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CU participants will find expanded VITA program

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/23/10)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) on Monday announced that it will expand its participation in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) partnership program Credit union members that participated in credit union-based VITA tax prep programs received $20.9 million in tax refunds last year, according to the NCUA. A total of 541 credit unions participated in the VITA program in 2009, the NCUA added.
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Chairman Debbie Matz (center) welcomes Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Wage and Investment Commissioner Richard E. Byrd, Jr., (left) and IRS Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication Director Julie Garcia, to the NCUA to discuss the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, in which credit unions participate. (NCUA Photo)
VITA is an IRS program that helps low- and moderate-income taxpayers complete their annual tax returns at no cost. Credit unions and community organizations receive IRS provided training in the preparation of basic tax returns and establishment of tax preparation sites. In a statement, NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz strongly encouraged credit unions “to not only make full use of IRS initiatives such as the VITA program, but also to seek VITA grants and offer no-cost financial counseling and education to members.” “Credit unions are a reliable source of financial assistance and education for consumers, and VITA is a tangible complement to those efforts,” Matz added. Matz recently met with IRS Wage and Investment Commissioner Richard Byrd, Jr., and the NCUA and the IRS have pledged to increase their cooperation by collaborating to help low-income individuals “enhance their money management skills” and “meet their tax obligations.” The IRS hopes to “continue” its partnership with the NCUA, Byrd said. The NCUA will begin discussing the 2011 round of the VITA program in the near future, the release added.

NCUA named conservator of Calif.s Tracy FCU

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/23/10)—The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has been named conservator of Tracy, Calif.-based Tracy FCU to ensure safe and sound credit union operations and continuing service to members. The NCUA announced the action late last week. In a release, the NCUA said that Tracy FCU, which holds $24 million in assets from 5,900 members, will “continue to conduct normal financial transactions” such as deposits, loan payments, and share drafts. All accounts at the credit union are covered up to $250,000. The NCUA has intervened in the affairs of six credit unions so far this year, resulting in three supervisory mergers, and three involuntary liquidations. The NCUA last week reported that there are 337 CAMEL Code 4 and 5 credit unions as of last month, with 111 credit unions in Tracy FCU’s bracket of $10 million to $100 million in assets.

Senate committee OKs reg reform House reviews housing reform

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WASHINGTON (3/23/10)--Congress's work week, for the House at least, started early with the late night healthcare vote taking place on Sunday. And a busy week in Congress continued on Monday evening as Chairman Christopher Dodd's (D-Conn.) Senate Banking Committee passed its financial reform package on to the full Senate. Dodd was the only Democrat to make an opening statement prior to the mark up, and the committee's ranking minority member, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, was the only Republican to do so. Shelby's remarks included talk about continuing negotiations on the reform bill after the committee vote and before the package is taken up by the full Senate. As expected, the committee vote went on straight party lines with the Republican committee members simply voting against final passage. While there were over 400 potential amendments on the docket earlier in the day, it was widely reported Monday that lawmakers had reached some consensus on portions of the reform package. The mark up ended up taking a very brief 20 minutes. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner conveyed the Obama administration's viewpoint on Monday, saying that the government knows “all about the choices,” and just has to decide on whether or not it is going to act. “If we fail to act, America will lose this opportunity to set the global agenda, to define new high standards for all financial companies, and to lead the debate in shaping a level playing field on terms that play to our strengths. If we fail to act, American firms that operate globally will face a more balkanized system, with higher costs of doing business and riddled with pockets of lower standards designed to attract the exact types of risky behavior we are seeking to end,” he added. As currently constructed, Dodd’s bill would allow the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to maintain its independence and excludes credit unions with $10 billion or less in assets from the oversight authority of a proposed consumer watchdog. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) last week encouraged Dodd to consider adding language that gives his proposed Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP) "the authority to delegate examination authority for large credit unions to the prudential regulator" rather than limiting the NCUA authority to credit unions with under $10 billion in assets. CUNA also promoted "permitting the BCFP to delegate examination authority for large credit unions to NCUA." The Senate Small Business Committee will also be in action this week, holding a hearing on the proposed SBA budget for fiscal year 2010 on Tuesday. The House Financial Services Committee has another full week, with a hearing on housing finance reform, which will focus on the roles of the Federal Housing Administration, Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Federal Home Loan Banks, private lenders, and securitizers, and will feature testimony from Geithner, scheduled for Tuesday. The full house committee will also hold a hearing entitled "Unwinding Emergency Federal Reserve Liquidity Programs and Implications for Economic Recovery" on Thursday. Related House subcommittees will discuss H.R.4868, the "Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act of 2010," and the impact of credit scores and credit reports on consumers during separate hearings set for Wednesday. Finally, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday will hold a full committee hearing on the Home Affordable Modification Program. H.R. 4849, the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act of 2010, and H.R. 4899, the Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act of 2010, will also be discussed by the full House before Congress leaves for spring recess at the end of the week.

Inside Washington (03/22/2010)

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* WASHINGTON (3/22/10)—A federal appeals court, ruling in favor of Freedom of Information Act requests by two news organizations, told the Federal Reserve Board to release documents related to individual borrowing from the discount window and other lending programs considered actions of “last resort.” In one ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals backed a lower court that granted a request by Bloomberg LP's Bloomberg News for documents related to use of the Fed's discount window and other liquidity programs. In a separate action, that court overturned a lower court ruling that had denied a request by Fox News Network LLC’s Fox Business Network for Fed documents. The Fed is reviewing the appeal court decisions (American Banker March 22)… * WASHINGTON (3/23/10)—Banks should expect tougher rules on commercial real estate (CRE) lending from the Office of the Comptroller of the Current after the head of the agency, John Dugan, said that current regulatory guidance, issued four years ago, has failed to limit banks’ concentrations in such lending. That guidance advised banks to limit CRE concentration to 300% of total capital, and concentrations in land, land development and construction loans to 100% of capital. But trouble with CRE sector has continued to be a leading cause of failures, and regulators are looking at such things as writing tougher concentration caps, increased capital requirements, minimum underwriting standards and limits on banks that use wholesale funding to finance the loans (American Banker March 22)… * ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/23/10)—National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) board member Michael Fryzel addressed the annual meeting of $39 million-in-assets Mid-Illini CU, Bloomington Ill., and marked the credit union’s seventieth anniversary by noting its dedication to member service, community events and financial education outreach efforts. “They are to be commended for their continued commitment to the credit union philosophy of people helping people. I am honored to be with them as they celebrate this important event,” Fryzel commented. Mid-Illini CU was founded in 1940 and serves members in Bloomington and its surrounding communities. An NCUA release noted that the credit union “has pursued a goal of lending responsibly, investing wisely, and putting member’s needs before profit.” Pictured from left to right: Tom Stewart, president Mid-Illini Credit Union, Fryzel, and Jim Isom, chairman of the board, Mid-Illini. Fryzel is a former state credit union regulator and was with the Illinois Department of Financial Institution from 1977 to 1989, heading the agency from 1982 to 1989…