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CUNA announces 2012 Desjardins award winners

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MADISON, Wis. (11/5/12)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has announced the winners of the 2012 Desjardins Awards for Youth and Adult Financial Education.

Entries from 29 states yielded 10 first place winners, along with several second place and honorable mention winners, in both the adult and youth education categories.

The Desjardins Awards are named for Alphonse Desjardins, the founder of the North American credit union movement. Besides founding the first credit unions in Canada and the U.S., Desjardins pioneered youth savings clubs and in-school "banks," known as caisses scolaires. The award honors credit unions, chapters and leagues for their commitment to both youth and adult financial literacy.

"A core value of credit unions is to assist their members with a better understanding of their finances so that they can make the best decisions possible with their hard-earned money," says Bill Cheney, CUNA president/CEO. "The individuals and institutions honored with the Desjardins Awards personify this timeless value of our movement. I am honored to represent an industry that counts these award winners among its supporters."

"Congratulations to this year's winners and honorees for their admirable work to develop financial education skills in members of their communities," says Vikki Kinsler, CUNA's program coordinator for the Desjardins Awards. "Credit unions, chapters and leagues from nearly 30 states applied for the award, which shows the strength of the movement's commitment to caring about its members."

Recipients were chosen from among the state-winning entries by CUNA's national awards committee.

Winners for the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award include (asterisks indicate repeat winners):

  • Clarence Community & Schools FCU, Clarence, N.Y.;
  • CommunityAmerica CU (Kansas City, Mo.);*
  • CORE FCU, East Syracuse, N.Y.;*
  • Generations FCU, San Antonio; and
  • Northwest Chapter of the Ohio Credit Union League.*
Second place winners for the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award include:

  • Acadia FCU,Fort Kent, Maine;
  • Horizon CU, Spokane Valley, Wash.:* and
  • Northwest  Federal Credit Union Foundation, Herndon, Va.
Honorable mention winners for the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award include:

  • Arapahoe CU, Englewood, Colo.;*
  • CASE CU, Lansing, Mich.;
  • Commonwealth CU, Frankfort, Ky.; and
  • Tarrant County CU, Fort Worth, Texas.
Winners for the Desjardins Adult Financial Education Award include:

  • Beach Municipal FCU, Virginia Beach, Va.;*
  • Credit Union 1, Anchorage, Alaska;*
  • Town & Country CU, Minot, N.D.; and
  • United Labor CU, Kansas City, Mo.
Second place winners for the Desjardins Adult Financial Education Award include:

  • Capital CU, Kimberly, Wis.;
  • Community CU, Lewiston, Maine;* and
  • Palmetto Citizens FCU, Columbia, S.C.*
Honorable mention winner for the Desjardins Adult Financial Education Award was:

  • CommunityAmerica CU, Kansas City, Mo.*
The Maine Credit Union League was also awarded a first place award for its efforts to improve financial literacy for both youth and adults.

In December, PDFs of the winning entries will be available for viewing on CUNA's website. Winning entries will be on display at CUNA's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC), Feb. 24-28, in Washington, DC. The award winners will be honored during a reception at the GAC on Feb. 27.

Police officer CU robbery suspect shot during chase

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MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (11/5/12)--An Iowa police officer and a suspect in a credit union robbery were released from the hospital after being wounded in a shootout Friday morning during a chase after the credit union was robbed.

Two suspects robbed the Lennox Employees CU, Marshalltown, Iowa, at about 9:30 a.m. Friday, then fled the bank with Marshalltown police in pursuit. One suspect fired his gun and hit an Officer Vern Jefferson in the leg. Jefferson returned fire, wounding Ben Crisantos, 22, Marshalltown, in the lower extremities, said police (SFGate.com Nov. 2).

A short time later, the second robbery suspect, Abel Ramirez, 22, also of Marshalltown, was arrested.

No one at the credit union was injured.

Police charged Crisantos with attempted murder and Ramirez with first-degree robbery, both Class B felonies. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison.

INerdwalletI in IUSNews and World ReportI CUs better than banks

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NEW YORK (11/5/12)--Today's anniversary of Bank Transfer Day has prompted comparisons of credit unions with big banks. A NerdWallet analyst writes in the U.S. News & World Report  that compared with Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America, credit unions turn out to be the better banking option.

In a blog entitled, "Are Credit Unions a Better Option?" NerdWallet analyst John Gower notes that while "by no means a new concept (the oldest dates back to 1908), credit unions further penetrated the national consciousness in late 2011" when Bank of America proposed its $5 monthly fee on debit card accounts and the grassroots event Bank Transfer Day urged consumers to leave big banks for smaller, community-focused credit unions."

"Over the last year, NerdWallet.com has conducted extensive analysis in various facets of banking--pitting credit unions vs. banks. The results show that, when it comes to many basic services, credit unions outperform the biggest banks."

The blog had these things to say about credit unions:

Since the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, most big banks have eliminated free checking accounts, requiring consumers to meet a minimum balance and other requirements.  Most credit unions, however, continue to "maintain a truly free checking account." Among the top 10 banks and credit unions in the U.S., 70% of credit unions offered free checking, while just one of the banks did--an average savings of more than $100 per year for consumers.  Many credit unions also pay dividends on checking balances--"something that's usually only found with high-fee premium checking at the big banks."

Credit unions offer higher deposit rates than banks, Gower writes. Big banks offer no interest on a basic savings account and under 0.75% annual percentage yield for a five-year certificate of deposit; credit unions average more than 0.15% for savings accounts and 1.42% for the CD--nearly double what's offered the big banks.

Credit unions' shared branches address any concerns about limited access to branches and ATMs. Members have access to nearly 5,000 branches of the CU Service Center network nationwide, just under Wells Fargo's 6,300 branches and Chase and BofA's 5,700 branches.

"Credit unions actually outperform the big banks when it comes to self-service access to your money" because of their surcharge-free ATM network. The largestincludes more than 30,000 ATMs, Gower writes. At Chase or any other bank, customers are limited to fewer than 20,000.

"As the anniversary of Bank Transfer Day approaches, don't ignore your local credit union as a viable option for your banking business. Lower fees and higher deposit yields are likely worth a switch," Gower concluded.

Use the link to access the full article.

82000 raised by CUAid for hurricane victims

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MADISON, Wis. (11/5/12)--As of 2 p.m. Friday, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) had raised more than $82,000 through CUAid.coop, the credit union movement's Disaster Relief Fund, to aid credit union staff, volunteers and members directly impacted by Superstorm Sandy's assault last week on the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states.

"The outpouring of support and assistance from credit union organizations in just a few days has been inspiring and amazing to behold," said Christopher Morris, NCUF's director of communications.

"I even heard from a mid-size credit union across the country in California today that is planning on holding a 'jeans day' for staff starting next week to raise funds specifically for CUAid," he told News Now Friday afternoon. "The 'people helping people' philosophy is thriving this week."

Credit union supporters in every state can donate at www.cuaid.coop (use the link). CUAid is the only program of its kind that enables credit union employees, volunteers, and members, as well as credit unions and credit union organizations across the U.S., to contribute directly to support other credit union people.

NCUF will coordinate with the credit union leagues in the disaster area to distribute money efficiently to affected credit union employees and members. One hundred percent of the donations through CUAid goes to credit union disaster relief. If all donations are not used for Hurricane Sandy relief, NCUF will transfer unused funds to its "General Disaster Relief fund" for future disaster relief efforts.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), since activating its disaster relief policy on Tuesda,  is monitoring 2,000 credit unions in the region and has  list of known credit unions impacted by the storm on a special Hurricane Sandy Information page on its website. Use the link. Last week its consumer assistance hotline (800-755-1030, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday) experienced a higher-than-usual call volume. (See related News Now story: "Hurricane: NCUA reminds CUs, members help is available.")

The agency has established grants of up to $7,500 for low-income credit unions to help restore operations and make repairs and approved its first grant application last week for New York University FCU.  For more information, use the grants link. New York University FCU was the first credit union to apply to NCUA for its emergency grants to restore service. It applied on Wednesday and approval was made Thursday, said NCUA.

The New Jersey Credit Union League has posted the grant application and procedures for assistance for those affected. Use the link for more information.

Other efforts to provide aid for Sandy's victims related to credit unions include a statewide Disaster Relief Fund reactivated by the Credit Union Association of New York through the New York Credit Union Foundation to assist credit union employees, staff and members in that state.See the link. Association President/CEO William J. Mellin said credit unions will get a toolkit soon to help them with the relief effort.

A number of organizations, including state credit union foundations are working with NCUF for CUAid.coop.  CO-OP Financial Services gave $10,000 as soon as the fund was activated. CU Direct Corp., a lending solutions provider for credit unions, said Friday it has donated $10,000 as well.

Individual credit unions, in addition to providing funds for credit union folks, also are collecting for immediate disaster relief agencies such as the American Red Cross. Redwood CU in Santa Rosa, Calif., said its branches are collecting contributions for the Red Cross. The Credit Union National Association urged staff at its Madison, Wis., offices to give blood at the American Red Cross.

The NCUA is also launching a clothing drive for credit union members and employees affected by the hurricane, which will be delivered to the New Jersey league office in Hightstown next week, said the league's updates.

The assistance is needed. The New Jersey league said that hurricane deductibles for Sandy-related claims will not be applicable. The New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance said the hurricane deductible trigger will not apply in the state because the National Weather Service had downgraded Sandy from a Category One hurricane to a Post-Tropical Cyclone just before it reached landfall. The department has issued guidelines. Use the DOBI guidelines link.

Leagues report damage updates from Sandy

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ALBANY, N.Y., and HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (11/5/12)--CUNA Mutual Group reported Friday afternoon that it had received no new damage claims from credit unions impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The leagues in New York and New Jersey sent out updates Friday with the latest assessments of their states' credit unions impacted by last week's Superstorm Sandy.

Click to view larger image Credit Union Association of New York Senior Vice President Ron McLean, left, and SUMA FCU (Yonkers) Treasurer/Chief Operating Officer Ihor Makarenko unload the first of two generators provided by CUANY to provide electricity to the credit union after power went out when Hurricane Sandy hit the state last week.
Earlier last week CUNA Mutual Group had reported 25 credit unions were impacted, mostly through power outages but that it was still early in the assessment process. (See related News Now story: "Sandy so far: 25 CUs damaged, CUAid raises $65K.")

Credit Union Association of New York President/CEO William J. Mellin provided an assessment for those in New York. "As you all know, the damage from Hurricane Sandy continues to impact many of our New York credit unions," said his message to member credit unions.

"I have spoken personally with several credit unions in the affected areas, and our member relations team is also working diligently to get in touch with more than 150 potentially impacted credit unions. As we reach them, we're collecting information about their operational status and needs. We have already coordinated resources like generators and laptops and will continue to do as much as possible," Mellin said.

Until power is restored in critical areas, it is difficult to fully assess the situation, he said, but added that so far, "the losses are significant.""

"We have faced other disasters, but what sets this apart is the vast number of credit union employees and members who have been impacted. In the most affected areas, there are more than two million credit union members. Countless are still without power and access to gas, heat and other basic necessities. Some have completely lost their homes. And they're all going to be looking to their credit unions for help as they begin to recover."

CUANY has reactivated the statewide Disaster Relief Fund through the New York Credit Union Foundation (NYCUF).  Use the New York foundation link for more information. Mellin also said credit unions will get a toolkit to help them with the relief effort.

(For an update on the credit union movement's fundraising efforts to help the affected credit unions, see related News Now story, "$82,000 raised by CUAid for hurricane victims.")

The National Credit Union Administration has been monitoring the status for more than 2,000 credit unions in the storm's path. "The vast majority of federally insured credit unions are fully operational; however, some are closed, and others are operating partially with branch closures, in temporary facilities, or with only ATM services. Affected credit unions are working to quickly restore normal operations," NCUA said.

Its examiners along the East Coast are checking with their credit unions to provide support and assistance, answering members' questions, and NCUA is expediting consideration of credit union emergency grant applications.

Click to view larger image Yonkers, N.Y.-based SUMA FCU Treasurer/Chief Operating Officer Ihor Makarenko is all smiles as the generators provided by the Credit Union Association of New York create electricity--and light--at the credit union in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. (Photos provided by the Credit Union Association of New York)
NCUA is experiencing a higher-than-usual call volume at its consumer assistance hotline (800-755-1030, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday). The agency has established a Hurricane Sandy information page on its website with a list of known credit unions temporarily closed by the storm or that are operational. Use the link.

New York University FCU was the first credit union to apply to NCUA for its emergency grants to restore service. It applied on Wednesday and approval was made Thursday, said NCUA. (See related News Now story: "Hurricane: NCUA reminds CUs, members help is available")

The New Jersey Credit Union League reported that of its total 66 Shared Branching outlets in the state, 41 were up and running, while 25 were still down as of 5 p.m. Friday.

The league has provided twice daily status reports. New reports and some changed-status reports are below. (For credit unions reported earlier and whose status hasn't changed, see related News Now story, "New reports on status of CUs in hurricane aftermath.") New status reports as of 5 p.m. ET Friday include:

  • 1st Bergen FCU--It is temporarily relocated to 291 Second St., Hackensack, N.J. Its hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The temporary phone number is 201-342-2936.
  • ABCO FCU--All branches are open and operating with normal business hours, except for the Rider University branch, which will reopen today.
  • ADP FCU--Branch office in Florham Park, N.J., was closed Friday. Branches in Roseland, N.J., and Alpharetta, Ga., are open during normal business hours.
  • Affinity FCU-- Most branches will be open during normal business hours, with the exception of these branches that are still without power: Bedminster (both the AT&T and Lamington Road locations), Morristown (Country Mile Village), New Providence, and Middletown. Online Banking, Mobile Banking and AUDREY (automated phone banking service) are fully operational. Standard 800 number is fully operational: 800-325-0808. Some Affinity ATMs are operational, specifically those in branches in Basking Ridge, Flemington and Paramus.
  • Atlantic FCU--Kenilworth, Newark and Elizabeth branches are now open with regular operating hours but running on generator power with limited staff.
  • City of Trenton Employees CU--Open and fully operational.
  • Credit Union of New Jersey--All branches are open except its ETS branch.
  • Deepwater FCU--Opened on Wednesday, was not damaged in any way, and running at full service.
  • Elizabeth NJ Fireman's FCU-- Has power but no connectivity. Optimum has crews in the area but no estimated time of repair. ACH, drafts, debit card, payroll deductions have been processed online. May get cash if not connected by today. Members have made withdrawals by debit card.
  • Financial Resources FCU--These New Jersey branches and the Member Service Center (Call Center) are open until 4 p.m.: Bridgewater, Somerset and Flemington. The Green Brook and Hillsborough branch remain closed due to power and telecommunications issues. All branches outside of New Jersey are open for normal business hours. ATMs are operational at these public locations: 1 New Amwell Road, Hillsborough, N.J.; 780 Easton Ave., Somerset, N.J.; 110 Rehill Ave., Somerville, N.J.; State Theatre of NJ, 11 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, N.J.; Residence Inn, 4225 US Highway 1, Monmouth Junction, N.J.; Jewish Renaissance Center, 275 Hobart St.; and Perth Amboy, N.J.  The 800 number is now operational at 800-933-3280 or via e-mail using the "Contact Us" link on home page. Online Banking, mobile, mobile apps and text message banking continue to be available.
  • First Financial FCU-- Neptune and Toms River Branches opened Friday at 9 a.m. with limited service. The credit union has declared an emergency situation, and will move its processing out of state. It expected to be fully operational in the next 48 to 72 hours. The Wall Township Reality Fair sponsored by First Financial FCU originally scheduled for today has been postponed.
  • Franklin St. John's CU--Its office is closed due to power outage; however, transactions are being processed remotely.  Members can contact Diane Murray at dlmurray02@aol.com.
  • Garden Savings FCU--All branches are open and operational. All electronic banking services have been available since Wednesday.
  • Israel Memorial A.M.E. FCU--Closed due to power outage.
  • Lakewood Community FCU--Closed due to power outage.
  • Liberty Savings FCU--Union City branch was open for business 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Local 32 Asbestos Workers FCU--Open and fully operational.
  • Messiah Baptist Church FCU--Open and fully operational.
  • MidState FCU--Opened Friday, but without power. Members can cash pay checks, make withdrawals, make payments, etc. Power estimated to come back up in two weeks.
  • Morristown FCU--Has been open at both branches since Tuesday working regular scheduled hours.
  • Picatinny FCU--Main branch in Rockaway, Denville, and Arsenal branches are fully operational. Mt. Olive branch is closed due to power outage.
  • Piscataway Township Employees FCU--Open and fully operational.
  • Port Ivory FCU--Closed due to power outage.
  • Prime FCU--Open and fully operational.
  • Princeton FCU-- Fully up and running as of Wednesday.
  • Public Service FCU--Still without power and Internet; operating from a remote location for back office processing. Staff is at the office to answer phone calls during the day. Debit, ACH, and share drafts are  OK, does not have VRU and Home Banking at the present time.
  • United Teletech FCU--Tinton Falls branch is open. Due to local curfews, the credit union has modified hours (lobby open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., drive-up from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with extended hours on Saturday to 3 p.m.). Neptune Branch  opened Friday and has a working ATM. North Brunswick Branch opened Friday but does not have a working ATM. All other locations are closed pending the restoration of power.
  • Unity FCU-- Open and fully operational.
  • West Orange Municipal FCU--Power restored to second floor of building, is off generator but Internet and phone lines do not run up to second floor.
  • XCEL FCU--Bloomfield, N.J. office OK, but most branch staff depend on PATH and New York subways for transportation. Fed Plaza branch in Manhattan has power and will open today. Journal Square branch in Jersey City will remain closed until further notice. Branch at 3680 Kennedy Blvd. in Jersey City is open. All ACH and share drafts were posted remotely each day.
The league also reported that Edwards & Edwards, which provides legal service to numerous New Jersey credit unions and the league, reopened Friday after electrical power was restored.

Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order pertaining to damages, which urges financial institutions, insurance industry and real estate industry to take into consideration the difficulties related to Sandy and exercise "appropriate forbearances on collection, cancellation, documentation and other regulatory requirements including, but not limited to notifications of hospital admissions, due dates for claim filings, premium and loan payments and late fees, prior authorization requirements and limitations on prescription refills.

Also, in Pennsylvania, Bucks First FCU, Bristol, was experiencing intermittent loss of power and phone service as workers tried to restore power to the area, said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway Nov. 2). Bucks County experienced the largest number of power outages in the state.

In Maine, the Maine Credit Union League reported that power outages were the biggest impact of the hurricane in that state (Weekly Update Nov. 2). Among those losing power were Ocean Communities FCU at its York and Westbrook branches, and PeoplesChoice CU's Wells branch. By Tuesday afternoon, both reported power was back up and they were operating normally, said the league.