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CUs offer loans to help members under water
MADISON, Wis. (6/16/08)--Credit unions in several Midwestern states outlined what they're doing to help members and employees affected by the past week's severe weather. Many have employees and members directly impacted by flooding. At Centra CU in Columbus, Ind., 14 employees lost homes or cars, or experienced significant damage, said Nan Morrow, vice president of corporate development. Centra's relief program has three fronts: the members, the community and the employees, she said. For affected members, the credit union initiated a flood relief loan of $1,000 in immediate cash, with no payment for six months. "We're working with members who have existing loans and mortgages, and helping them determine what to do," Morrow told News Now Friday. Long-term concerns such as home equity will "last a long time Two branches of the $717 million asset credit union closed for half a day, she said, adding, "We're so thankful there was no internal damage." On Friday, all 22 branches and its ATMs were open. For the community, the credit union's staff donated to assistance organizations, such as the American Red Cross, and donated food and cleaning supplies. For employees, the credit union staff set up a voluntary assistance fund and a spread sheet with the lists of needs for each employee impacted by the floods. Other employees are donating items on the "registry." The credit union has also organized work teams to help clean up homes. "We're trying to help anyway we can," said Morrow Friday. Morrow noted that the area was under a thunderstorm watch and "we're expecting two more inches." In Terre Haute, Ind., more than 800 homes were damaged when a levee broke. Indiana State University FCU had "a handful" of employees experiencing water damage. According to Amanda Royer, marketing coordinator, the $74 million asset credit union launched a flood relief loan plan on June 7 and advertised it in the local newspaper on Thursday. The 5-5-5 loan offers 5% annual percentage yield, is for $5,000 maximum, and is a five-year loan. Employees get the same terms but are offered 0% on interest. Although Indiana State University FCU is less than a mile from the river, its member and employee parking lots were under water. "We're helping people who want to know what to do with their mortgage if their house is a complete loss. One of the professors lost everything. He was in the subdivision that was wiped out when the levee broke," Royer said. Westby (Wis.) Co-op CU has branches in four Wisconsin counties hard hit by floods: Vernon, Sauk, Monroe and Richland counties. Its Reedsburg branch experienced the most interruption of business--loss of communications with the main branch for two days--when the Baraboo River reached record levels. "We communicated by cell phone," said President Kevin Hauser, a board member of the Wisconsin Credit Union League. The credit union kept its drive-up open to make sure members had service. To process transactions, it would communicate the transactions to other offices, which would post the transactions via a dedicated line. "It was important to get to the point we could post transactions. Our members needed the cash," Hauser told News Now. Several employees couldn't get to work because of flooded or washed away roads. Many members were displaced in Ovolka, Ontario, LaFarge, Viola, Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills--all under water. The credit union went through a similar heavy flood last fall, he said. Then, it waived overdraft fees for the entire credit union for two days--even for members not impacted by the flood. "It was our way of thanking them for their membership and urging them to help someone else in need," Hauser said. Last fall, it also authorized deferment on payments up to three months for members who requested it and even waived the early withdrawal penalty on a member's certificate. Staff in Reedsburg also is helping the community by taking their casual day fund and donating it to the American Red Cross, by providing workers with food, and by filling sand bags. The credit unions were bracing themselves for a wet weekend, with more storms to compound the problems. Centra's Morrow noted that the area was under a thunderstorm watch and "we're expecting two more inches."
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