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Leagues capture GAC Hill visit highlights

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WASHINGTON (3/3/14)--State credit union leagues were ebullient in sharing their experiences at the Credit Union National Association's 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference, particularly after the release of a draft tax reform proposal that maintained credit unions' tax status.
Representatives from Rhode Island met with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) during CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference. Joseph Lajoie, Greenwood CU (left); Ken Poyton, Postal Government Employees FCU; Ellen Ford, The Peoples CU; David Suvall, Rhode Island CU; Randy Sacilotto, Navigant CU; Robert Falso, Westerly Community CU; Gary Furtado, Navigant CU; Sen. Whitehouse; Paul Gentile, Credit Union Association of Rhode Island; George Charette, Pawtucket CU; Steven White, Westerly Community CU; and Ken Saunders, Community and Teachers CU. (Daily CU Scan photo)
"Learning that the discussion draft of the tax bill left any mention of taxing credit unions out was great news!" exclaimed Don Cohenour, president/CEO Missouri Credit Union Association ( Missouri Difference Feb. 27).
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) released a comprehensive tax reform discussion draft, leaving the credit union tax status untouched (See News Now : CUNA letter thanks Camp for helping CUs follow their mission.)
"We need to remember that this success is due to the constant attention of CUNA staff and every state league that is active in advocacy," Cohenour said. Credit union staff, volunteers also were lauded for their advocacy. "As consumers and voters, they got and held the attention of the writers of this discussion draft that we are a force to be reckoned with," he said.
Delegates from Camp's home state of Michigan met with his legislative director Adam Pradko Wednesday ( Monitor Feb. 26). Michigan Credit Union League President/CEO Dave Adams said, "We should ready ourselves to give thanks to our Michigan delegation who played such an important role in helping to preserve our critically important tax exempt status."
During MCUL's legislative lunch, Pradko accepted the league's federal legislative staffer of the year award on behalf of Ryan Tarrant, Camp's constituent relations representative. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) also attended the luncheon and received the league's award for federal legislator of the year.
Forty attendees from Kansas met with all six members of the state's Congressional delegation Wednesday and discussed comprehensive tax reform, merchant data breaches, and member business lending.
New York credit union advocates met with Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), who recently co-sponsored the supplemental capital bill. (Credit Union Association of New York photo)
Stephanie Carl, marketing and public relations supervisor, Corning (N.Y.) FCU, was part of the New York credit union contingent. "It's clear that we have some very solid relationships with our New York legislators and their staff, and that they respect the work we do," she said ( The Point Feb. 28).
Credit Union Association of New York President/CEO William Mellin said, "We saw this week just how large of an impact we can have on the legislative process by continually working together."
"With a record number of credit union advocates, it was standing room only in many of the offices," said Jennifer Wagner, senior vice president for advocacy, Northwest Credit Union Association ( Anthem Feb. 28). "Our tax status was preserved in Rep. Camp's comprehensive tax reform proposal. Reps. (Denny) Heck and (Derek) Kilmer delivered powerful speeches from the main stage at the GAC. It was a great day to be a Northwest credit union advocate."
Montana credit unions were able to meet with their three Congressional delegates, including Sen. John Walsh (D), who was sworn in Feb. 11. It was the first GAC experience for Walsh, who took the seat of Max Baucus, now ambassador to China. Walsh is so new that the credit union visits accounted for two of his first five Twitter posts.
Joe Bergeron, president/CEO, Association of Vermont Credit Unions, released a post-conference video that collected the reactions of Vermont attendees ( NewsLines Express Feb. 28).  Art Woolf, a first-time attendee and director from New England FCU, Williston, was impressed by the exhibit hall--filled with a record number of vendors. "I was fascinated about how the credit union industry works and the behind-the-scenes companies that are helping make it work," he said.

Schools turn to Okla. CUs for personal fin. requirement

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (3/3/14)--The Oklahoma Class of 2014 has an added high school graduation requirement this year--a Passport to Financial Literacy. Credit unions are expanding their already solid personal finance education programs to schools to help students meet the requirement and graduate.
The Passport to Financial Literacy Act passed in 2007, and effective in May, Oklahoma's seniors must earn a passport in order to graduate from high school. To earn it, they must show "satisfactory knowledge and satisfactory completion" of all 14 areas:
  • Earning an income;
  • Understanding state and federal taxes;
  • Banking and financial services;
  • Balancing a checkbook;
  • Savings and investing;
  • Planning for retirement;
  • Understanding loans and borrowing money, including predatory lending and payday loans;
  • Understanding interest, credit card debt, and online commerce;
  • Identity fraud and theft;
  • Rights and responsibilities of renting or buying a home;
  • Understanding insurance;
  • Understanding the financial impact and consequences of gambling;
  • Bankruptcy; and
  • Charitable giving.
Some schools are scrambling to meet the additional curriculum requirement, and that's where credit unions come in, said Cody Buchholz, assistant vice president of financial empowerment at Tinker FCU, Oklahoma City.
"We've built a reputation to help teachers with this subject matter," he told News Now. Because the requirement isn't tied to a specific personal financial literacy course, it is being folded into classes such as government, math or life skills.
The $3.1 billion-asset credit union is partnering with 66 schools and is a primary sponsor of, a project of the Oklahoma Council of Economic Education.
Last year, Tinker FCU reached 19,000 people under age 25 with its various workshops. Its financial empowerment team has dedicated educators who teach in the community as well as staff volunteers. "It's part of our member give-back," Buchholz said.
The Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation provides free resources on its website and train-the-trainer sessions for curriculum from the National Endowment for Financial Education and Biz Kid$, said Executive Director Courtney Moran. "We try to make it as easy as possible for our credit unions to do what they need to do to provide that education," Moran told News Now .

CU breaks down FICO scores for Sikorsky employees

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STRATFORD, Conn. (3/3/14)--Employees of Sikorsky Aircraft had the opportunity to learn about credit scores straight from their credit union--Sikorsky Financial CU--during a recent lunch-and-learn session.
The Stratford, Conn.-based credit union advised 20 people in attendance and another 50 who dialed in from around the country about how FICO scores affect loan rates and what members can do to improve their scores.
In addition to branches located in Connecticut, the $677 million-asset credit union has branches in its three factories--Stratford and Bridgeport, Conn., and West Palm Beach, Fla. Sikorsky Aircraft is best known for its helicopters used for military operations.
Building and maintaining a credit score can help members save money with lower rates for auto loans or mortgages, said lending manager Bryan Flores.
"I had so many questions on my FICO score answered today," said Temi Akingboye, an employee at the Stratford plant.

Women's financial struggles focus of Rep. Moore's address

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WASHINGTON (3/3/14)--Credit unions have a fundamental role in economic empowerment, said House Financial Services Committee member Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) during the Global Women's Leadership Network breakfast last week during the Credit Union National Association's 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) spoke about women's economic struggles during her speech to the Global Women's Leadership Network meeting during CUNA's 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference. (World Council of Credit Unions photo)

Moore, who spoke to representatives from 21 states, commended credit unions for their service to low-income communities and women, in particular.
Her ties to credit unions come from being a victim herself of predatory lenders and her volunteer activities, she said. As a member of Volunteers in Service to America, Moore helped organize Cream City Community Development CU in Milwaukee in the early 1980s.
These reflections were a highlight of the program, said Pat Wesenberg, president/CEO, Central City CU, Marshfield, Wis., and former board chair, CUNA. Wesenberg said she appreciated hearing how important Moore's credit union was in providing financial products and services to help her through very difficult times.
The Global Women's Leadership Network is a World Council of Credit Unions program to advance women in credit union leadership.
"We have had success in increasing the women membership in credit unions around the world," said Brian Branch, World Council president/CEO, adding that the network's next initiative is increasing the participation of women in credit union management and board leadership.