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CU-backed candidates can prep for November

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WASHINGTON (8/16/12)--A trio of credit union-backed Senate candidates cruised through their primaries this week and can begin preparing in earnest for this November's general elections.

In Connecticut, current U.S. House member Chris Murphy (D) won the Democratic Party's Senate nomination, defeating Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysewicz by winning 68% of the total vote.

Murphy was supported in his primary campaign by the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC) and the Credit Union League of Connecticut, and will face former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon for the right to replace the retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Elisabeth Etsy won the Democratic nomination for Murphy's former House seat on Tuesday.

Current Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) easily won her own Tuesday primary, and is expected to defeat her opponent, high school economics teacher Kurt Bills (R), this November. Klobuchar is also supported by CULAC and the Minnesota Credit Union Network.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) will face another CULAC-backed candidate, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D), this fall after Baldwin ran unopposed in Tuesday's Senate primary. The Thompson/Baldwin race is expected to be competitive.

CULAC backed state Rep. Kelda Roys in her bid to take on Baldwin's vacated U.S. House seat, but Roys was defeated in her Democratic primary by fellow state Rep. Mark Pocan. However, CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins said Pocan is also a strong credit union supporter.

Rep. Connie Mack (R) will face CULAC- and credit union-supported Senate incumbent Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) this fall. Some polls give Nelson a slight edge in what is expected to be another close November race.

Arizona will be the next state to hold a major contested primary. That primary election, which is scheduled for Aug. 28th, will feature an open U.S. Senate contest and several competitive House races.

NCUA releases 1.4M in small-CU grants

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (8/16/12)--A combined $1.4 million in technical assistance grants will be disbursed to help more than 100 small credit unions improve their service, train their staff, and expand their community outreach efforts, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) said on Wednesday.

Grants of up to $25,000 are provided to these credit unions through the agency's Community Development Revolving Loan Fund (CDRLF). The agency received 331 grant applications in 2012, with credit unions requesting more than $5 million, combined, in funding. This is the largest total requested since the CDRLF was established.

NCUA Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives (OSCUI) Director William Myers said the agency "made a concerted effort this year to make it easier to apply for these grants" and saw a 77% increase in applications as a result. The 2012 CDRLF funding round was the first to use the NCUA's new automated online application process.

The increase in grant applications "shows the depth of commitment these credit unions have to their members and communities," Myers added.

Just over $1 million of the total funds awarded will go to new product and service development. The agency in a release added that credit unions intend to use the funds to provide ATMs in underserved areas, increase some marketing efforts at in-school branches and increase awareness of the payday loan alternatives offered at their credit union.

Financial literacy and education at in-school credit union branches, and internships and staff training efforts, also will be funded by the grant money.

"NCUA works hard to support America's small credit unions, and these grants are one way of giving them the essential tools they need to do their work," NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said.

Agencies CFPB release mortgage appraisal proposals

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WASHINGTON (8/16/12)--Separate proposals that would create new appraisal requirements for "higher-risk" mortgage loans, and give homebuyers greater access to home value appraisals, were released by federal financial regulators on Wednesday.

The high-risk loan proposal was released by the National Credit Union Administration, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other federal financial regulators. The Truth in Lending Act defines higher-risk mortgages as mortgage loans secured by a principal dwelling with annual percentage rates that exceed the average prime offer rate by 1.5% for first-lien loans, 2.5% for first-lien jumbo loans, and 3.5% for subordinate-lien loans.

The proposal would require mortgage creditors offering these higher-risk mortgages to use licensed or certified appraisers who prepare written reports, based on physical inspections of a home's interior, when they determine the value of a given home.

Mortgage lenders would also be required to provide homebuyers with a free copy of the resulting home appraisal report.

If the seller of a given home has purchased the home for less than the current sale price within the last six months, an additional appraisal document would be provided to the homebuyer.

That document would detail the difference in sale prices, any changes in market conditions, and any improvements that have been made to the property since it was purchased by the current owner. "This requirement would address fraudulent property flipping by seeking to ensure that the value of the property being used as collateral for the loan legitimately increased," the agencies said in a release.

In its separate release, the CFPB has proposed requiring lenders to provide home appraisal and valuation data to all mortgage applicants. "When looking to buy a home or refinance a mortgage, consumers need the best available facts and data," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said. "This rule would guarantee consumers receive important disclosures on how a lender determines the value of the home, making it easier for loan applicants to make informed decisions."

Both proposals would require lenders to provide appraisal documents to borrowers at least three days before closing.

Public comment on both of these proposals will be accepted until Oct. 15.

The CFPB said a final rule on its home appraisal proposal is expected to be released in January.

For more on the proposals, use the resource links.

Cheney urges MBL-bill passage in multistate radio tour

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WASHINGTON (8/16/12)--With members of Congress back in their home states this month, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney took to the airwaves in a series of radio interviews on why Congress should enact legislation to raise the cap on credit union member business lending (MBL).

The radio tour consisted of 12 phone interviews with stations around the country.

CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney took the credit union message nationwide in a series of Wednesday radio interviews. (CUNA Photo)
Cheney in the interviews emphasized that raising the MBL cap would enable credit unions to help more small businesses and create new jobs at no cost to taxpayers.  He noted credit unions have a long and successful track record of small business lending, but some of the credit unions that have been most successful now must curb or stop lending because they are hitting the arbitrary 12.25% of assets statutory cap. "They're having to turn people away--it makes no sense," Cheney said.

The CUNA leader urged credit union members and listeners who agree with the credit union position to contact their senators and U.S. House members and urge passage of two CUNA-backed bills that would raise the MBL cap to 27.5% of assets, S. 2231 and H.R. 1418.

"If people agree small businesses need more access to capital, not less, contact your members of Congress" and ask them to pass these bills, Cheney said.

Cheney's interviews included Fox News' national radio network and stations in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Maryland/D.C., Mississippi, Nebraska and Virginia.

In a number of the interviews, Cheney also had the opportunity to discuss the value of credit union membership and direct listeners to aSmarterChoice.org, the website developed by CUNA and credit union leagues. That site informs users on the basics of credit unions and provides resources to help them find one they are eligible to join.