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CUs Begin Recovery Process Even as Harvey Continues; CUAid Activated
Tuesday, August 29, 2017 6:50 AM

Southeastern Texas credit unions have begun the long process of recovery even Tropical Storm Harvey continues to batter the region. 

The Cornerstone Credit Union League reported roughly 50 credit union closings—and numerous additional branch closings—in southeastern Texas as of late Monday morning. 

“We’re in fairly constant contact with our credit unions in the gulf area,” said Jon Gorman, senior vice president of communications and outreach of the Cornerstone Credit Union League. “We’re continually reassessing what is going on down there and have a disaster response team in place and actively delivering support the credit unions affected by this disaster.” 

Gorman said travel is the one of the biggest issues for many credit union employees with regard to assessing Harvey’s impact on credit union operations. “Anecdotally, we’ve heard employees can’t get to their credit unions because of the flooding, or they can’t get out of their neighborhoods because of the flooding.” 

Gorman said the league’s charitable foundation, the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation, will take applications to assist credit union employees affected by the flooding.  

The National Credit Union Foundation has activated the online disaster relief system CUAid.coop to raise money for credit union people in Texas affected by Tropical Storm Harvey. Credit union supporters in every state can make donations at cuaid.coop.  

“With the devastating flooding caused by Harvey, our credit union brothers and sisters need our help,” said Foundation Executive Director Gigi Hyland. “Everyone who supports CUAid is helping affected credit union people directly with critical needs, longer-term recovery needs, operational needs, and assisting credit union members.”

As donations are posted through CUAid.coop, the National Credit Union Foundation will coordinate with the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation in the disaster area to distribute money efficiently to affected credit union employees and volunteers. Fully 100 percent of the donations through CUAid goes to credit union disaster relief.  

In the event that all donations are not used for Hurricane Harvey relief, the National Credit Union Foundation will transfer any and all unused funds to its "General Disaster Relief fund" for future disaster relief efforts.

Scott Teel, vice president of marketing at Agility Recovery, said about 90 of its clients in Southeast Texas are on “alert” status. “We’re just beginning to understand the scope of the impact,” Teel said. “We do have some generators and other technology in the field. We’re making preparations to begin mobile recovery operations as soon as we get a handle on the extent of the flooding.” 

Teel said Agility clients fit virtually all categories of need. “Some are telling us they are fine,” Teel said. “Others are without power. Others are under several feet of water. 

“It’s a tale of two situations,” Teel said. “Toward the west, it was a shorter, brief disaster. Places like Corpus Christi and Rockport, they have more physical damage from wind and debris, power outages and communications interruptions. Cell service is out in a lot of places.  

“In the Houston area, it’s still an ongoing event. The water is expected to continue to rise. At his point, we’re in a bit of a wait-and-see stage before we begin to put personnel or equipment into that region. We’re prestaging things so we can put them there quickly." 

NCUA is also providing help to credit unions and their members in parts of Texas and Louisiana struck by Hurricane Harvey.

“We have been monitoring the situation constantly since last week, and NCUA staff are coordinating with other agencies and working continually to provide assistance to credit unions and their members,” NCUA Board Chairman J. Mark McWatters said. “This has been a devastating storm affecting millions of people, and the effects will be felt for months or even years. The NCUA will be on the job as long as necessary.”

NCUA said roughly 150 credit unions in Texas and 28 credit unions in Louisiana were affected by the storm.

President Donald J. Trump on Friday issued a disaster declaration for parts of Texas hit by the storm and a second declaration earlier today for parts of Louisiana where tornados and flooding could occur. Those declarations make federal assistance available. Under the NCUA’s disaster assistance policy for those areas, the agency will, where necessary:

  • Encourage credit unions to make loans with special terms and reduced documentation to affected members;
  • Guarantee lines of credit for credit unions through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund;
  • Make loans to meet the liquidity needs of member credit unions through the Central Liquidity Facility; and
  • Reschedule routine examinations of affected credit unions.

During natural disasters, the NCUA works with individual state league organizations and state regulators to ensure all federally insured credit unions know about the agency’s available assistance. NCUA examiners will remain in close contact with the affected local credit unions to offer advice and assistance.

Credit unions and credit union members in Texas needing help may contact the NCUA’s Region IV office in Austin at 512-342-5600 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT. Credit unions and members in Louisiana needing help may contact the Region III office in Atlanta at 678-443-3000 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

When a disaster strikes, NCUA personnel operate under three priorities:

  • Ensure the safety of credit union staff;
  • Keep facilities and operations available to members; and
  • Provide material and technical assistance, as needed, to affected credit unions.

Federal credit unions may provide assistance to other credit unions and non-members in the affected areas under certain conditions:

  • They may provide services to members of other credit unions under their correspondent services authority;
  • They may provide emergency financial services for non-members, including check cashing, access to ATM networks, or other services to meet short-term emergency needs of individuals in the areas affected by the floods, under the authority to engage in charitable activities; and
  • If they provide services on a charitable basis, they may not impose charges for services that exceed their direct costs.

The NCUA’s Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives can provide urgent needs grants of up to $7,500 to low-income credit unions that experience sudden costs to restore operations interrupted by the storm.

Credit union members with questions about their Share Insurance coverage may contact the NCUA’s Consumer Assistance Center at 800-755-1030 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern.

This article was first seen on CUNA News.