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Hearing on underserved sparks FOM request from NCUA
WASHINGTON (9/23/11)--Easing some credit union membership criteria and increasing funding to the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund (CDRLF) are two ways that Congress can help credit unions increase their work in unbanked and underbanked communities, National Credit Union Administration Executive Director David Marquis testified on Thursday before the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit. Thursday’s hearing focused on the availability of credit products for consumers who may not have access to services provided by traditional financial institutions. Marquis in prepared testimony cited NCUA research that estimates there are 9 million unbanked and 21 million underbanked U.S. households, totaling 60 million unbanked or underbanked adults. A key goal of credit unions is serving these populations, and Marquis emphasized that credit unions are not in the financial services business to make a profit. Marquis specifically recommended that Congress allow credit unions to help these unbanked and underbanked households by allowing single common-bond credit unions and community-chartered credit unions to add underserved areas to their respective fields of membership. Doing so, Marquis said, would open up credit union access to many more potential members and could allow more credit unions to participate in CDRLF-related programs, “thus increasing the availability of credit and savings options in the distressed areas where credit unions operate.” The NCUA official also called on Congress to increase resources for the CDRLF, which would allow that fund to provide more technical assistance grants and loans to low-income credit unions (LICUs). The demand for these grants and loans often exceeds available funding, and increased funding could be provided through potential public-private partnerships or other private-sector support, “rather than providing funding through traditional means like increased appropriations,” Marquis suggested. Marquis added that the agency is working on its own to increase access to financial services through financial literacy initiatives and is promoting awareness of the LICU designation among credit unions. The NCUA is also providing assistance to credit unions that are seeking a LICU designation, he said. During his testimony, Marquis also took the opportunity to tout the benefits of lifting the credit union member business lending cap and promote H.R. 1418, the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act. This bill, Marquis said, “features appropriate safeguards to ensure responsible lending and expand access to credit” and would “prudently allow credit unions to diversify their risks and portfolios.” The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) estimates that lifting the MBL cap to 27.5% of assets would inject more than $13 billion in new funding into the economy, at no cost to taxpayers, creating 140,000 new jobs in the first year after enactment.
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