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Local newspapers include CUs weighing in on economy
MADISON, Wis. (3/25/08)--Local newspapers are seeing credit unions as a source for comments on economic news, especially the credit crunch. A number of newspapers--both nationwide and local--have reported credit unions weighing in on the economy. They also have featured the programs credit unions offer to stave off foreclosures. Here are three examples. In Newark, Ohio, an article about the Federal Reserve's decision last week to cut the federal funds interest rate, featured Al Smith, president/CEO of Hopewell FCU, a $61 million asset credit union based in Heath, Ohio. Smaller commercial banks and credit unions will "survive fine" because they deal with people in their hometown, said Smith, who has been at Hopewell for 25 years and in the banking industry for 40 years. He told the Newark Advocate (March 19) that the subprime crisis is unprecedented--he had never seen such a financial situation, where mortgage companies were going out of business. In Sacramento, Calif., an article in the Sacramento Bee (March 21), discussed The Golden 1 CU's modest economic stimulus package for members caught in foreclosures. The $6.7 billion asset credit union has a $20 million fund to help members who lost their home to another lender within the past 18 months get back into their own home. The "mortgage repair loan" offers 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages to qualified members. Golden 1 CEO Teresa Halleck said the credit union had the funds to do this because it didn't engage in risky subprime loans. In Wisconsin, The Post-Crescent (March 16) surveyed 19 financial institutions--seven of them credit unions--about the events of 2007 and what's in store for 2008. Cheri VerVoot, executive vice president of Unison CU, a $135 million asset credit union in Kaukauna, told the newspaper that Unison has been insulated from the subprime mortgage fallout. The credit union is financially sound with a delinquency rate well below industry averages. "We don't engage in subprime lending, and [we] use conservative underwriting practices to protect our assets," she said. Fox Communities CU, Appleton, saw solid growth, to $645 million in assets, last year, Greg Hilbert, president/CEO, said. It has a strong mortgage program and has never been involved in subprime lending practices. FCCU promotes a first-time homebuyers program for qualified moderate incomers, with discounted rates and little or no money down. FCCU is also committed to financial education. Community First CU President/CEO Catherine Tierney told the newspaper that the Appleton-based credit union--the third-largest in the state with $816 million assets--had not experienced any delinquency or loss problems. It does not offer subprime loans. "We feel strongly that now is a wonderful time to invest in a home," she said, noting the credit union is dedicated to helping members embrace the dream of home ownership. Four other credit unions were also interviewed in the article.
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