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CUs should prep for active hurricane season

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SILVER SPRING, Md. (6/1/10)--Credit unions in hurricane states are dusting off their business continuity and disaster recovery plans for what could be one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record. Hurricane season begins today and ends Nov. 30. The past two years have been easier on the U.S. coast--no major hurricanes hit U.S. land last year. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is projecting a 70% chance of 14 to 23 named storms this season, with eight to 14 growing into hurricanes. Three to seven of those hurricanes could be major, said NOAA (The Wall Street Journal May 28). The seasonal average is 11 named storms and six hurricanes with two of them major. In the higher numbers range, the forecast is closer to that of 2005, when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. That year there were 28 named storms, with 15 hurricanes--seven of them major. NOAA cited two conditions that are hurricane friendly--a rapid warming of water in the Gulf of Mexico and the weakening of the El Nino system, when warm surface ocean waters in the Pacific produce wind shears in the Atlantic that hamper storm development. Last week was Hurricane Preparedness Week. At least two Gulf Coast credit union leagues that have seen their credit unions bear the brunt of past hurricanes are urging credit unions to be prepared. The Louisiana Credit Union League is posting information on its website containing a financial checklist, an emergency contact list for the credit union, a hurricane tracking map, and other tools that can be used in a disaster (E-Weekly May 26). The Texas Credit Union League also reported NOAA's projections in its newsletter (LoneStar Leaguer May 28). Nationally, the National Hurricane Center set up a special website to help people prepare for a hurricane. A hurricane is defined as a storm with winds of at least 74 mph. A major hurricane has winds of at least 111 mph. Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA, noted that although the pattern is as good as any in the past 10 to 15 years, there can be a wide range of outcomes. The more active the season, the more likelihood that a hurricane will strike land, he said. "Given this outlook, people need to start preparing for hurricane season now."

CU System brief (05/31/2010)

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* NEW YORK (56/1/10)--Newtek Business Services Inc. CEO/Chairman Barry Sloane appeared on FOX Business Channel Live Friday to discuss small business lending. Newtek, which provides small business services and financial products to small and medium-sized businesses, has an alliance with CUNA Strategic Services. Sloane was interviewed by Rebecca Diamond about President Barack Obama's $30 billion small business lending plan. The show was broadcast live from FOX's Happy Hour Show at the Waldorf Astoria's restaurant, The Bull and The Bear ...

N.Y. Coalition CDFIs aiding economy

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NEW YORK (6/1/10)--Community development financial institutions (CDFIs), including community development credit unions, continue to provide affordable credit and financial services in the face of tightening credit and state budget cuts. That was the message when more than 100 community development leaders met at the annual New York Coalition of CDFIs Statewide Conference in Albany, May 17-18. Those services to urban and rural communities create jobs, expand affordable housing, and support small businesses in main streets across New York State, said the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, which has staffed and operated the coalition for more than a decade. It coordinated the conference, brought representatives of New York-based CDFIs, political figures, state agencies and major banks to hear about the financial “state of the state,” the landscape for affordable housing development and small-business lending, and the impact of the economic downturn on low- and moderate-income people and communities. State Sen. Brian Foley (D-Long Island), chairman of the State Senate Banking Committee, discussed the key role that CDFIs play in creating jobs and spurring economic recovery. In 2008 alone, New York’s CDFIs had nearly $2 billion in loans outstanding to affordable housing projects, nonprofit facilities and small businesses in the state, Foley pointed out. Foley cited U.S. Treasury Department research, saying “CDFIs are able to leverage state dollars at a ratio of 20 to 1.” The coalition has sought state support for CDFI activities such as loans for affordable housing, small businesses and non-profit and child care facilities, as well as asset- building programs, and financial literacy and entrepreneurship training. In 2007, the New York State CDFI Fund was signed into law. Administered by Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC), the fund provided authority to support community-based lenders beyond other programs currently in place. Coalition Coordinator Melanie Stern, federation senior program officer, stressed that one major goal is to ensure a direct allocation for the New York State CDFI Fund remains in the governor's budget. “CDFIs are experts at leveraging public monies with private funds, and our research has shown that a $15 million investment from the state would create as much as $150 million in direct investment in our communities,” she said. “Our hope is that with adequate support, the New York State CDFI Fund will bring a renewed emphasis for the economic development of individuals and small businesses, complementing ESDC's traditional large-scale economic development projects.” Conference attendees also heard about federal opportunities for funding and support from federation President/CEO, Clifford N. Rosenthal, one of the founders and former chairman of the national CDFI Coalition. “This is new day in Washington,” Rosenthal explained. “We have an administration and a Congress that understand the impact of our institutions and their potential to assist in the economic recovery that our country so desperately needs. In providing our industry with unprecedented levels of funding and support, the president and congressional leaders are recognizing CDFIs as critical to the nation's economic growth and an integral part of the solution to the country's economic woes.”

N.C. CUs deliver good news to state lawmakers

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RALEIGH, N.C. (6/1/10)--Nearly 40 credit union staff and volunteers representing all eight North Carolina credit union chapters delivered good news to lawmakers in Raleigh during the past two weeks as part of the annual State Capital Connections program.
North Carolina’s Capital Connections program saw nearly 40 credit union staff and volunteers meeting lawmakers in Raleigh, N.C. From left, are: Maurice Smith, Local Government FCU, Raleigh; State Rep. Jennifer Weiss (D-35); and Leigh Brady, State Employees’ CU, Raleigh.
The advocates shared how their credit unions are helping members cope with the effects of the recession and financial crisis (Weekly Update May 28). The meetings came as lawmakers face challenges of their own once again this year, said the North Carolina Credit Union League. High unemployment and lower tax receipts mean that elected leaders face a tough chore in putting together the state budget during the short session of the North Carolina General Assembly, the league added. “The budget deficit is once again the hot topic of conversation in Raleigh, and some tough choices will have to be made,” said Lauren Whaley, league director of legislative and regulatory affairs. “I think it was refreshing for lawmakers to get some good news from back home, and credit unions throughout the state had a great message to share.” Nearly 20 representatives from the Foothills, North Piedmont, Northwest and Western Chapters converged on Raleigh last week. The meetings with elected leaders followed visits from representatives of the Southeast, Northeast, Tarheel and Piedmont Chapters a week earlier. One consistent, encouraging message heard in all the meetings was that credit unions continue to make loans to their members, said the league. Other credit unions have helped members in other ways, including mortgage assistance.
State Sen. John Snow (D-50), left, meets with credit unions during their State Capital Connections effort in Raleigh, N.C. Nearly 40 credit union representatives met with state lawmakers during the past two weeks. (Photos provided by the North Carolina Credit Union League)
“Some of our members have lost jobs and are struggling to pay the mortgage,” Michael Spink of Local Government FCU, Raleigh, said in a meeting with State Sen. Andrew Brock (R-34) and State Reps. Lorene Coats (D-77) and Fred Steen (R-76). “Our credit union is working hard to help people stay in their homes if at all possible.” While the legislature is not thought to be close to passing any bills that would have major impacts on North Carolina credit unions, Whaley noted that the league is tracking a number of bills in Raleigh. In the meantime, visits by credit unions have great value, “since they allow us to develop and maintain relationships with people who may have to vote on credit union legislation in the future,” she said. The state faces a $1.6 billion deficit this year and an estimated $3 billion budget gap next year. “State lawmakers face some tough choices in coming years,” said Dan Schline, league senior vice president of association services. “And they will have to consider cutting some services while looking for new sources of revenue. That’s one reason why it’s vitally important for credit unions to be consistently engaged in the political process.”

Vermont CUs elect AVCU board members

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (6/1/10)--Vermont credit unions elected board members at the 63rd annual meeting of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (AVCU) during the weekend of May 22-23.
Bob Morgan (left), NorthCountry FCU, South Burlington, Vt., who was elected to his first term on the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (AVCU) board of directors, poses with AVCU President/CEO Joe Bergeron at the AVCU 63rd Annual Meeting. (Photo provided by the Association of Vermont Credit Unions)
Matt Levandowski of Heritage Family FCU, Rutland, was re-elected to his second term on the AVCU board of directors (Newslines Express May 28). He was joined by Bob Morgan of NorthCountry FCU, South Burlington, who was elected to his first term. In addition to Levandowski and Morgan, the 2010-11 board comprises:
* Chairman--Jim Adorisio, Champlain Valley CU, Essex Junction; * Vice-chair--Sean Gammon, Members Advantage Community CU, Barre; * Treasurer--Susan Poczobut, Granite Hills CU, Barre; * Secretary--Susan Best, ORLEX Government Employees CU, Newport; and * Director--Jeff Morse, River Valley CU, Brattleboro.

Harriet May begins CUNA Board chairmanship today

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WASHINGTON (6/1/10)--Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Vice Chair Harriet May begins her term today as CUNA's newest board chairman. May, president/CEO of GECU in El Paso, Texas, moves from the vice chair spot to complete the term of Kris Mecham, who leaves the U.S. this summer to perform church mission work in Mongolia. Her term will end at CUNA's Annual General Meeting held in February during CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference. "CUNA has a full plate of important issues it's addressing--interchange, member business lending, alternative capital and many more," said May. "I look forward to working with my colleagues on the board, Dan Mica and, in short order, Bill Cheney as CUNA pursues an agenda that will help credit unions better serve their members," she added, referring to outgoing president/CEO Mica and Cheney, who will become president/CEO on July 5. Elections for other members of the executive committee will be conducted at the CUNA Board July 15 meeting, which is held in conjunction with The 1 Credit Union Conference, the combined conference of CUNA and World Council of Credit Unions held July 11-14 in Las Vegas. All officers will serve through the Annual General Meeting in February, when they will have the option of running for a full one-year term. Other current CUNA Board executive committee officers are:
* Treasurer: Pat Wesenberg, president, Point Plus CU, Stevens Point, Wis.; * Secretary: Mike Mercer, president, Georgia Credit Union Affiliates; and * At-Large: Dennis Pierce, CEO, CommunityAmerica CU, Lenexa, Kan.
A special election is underway for Mecham's District 5, Class B CUNA board seat. Deadline for casting ballots is Friday. Candidates for that position are:
* William Jacobs, White Sands FCU, Las Cruces, N.M.; * Angela S. McCathran, People's Trust FCU, Houston; and * Roger Heacock, president/CEO, Black Hills FCU, Rapid City, S.D.

N.J. municipal deposits bill passes Senate committee

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TRENTON, N.J. (6/1/10)--Legislation that would enable counties, school boards, municipalities and other local government entities to use credit unions as public funds depositories was passed by a vote of 3-1, with one abstention, by the New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee Thursday afternoon. “This is an important first step and helps build a real head of steam,” said New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) President/CEO Paul Gentile. “It’s the result of months of effort by our contract lobbyist, league staff and numerous credit union professionals and volunteers.” Committee Chair Nia Gill (D-34) and Sens. Raymond Lesniak (D-20) and Nicholas Scutari (D-22) voted for passage, Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-39) voted no, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-21) abstained (The Daily Exchange May 26). Gentile, as well as league director and Garden Savings FCU CEO Lou Vetere and 1st Bergen FCU Director Rev. Vernon Walton, testified in support of the bill. The New Jersey League of Municipalities, New Jersey Association of Counties and the New Jersey School Boards Association filed statements of support but did not provide formal testimony. As expected, the New Jersey Bankers Association testified against the bill. Also attending were:
* Shawn Gilfedder, NJCUL chairman CEO of McGraw-Hill FCU, Hightstown; * Mike Reilly, league director and CEO of Central Jersey FCU, Woodbridge; * Issa Stephan, CEO of First Financial FCU, Toms River; * John Fenton, CEO of Affinity FCU, Basking Ridge; * Andy Jaeger, CEO of Credit Union of New Jersey, Ewing; * Cindy Rein-Zima, CEO of Hamilton-Horizons FCU, Hamilton; * David Snodgrass, Affinity FCU; * Beth Degnan, Affinity FCU; * Mark Malinowski, Raritan Bay FCU, Sayreville; * Edward Haubert, Raritan Bay FCU; and * Chris Abeel, NJCUL director of government affairs.
The legislation was sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Senate Republican Conference Leader Bob Singer (R-30), Deputy Majority Leader Paul Sarlo (D-36) and Deputy Republican Conference Leader Kip Bateman (R-16). The measure moves to the full Senate for consideration. A companion bill by Rep. Fred Scalera (D-36) with seven co-sponsors is pending committee consideration in the lower house.