Union National Association. aSmarterChoice.org is a website designed for consumers and media to learn more about credit unions and to help consumers find a credit union they are eligible to join. The website provides a comprehensive credit union locater that includes every credit union in the nation, and helps consumers find credit unions to join by answering a few simple questions about where they live, work or worship.

More than 20,200 total visits were made to the site in January. To visit aSmarterChoice.org, use the link.

To view both sites, use the links.