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Consumers look to CUs on CARD Act counseling

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SILVER SPRINGS, Md., and WASHINGTON (1/29/10)--Credit unions have teamed up with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), which has enhanced its National Locator Line (NLL) to support new requirements, effective Feb. 22, of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009. As of Feb. 22, credit unions and other card issuers will be required to prominently display on their statements a toll-free number providing cardholders information about accessing credit counseling with nonprofit credit counseling agencies, said NFCC in a press release Tuesday. "Not only will this information help make consumers aware that help is available, but it will add a layer of protection by directing them to government-approved nonprofit counseling agencies for assistance," NFCC said. The Silver Springs, Md.-based organization said more than 200 lenders--many of them credit unions--had signed up with its network to assist consumers in need of financial counseling and education. Others signing up included representatives of the top 10 creditors accounting for tens of millions of monthly statements, said NFCC. The NLL line is up now, and credit partners began issuing statements with the NFCC's NLL this week. On Tuesday, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) will conduct an audio conference call on the recent final rule implementing the CARD Act provisions effective on Feb. 22. The audio conference will be 1 p.m. -2:30 p.m. CT (2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. ET, 12 p.m.-1:30 p.m. MT, 11a.m.-12:30 p.m. PT). Among the issues it will address are:
* Minimum payment warnings on credit card statements; * Prohibition of an increase in interest rates during the first year an account is opened; * Requirement of co-signers for consumers who are under the age of 21; * Requirement that payments above the minimum be applied to balances with the highest interest rate; and * The restrictions on increasing the annual percentage rate on credit cards.
For more information about the audio conference, use the link.

CUs pass half-million mark in funds raised for Haiti

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (1/29/10)--Credit unions and other organizations in the movement have surpassed the half-million-dollar mark in their fund-raising for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund for credit unions, staff and members affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake. "A wire from a Polish credit union and a $10,000 gift from Korea's national federation (National Credit Union Federation of Korea) just pushed us to a $500,431 grand total," said Valerie Breunig, executive director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, the international charitable arm of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). "I would say it's an amazing response ... but the credit union movement consistently supports people and credit unions, especially during times of crisis," Breunig told News Now. The total includes $94,889 just in online donations from the U.S. credit union movement via the National Credit Union Foundation's (NCUF) CUAid disaster relief system, said Jill Stevenson, marketing and communications coordinator at NCUF. That doesn't include wire transfer information or checks, she said. The latest tally on those was not available by News Now's press deadline. Haiti has 175 credit unions serving 404,090 members. WOCCU has a staff there with its Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) program, a microfinancing project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Staff are safe and will be moving into a new building next month. (See related story in News Now's System section, "Haiti staff: outdoor offices, remittances a struggle." To support WOCCU's relief efforts on behalf of Haiti's 175 credit unions and their 404,090 members, make payments via check, credit card or wire to: Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc., 5710 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705, USA. Donations also can be made online with a credit card at www.woccu.org/give. For wire transfer information, contact Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions at 608-395-2055 or via e-mail vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate the donation is designated for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. U.S. credit unions also can support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the NCUF at www.CUAID.coop. (See related story in News Now: "CUs pass half million mark in funds raised for Haiti").

Search committee formed for new NCUF exec director

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WASHINGTON (1/29/10)--A national search is officially underway for a new executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). The search is emphasizing candidates with particular experience and stature within the credit union movement. The foundation's board of directors aims to hire an executive director this spring, said board Chairman Allan Kemp McMorris, president/CEO of Oakland County CU, Waterford, Mich. The board appointed a search committee at a recent meeting. Chairman of the search committee is Gary J. Oakland, president/CEO of BECU, Tukwila, Wash. The vacant position stems from Steve Delfin's resignation from the foundation late last year to take a position at another organization. Oakland said that among the key requirements for the foundation leader is that the appointee enjoy a deep background in credit unions and is recognized as a leader in the movement. "Since this individual will be working with credit unions to solicit and maintain their support for the foundation, we hope that included in his or her career profile will be a deep understanding of credit unions, as well as a strong network of contacts among them," Oakland said. Candidates should send resumes to resumes@NCUF.coop or to:

National Credit Union Foundation

5710 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI 53701

Attn: Human Resources

Oakland added that resumes should not be sent directly to the NCUF board or search committee members.

Ohio public funds bill in first hearing Wednesday

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/29/10)--Legislation that would allow Ohio credit unions to receive public funds from schools, townships, cities and other entities will have its first hearing Wednesday before a state legislative committee. The hearing on House Bill 317 will be conducted before the Ohio House of Representatives Financial Institutions Real Estate & Securities Committee, according to the Ohio Credit Union League (eLumination Jan. 27). Testimony will be presented by State Rep. and Majority Floor Leader Tracy Heard (D-Columbus) and State Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D-Toledo), who are joint sponsors of the bill. The league said it is encouraging Ohio credit union leaders to attend any hearings on the bill to demonstrate widespread support for it. The bill also would allow credit unions to participate in the Ohio Department of Development’s Minority Business Enterprise Program and Capital Access Loan program for small businesses. If passed, members would have access to linked deposit programs from state entities through their credit unions, the league said.

Haiti staff outdoor offices remittances a struggle

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (1/29/10)--Intermittent remittance services and operating from open-air offices have been added to the challenges faced by credit unions, members and staff while Haiti tries to recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake that leveled its capital city.
Click to view larger image Haitians seeking remittances line up outside Fonkoze's open-air office. Fonkoze is a partner of credit unions' IRnet remittance program.
Click to view larger image Fonkoze staff process remittances for Haitian earthquake victims in an open-air office after the firm's headquarters building was destroyed.
Click to view larger image The World Council of Credit Unions' Petitionville headquarters was destroyed by tremors during Haiti's earthquake on Jan. 12. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
In a country where remittance income comprises nearly 25% of the gross domestic product, the loss of facilities and availability of only intermittent power and Internet services are making it difficult for family and friends to send much-needed cash home to Haiti. Before the earthquake, Haiti had received nearly US$1 billion in remittance income annually, according to Saul Wolf, remittance manager for IRnet, part of the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) for-profit subsidiary, WOCCU Services Group. Logistical issues caused by the disaster have made getting cash to Haiti an enormous challenge at a time when it is needed most, he said. "The earthquake, which has driven an increased need for liquidity, has also made cash delivery extremely difficult, especially to people in rural areas," Wolf said. "Remittance programs require an IT (information technology) infrastructure, and any that were located in Port-au-Prince were probably destroyed," he said. Remittance delivery organizations such as Fonkoze, a partner with WOCCU in the Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) program, have found ways around the problem, most likely using a back-up server located elsewhere and relying on intermittent Internet access, Wolf said. Fonkoze is Haiti's largest microfinance organization and serves roughly 200,000 people, primarily in rural areas. With its building destroyed in the earthquake, Fonkoze was forced to set up operations in an open-air courtyard near the rubble of its headquarters, according to Greta Greathouse, WOCCU chief of party for the HIFIVE program. "Many of us have had 'outdoor' offices this week," she said. WOCCU's Haiti program recently moved to temporary office space since the earthquake destroyed its Petionville facilities. Greathouse has signed a lease agreement enabling WOCCU to move into new permanent office space within 30 days. Logistics aren't the only problem Haiti's recipients face, Wolf said. Individuals carrying cash in any amount become targets for thieves in a disaster environment. The fact that many such recipients no longer have homes and are forced to sleep outside simply compounds the problem, he added. "Prior to the earthquake, we planned to work with local partners like Fonkoze to help increase market competition and lower prices for remittance senders and recipients in Haiti," Wolf said. "Now we will simply have to wait and see." To support WOCCU's relief efforts on behalf of Haiti's 175 credit unions and their 404,090 members, make payments via check, credit card or wire to: Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc., 5710 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705, USA. Donations also can be made online with a credit card at www.woccu.org/give. For wire transfer information, contact Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions at 608-395-2055 or via e-mail vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate the donation is designated for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. U.S. credit unions also can support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the NCUF at www.CUAID.coop. (See related story in News Now: "CUs pass half million mark in funds raised for Haiti").

Toyotas sales halt shouldnt affect CU

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HAWTHORNE, Calif. (1/28/10)--Toyota’s production and sales halt of recalled 2010 models should not affect Toyota workers who are members of Western FCU, in Hawthorne, Calif., CEO John Bommarito said Thursday. In November 2007, Toyota FCU, Torrance Calif., merged into Western FCU. “Toyota doesn’t lay anybody off,” Bommarito told News Now. “They all go into maintenance and training [if production jobs were cut]. Toyota goes to full cost to keep them employed. That’s very much part of the Toyota culture. Production could be interrupted. We’re just monitoring the situation. “We value the relationship with the Toyota members who came across after the merger,” he added. Western cannot reveal the percentage of its membership who works for Toyota because of confidentiality guidelines, Bommarito said. Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it would temporarily halt building and selling eight 2010 models because it is struggling to fix a problem with accelerator pads. The moves come in the aftermath of two company recalls in the past two months of millions of vehicles that have a problem with a gap deal that can stick and cause a vehicle to speed up unintentionally, Toyota said (The New York Times Jan. 27). Toyota said it would immediately cease selling the Camry, Corolla and Avalon sedans, Matrix wagon, RAV4 crossover, Tundra pickup, and Highlander and Sequoia sport utility vehicles. The recall of the eight models affects about 55% of its new-car inventory. The production halt will last until the company finds a remedy for the stuck-throttle problem. Previously the company said that could take weeks, but it provided no time line Tuesday (USA Today Jan. 27). Western FCU has more than $1.95 billion in assets.

AACUL issues call for Pro Blockbuster award entries

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MADISON, Wis. (1/29/10)--The American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL) is issuing a call for entries for Pro and Blockbuster awards. The deadline for entries is April 23. Pro Awards honor the best in public relations and publications, and the Blockbuster Awards pay tribute to excellence in marketing and advertising. These awards are the highest communications awards bestowed on leagues and league state communicators. This year marks the 32nd year that the Pro and Blockbuster Awards have recognized outstanding league and league state communicator communications efforts. To enter, participants should follow the entry guidelines outlined in the resource link. Those not submitted as directed may be disqualified. Entries can be in the following areas: radio, television, online, print and multiple--more than one category. The fee for each submission is $50. Entrants must complete an entry fee payment form and include a share draft or check payable to AACUL. Send Pro and Blockbuster entries to the following shipping address:

PRO/BLOCKBUSTER ENTRIES

Attn: Shellee Mitchell

American Association of Credit Union Leagues,

601 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., South Building

Suite 600,

Washington, DC 20004-2601

All entries will be displayed during the 2010 AACUL Communicators/GAPS Conference on June 21-23 in Washington, D.C. Entries will not be returned. However, conference attendees can pick up their entries at the end of the conference. Award winners will be announced at the conference. For more information, use the link.

WOCCU calls for Distinguished Service Award nominations

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MADISON, Wis. (1/29/10)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has issued a call for nominations for the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the international credit union system. Nominations are due by April 5. The award honors outstanding achievements in the global credit union movement. Awards will be presented at The 1 Credit Union Conference, a one-year-only event sponsored by WOCCU and the Credit Union National Association that combines the World Credit Union Conference and America’s Credit Union Conference and Expo. The 1 Credit Union Conference will be July 11-14 in Las Vegas. Individual recipients can be WOCCU and its member organization officers, directors or representatives, international credit union pioneers, field technicians with a long and outstanding service record, or persons whose actions have benefited global credit union development. WOCCU presents no more than three individual awards per year. Institutional recipients can be organizations or agencies that have provided financial and technical assistance to develop international credit union movements and their service infrastructures over an extended period. WOCCU presents a maximum of one institutional award per year. Nominations must be made by a WOCCU member organization. For more information, use the link.

CUNA seeking recommendations for committees

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MADISON, Wis. (1/29/10)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Executive Committee is seeking recommendations for appointments to CUNA's committees for 2010. The executive committee will begin considering nominations at a meeting in early March. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 26. Any one interested in providing recommendations to the committee can use the resource links to access a list of current committees, their purpose statements and their members, and a form to submit information. Committee members appointed last year will continue to serve until new members are announced. Generally, CUNA considers replacing members who have served on a same committee for more than three or four years; however, there are exceptions. For more information or to submit recommendations, use the links.

CUs assisting taxpayers with seasonal filing

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MADISON, Wis. (1/29/10)--The deadline to file taxes this year without penalty is April 15, and credit unions nationwide are ready to help their members with free tax preparation programs. Many credit unions--like Truliant FCU, Winston-Salem, N.C.--will offer services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Last year, Truliant helped more than 180 people garner $300,000 in tax refunds (dBusiness News Jan. 20). Truliant staff are working with the Forsyth Working Families Partnership to offer free services through VITA to working families who make $48,000 or less in annual income. VITA started a partnership with local communities to help families receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the newspaper said. AmeriChoice FCU, Mechanicsburg, Pa., has partnered with the Community Action Commission to provide free tax assistance to low-income families in Harrisburg, Pa. Starting Feb. 5 and running through April, the credit union will offer services every Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Life is a Highway Jan. 27). State Employees’ CU (SECU), Raleigh, N.C. is working to ensure North Carolinians take advantage of the EITC. One in four qualifying taxpayers don’t claim the EITC, the credit union said. SECU has distributed more than 70,000 fliers in 226 branch locations about the EITC. It also has educated members at state agencies and in schools through educational materials and presentations to increase EITC awareness. Credit union member newsletters and SECU’s website also contain information about EITC. In the last two years, SECU has helped taxpayers claim $47 million in tax refunds and $24 million in tax credits like EITC. In early February, several Wisconsin credit unions, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service, American Association of Retired Persons and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, will offer free tax preparation assistance program sites statewide, said the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Wisconsin credit unions also will participate in a pilot project that connects the REAL Progress and Pathways to Prosperity (RP3) program that will use employee graduates of the RP3 program to encourage tax filers to save their refund money. The graduates will provide assistance to the filers at Free Tax Preparation Assistance sites. RP3 is part of the National Credit Union Foundation’s REAL Solutions program, which aims to help low-income individuals build wealth. GHS FCU, Binghamton, N.Y., also will offer a VITA site. The volunteer tax preparers are students from a local community college. Free tax preparation will be offered Feb. 1 through March 31. So far, 126 credit unions have signed up for the “Just File It!” tax preparation program, said the Michigan Credit Union League. The “I Can E-File” Web-based tax software used through “Just File It!” is free and helps ensure credit union members receive tax credits and refunds that often are overlooked (Michigan Monitor Jan. 18).