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Washington Archive

Washington

House approves extending biz loan guarantee

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WASHINGTON (3/25/10)— The House voted 239-175 in favor of H.R. 4899, the Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act of 2010, yesterday afternoon. The bill, in part, extends the Stimulus Act's small business loan guarantees and fee reductions until the end of April. The guarantee and fee provisions are due to expire at the end of March. For the extension to take place, the Senate and House must pass identical bills, the result fo which would then have to be signed into law by the president. The House vote Wednesday follows by three weeks President Obama’s signing of a law to extend funding for the National Flood Insurance Program, certain other Stimulus Act small business loan guarantee programs, federal unemployment insurance, COBRA health insurance benefits, and other select federal programs. Most of those extensions, however, expire at the end of this month.

Gift card rules effective Aug. 22

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WASHINGTON (3/25/10)—Final rules to restrict the fees and expiration dates that may apply to gift cards, and to require that gift-card terms and conditions be clearly stated, become effective Aug. 22, according a Federal Reserve Board announcement. The rules, which implement the gift-card provisions if the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, are issued under the Fed’s Regulation E. They share their Aug. 22 effective date with other CARD Act rules, those recently proposed under Regulation Z that address penalty fees and the process to review rate increases every six months. These are the final two sets of rules expected to implement the CARD Act. The Fed’s CARD Act rules apply to credit unions and all other financial institutions. The final gift-card rules prohibit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on gift cards unless:
* The consumer has not used the certificate or card for at least one year; * No more than one such fee is charged per month; and * The consumer is given clear and conspicuous disclosures about the fees.
An expiration date for funds underlying gift cards must be at least five years after the date the card was issued, or five years after the last date the card was re-loaded. The rules cover network-branded gift cards, which are redeemable at any merchant that accepts the card brand , as well as retail gift cards that can be used to buy goods or services at a single merchant or affiliated group of merchants. Use the resource links for more information.

Mica on K Street Does ban deplete a resource

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WASHINGTON (3/25/10)—In his most recent ‘K Street Insiders’ column in The Hill, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO ponders some tough questions about lobbying and new restrictions that surround lobbyists’ involvement in other efforts. Mica comes down firmly in favor of lobbying reform and full transparency in the lobbying community. But he shares concern that a ban to keep lobbyists from serving on certain government boards and committees “deprives the government of a strong resource.” “There are many on K Street who want to continue serving and have deep expertise they want to share, which does not conflict with their lobbying roles,” Mica wrote. The new rules also ban anyone who has been a registered lobbyist in the last two years from serving the administration. They also prohibit an individual who leaves White House service from lobbying the administration for the duration of the Obama presidency. Mica said the new restrictions have brought some lobbyists to the question—one he is asked by others--of whether they should remain registered as such. He cited reports that since 2008 about 3,000 individuals have deregistered as lobbyists, with 1,700 of those occurring since April 2009. While Mica understands how some might come to this point, he says the bottom line is to do what is in the best interests of your trade association members or lobbying clients and to follow the new rules very closely to comply with the new law. The CUNA leader is among a select group of prominent Washington advocates tapped to write The Hill newspaper's regular column on and about lobbying.

Small CU Workshops continue this week

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/25/10)—The 2010 Small Credit Union Initiative Workshops and Roundtables continue as the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) hosts sessions in Philadelphia and Omaha, Neb., tomorrow. The agenda for each workshop, like the one in Philadelphia this week, offers sessions on topics such as regional issues facing credit unions, how to positively impact the bottomline, and regulatory hot topics. The workshops also offer an outreach panel featuring community organizations, which explores resources and partnerships for credit unions. That presentation is followed on the agenda by two breakout sessions, which focus on:
* Allowance for Loan Lease Losses (ALLL): guidance on ensuring that a credit union’s ALLL methodology is adequate in today’s economic environment; and * Alternatives to Predatory Lending: strategies to combat the influence of predatory lenders and to help with members’ financial education while learning new methods to successfully address forms of abusive lending.
The Roundtables, generally held in smaller metropolitan areas than the workshops, offer the same topical agenda but not usually the outreach panel or breakout sessions. The NCUA’s first workshop this year was held March 6 in Phoenix, Ariz., and 66 credit union representatives attended. At the second, on March 11 in Richmond, Va., there were 77 workshop registrants. After this week’s session, there are 25 remaining workshops and roundtable set up through November of this year. The sessions are organized under the auspices of the NCUA’s Small Credit Union Initiative Workshops. That office was established by the agency in 2004 at the urging of then-board member, now-chairman, Debbie Matz. Use the resource link below to access schedules, agendas, and registration information.

Inside Washington (03/24/2010)

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* ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/25/10)--The National Credit Union Administration is now on Twitter. You can sign up to read agency “tweets,” or short postings, at www.twitter.com. After logging on, select to follow “TheNCUA” … * WASHINGTON (3/25/10)--The U.S. Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund has decided to take a little more time in its search for qualified individuals to review applications received under the FY 2010 funding round of the new Capital Magnet Fund (CMF). The CMF is a competitive grant program for CDFIs and other nonprofits to attract private capital for development, preservation, rehabilitation, and purchase of affordable housing for low-income families. It is also meant to stir economic development activities or community service, which in conjunction with affordable housing activities may implement a concerted strategy to stabilize or revitalize a low-income area or underserved rural area. The CDFI Fund extended to March 31 its deadline for potential reviewers to submit their resume for consideration. Read more here ... * WASHINGTON (3/25/10)—April 13 is the new date for a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing to examine the causes of the nation’s financial crisis, a session that will focus particularly on what went wrong at Washington Mutual (WaMu). The hearing, "Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: The Role of High Risk Home Loans," was originally set for today. It is meant to target the WaMu failure as a case study of risky loans and their outcome. Former WaMu employees, including ex-president, chief executive and chairman Kerry Killinger, are expected to testify (American Banker March 24) … * WASHINGTON (3/25/10)—A popular USDA guarantee program is pushing up against its allocation limits and word that the agency could run out of money for its Guaranteed Rural Housing Program is spreading. (American Bnaker March 24). Interest in and use of the housing guarantee program has increased sharply over the past two years and if it depletes allocate funds, hundreds of lenders and secondary market buyers could feel an impact. If the program runs out of money, either the U.S. Congress could increase its allocation, or lenders could decide to increase upfront premiums on the loans, which would increase the pool of funds available for guarantees. The upfront premium now is 2% ...