ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (3/30/11)--Although the U.S. economy is improving, credit unions must confront the reality that their members’ debt is deep, and will keep credit union lending spotty, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told an event sponsored by the New Jersey Credit Union League and affiliated partners. Also, the housing market will take a long time to recover, Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of research and statistics, told more than 194 credit union leaders from six states at the league’s 2011 Credit Union Reality Check held last week in Atlantic City, N.J. (The Weekly Exchange March 21). Despite the down economy, the credit union model still functions properly, Schenk said, providing data that indicate in 2010 credit unions collectively saved their members roughly $6.6 billion--compared with banks--by offering better interest rates and lower fees. “We have seen credit unions can endure lower earnings for short periods, but still serve their members,” Schenk told the gathering. Schenk also presented corporate credit union loss data, indicating that losses from mortgage-backed securities totaled $10 billion to $16 billion. Of that amount, $7 billion has been paid through previous assessments, leaving $3 billion to $9 billion to be paid by credit unions, he added. Also discussed at the 2011 Credit Union Reality Check were the future of the corporate credit union network, the importance of non-interest income, credit union mergers, marketing ideas for 2011, public relations strategies for credit unions, and how the National Credit Union Administration’s recent regulation on financial education requirements impact directors and volunteers.