MADISON, Wis. (12/2/08)--From The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch to the Los Angeles Times, from TheStreet.com to the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) Press Republic to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the word is that despite the economy, credit unions have money to lend. The newspapers all published reports in the past week about credit unions offering loans at a time when credit has dried up elsewhere. The Columbus Dispatch Sunday noted that "as many financial institutions have struggled, credit unions promote themselves as a safe alternative to 'regular' banks." In the article, Ohio Credit Union League President Paul Mercer said that despite what people read about other parts of the financial industry, "we're in a good position and have money to lend." The article outlined the history, philosophy and expansion of credit unions, discussed their tax exemption and featured three Columbus area credit union executives: Brett Shearer, a board member of the State Transportation Employees CU; Gerald Guy, CEO of Kemba Financial CU; and James Riederer, CEO of CME FCU. TheStreet.com Friday advised that "if you need a loan, consider skipping your local bank and checking out your neighborhood credit union." Author Peter McDougall learned from Credit Union National Association senior economist Mike Schenk that credit unions' loan growth is increasing. Loan growth during recessions in the '80s and '90s were around 3%. "We're more than double that today," Schenk says, adding there is "still a lot of lending going on. McDougall wrote that credit unions may be the best bet because they have different management, offer the same loans but with better rates, have kept their standards relatively steady and avoided the subprime mortgage woes, and offer broader memberships today. The Plattsburgh Press Republic Sunday noted that area credit unions and community banks "didn't listen to the siren's song" that produced problems for many financial institutions. "Credit unions and community banks still have liquidity and adequate money to lend," said the publication. Last Thursday's Los Angeles Times discussed falling mortgage rates and how many borrowers still will have trouble qualifying for a mortgage loan in today's tighter underwriting standards because they bought homes during the real estate bubble and now owe more on their homes than the homes are worth. The article quotes California Credit Union League economist Terrin Griffiths, who expects refinance activity to increase, but not dramatically. Many are trying to get out of adjustable-rate mortgages that are resetting to higher rates next year. And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Nov. 25) featured BECU (formerly Boeing Employees CU), which is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn through declining earnings, rising delinquencies and higher provisions to reserve for future loan losses. Even with the downturn, BECU is "decently profitable." Loan delinquencies, while double year-ago delinquencies, are still less than 1% of the credit union's total portfolio. BECU is still providing loans, with 2008 mortgage originations already topping $1 billion for the year. Its CEO, Gary Oakland, advocated the Credit Union Homeowners Affordability Relief Program to help stabilize housing markets and provide confidence. The credit union has a debt relief program for members and could assist more under the program. For the full articles, use the resource links.