MADISON, Wis. (12/21/12)--As the year-end approaches, credit unions continue to offer assistance to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Since Hurricane Sandy hit East Coast Oct. 29, Polish & Slavic FCU (PSFCU), Brooklyn, N.Y., has turned much of its efforts toward assisting those hardest hit, while also scrambling to repair its first branch on Staten Island, which was scheduled to open a week after the storm. Tens of thousands of PSFCU's members reside and work in or near the most heavily damaged areas affected by Hurricane Sandy,
Most of PSFCU's New York area branches were out of service for as long as five days as a result of power outages following the hurricane. The grand opening celebration of the credit union's new Staten Island branch was scheduled for Nov. 5, but was postponed due to damages from the hurricane. The credit union was able to repair the facility quickly, and it officially opened Dec. 15.
Immediately after the hurricane hit, PSFCU began collecting and dispensing necessary clothing and other items for hurricane victims.
The credit union distributed batteries, warm clothing, blankets and other necessities to the victims of Hurricane Sandy through local church parishes and community organizations. The PSFCU website also provided information in both English and Polish on how to file the proper applications for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance.
During the power outages that paralyzed many communities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, PSFCU set up charging stations at all open branches, and created a dedicated room inside its Clifton (N.J.) branch for children who were without power to do their homework. The credit union's mobile branch also moved from location to location where branches were inoperable so members could access their accounts.
"The destruction wrought by this storm was incomprehensible to all who witnessed it; and so many of our members were hit hardest," said Marzena Wierzbowska , PSFCU board chair. "But this is what a community-based credit union does: it reaches deep into the neighborhoods and families in which it serves, and does everything in its power to lift those who need help the most. We're proud of what we're able to do for our members, but there's still much work to be done."
Bethpage (N.Y.) FCU helped raised $104,000 to date for the United Way of Long Island through the Bethpage Disaster Relief Fund, formed in November to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The money raised includes Bethpage FCU member donations and donations from local businesses, which were matched by the credit union.
Bethpage FCU also made a $25,000 donation to the American Red Cross and made available special emergency loans and lines of credit to help new and existing Bethpage members rebuild and repair. Loans available include storm emergency home equity loans, cash advance loans, auto loans and special home equity loans for properties in a current federally declared disaster area.
Also, FEMA has extended for an extra month the deadline to register for Sandy-related disaster assistance, according to the New Jersey Credit Union League (The Daily Exchange Dec. 19). The traditional, 60-day window was extended due to the extent of damage, the agency said. Survivors have until Jan. 30 to register for assistance.
FEMA disaster assistance can cover rental assistance, essential home repairs, property loss and other serious needs not covered by insurance, the agency noted.