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CoVantage CU assumes small Wis. Heights CU

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/7/11)--Wisconsin Heights CU, of Ogema, Wis., was liquidated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and its members, assets, and liabilities were assumed by with CoVantage CU, of Antigo, Wis. Wisconsin Heights' declining financial condition led to its closure and subsequent purchase and assumption, the NCUA said in its liquidation announcement. At the time it was closed, the small credit union had $713,000 in assets and served 501 members. It was the fourth federally insured credit union to be liquidated this year. CoVantage serves the people who live or work in the Wisconsin counties of Brown, Clark, Florence, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Menominee, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Portage, Shawano, Waupaca and Wood; or Dickinson and Iron counties in Michigan. It has $861 million in assets and serves over 62,000 members. CoVantage is a full-service credit union with eight branches in Wisconsin and two branches in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Former Wisconsin Heights members will experience no interruption of credit union service.

Inside Washington (03/04/2011)

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* WASHINGTON (3/7/11)--The House Financial Services Committee on Thursday passed legislation that would end two federal foreclosure programs. The measures, though touted by Republicans as a savings for taxpayers, are largely seen as symbolic by observers (American Banker March 4). The votes on Thursday would cut the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) Refinance Program and the Emergency Relief Program. Both are expected to be approved by the full House next week. But the Senate is not expected to take up the legislation. The FHA Refinance Program, announced in March 2010 by the Obama administration, encourages lenders and borrowers to work together to restructure underwater mortgages. Borrowers who qualify can receive FHA refinance loans through the program. The Emergency Homeowner Relief Program provides loans to unemployed borrowers for a period of 12 months, with a possible 12-month extension. At issue between Democrats and Republicans is whether the government should use taxpayer money to assist homeowners. The Home Affordable Modification Program is scheduled for a separate vote next week … * WASHINGTON (3/7/11)--The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is urging members of the House of Representatives to keep the mortgage interest tax deduction. The NAHB, with about 160,000 members, asked House lawmakers to sign a resolution introduced by Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) to stop efforts to eliminate or reduce the mortgage interest deduction. There are 40 co-sponsors of the resolution. “The mortgage interest deduction has been a cornerstone of the nation’s housing policy for almost a century, and it is vital to homeownership and healthy housing markets,” said Bob Nielsen, the NAHB’s chairman. The association maintains that eliminating the deduction would destabilize housing markets, increase homeownership costs, create more foreclosures and curb job creation in the housing sector …

FDIC Chair Interchange exemption needs to be fixed

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WASHINGTON (3/7/11)—A plan that would exempt credit unions and other financial institutions from the Federal Reserve’s planned interchange fee regulation changes would not work in practice, and “needs to be fixed,” Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair said in a recent television appearance. Bair appeared on the March 3 edition of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report . When questioned by Kudlow, Bair said that she “would be fine” with allowing the market to determine the amount of interchange fees. Bair added that it makes her nervous “when the government tries to start doing rate regulation and charging fees.” The FDIC Chair added that there appears to be “a movement afoot” to delay interchange implementation. Bair in testimony delivered before the Senate Banking Committee last month speculated that the interchange changes could harm small financial institutions far more than they would help merchants, and a number of regulators and legislators have also noted that the proposed $10 billion exemption is likely to be impotent to protect small issuers. Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney last week called for the Fed to stop, study and start over on interchange fee regulations and encouraged members of Congress to strike a legislative remedy that will ensure a meaningful interchange fee carve-out. (See related March 3 story: Cheney warns reg burden is growing ‘crisis’) Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) repeated the call for delay during CUNA’s recently completed 2011 Governmental Affairs Conference, and said that she would work with any legislator that aimed to halt the progress of the interchange fee regulation changes. (See related March 3 story: Wasserman Schultz: CUs can halt interchange train) The interchange fee regulations, which could limit the amount of interchange fees charged per purchase to as little as 7 cents, are currently set to come into effect in July. For video of Bair’s appearance, use the resource link.

NCUA to participate in 2011 NCPW

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WASHINGTON (3/7/11)—The 13th annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) began on Sunday and continues through the end of this week, and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) plans to join several federal, state and local governmental agencies and consumer protection organizations as a participant. NCUA plans to announce how it will observe the week later this week. The agency in previous years has joined federal agencies and consumer groups at Capitol Hill-based events. NCUA representatives and others answered questions and handed out materials to interested lawmakers and their staff. The NCPW aims to highlight consumer protection and education efforts around the country. The NCPW homepage notes that the members of Congress hold town halls and other outreach projects as part of the week. The NCPW website also features a blog where visitors can find resources and read stories about consumer protection. The blog allows visitors to connect directly with representatives of public and private consumer protection agencies, and highlights available resources and fraud and scam alerts. Credit unions, libraries, schools, colleges, city halls, and senior centers across the U.S. are participating in NCPW. Check out the event page on the NCPW website to find consumer protection fairs, shredathons or workshops in your area. The NCPW runs through March 12.