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Houston Credit Unions Taking It One Day at a Time
Tuesday, August 29, 2017 6:55 AM

While Tropical Storm Harvey lingers over Houston forcing many credit unions to keep its branches closed on Monday, some employees whose homes have not been damaged are working remotely, posting transactions, serving members, and taking it one day at a time.

Like many homes in Houston, Michelle Oshinski’s house is surrounded by water but so far it has remained at bay.

“It’s one of those situations where you’re surrounded by water, and if it gets any higher we won’t be OK,” said Oshinski, chief culture officer and interim COO for the $471 million Primeway Federal Credit Union in Houston.” But I’m feeling blessed because everyone I know is safe. We are already talking about what our employees will need and what our will members need after this is over. I’m blessed to work for an organization to be thinking ahead and to be thinking about what can we do. “

For now, however, the rain keeps dropping in Houston and employees like Oshinski are working from home. Although Primeway’s employees have been posting credit, debit, ACH, payroll, direct deposit and mobile transactions remotely, it’s been challenging at times because of sporadic and unpredictable power outages throughout Houston.

CUAid is activated by the National Credit Union Foundation and credit union closures continue to add up in Texas.

See Cornerstone's updates on closures here.

Another issue is that the credit union’s call center is not operating because of technical issues caused by the storm, but its six branches have not been damaged and its ATMs are operating. Security cameras have enabled Primeway to monitor its branch operations.

We’re going to stay closed tomorrow, and we’ll be checking the weather and roads all day,” Oshinski said. “We just have to take it one day at a time. If we can open Wednesday without putting people in danger, we will certainly be open.”

Credit unions in Victoria, however, are apparently not operating. Victoria, hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, is about 130 miles south of Houston.

The $15 million Victoria Teachers Credit Union posted a message on its site that it has no power and is not operating. The credit union also posted a message from city officials who reported Victoria has no water service, and it might be several days before it is restored. Most businesses and schools are closed because of the lack of power, though some areas do have electricity.

Caroline Willard, president/CEO of the Cornerstone Credit Union League, who met with the league’s disaster response team Monday morning, said there have been some reports of structural damage to branches, but the situation is dynamic, particularly in Houston, because massive flooding issues persist. However, there have been some credit unions that have reported no damages to their branches.

“They (Houston credit union officials) are telling me in a lot of cases they don’t have power, so that certainly makes it tough to do transactions, open your doors, or to have ATMs running, and yet the beautiful thing about credit unions is that we have shared resources; we have a shared branch network and shared ATM network for members to access their cash,” Willard said.

Another problem is that many streets throughout Houston and roads leading in and out of Houston are flooded.

“I talked to one CEO this morning, who said they are making sure employee safety is No. 1, and where they can get in to operate a branch they will, but certainly they won’t be jeopardizing employee safety,” Willard said.

This article first seen at Credit Union Times.