Northwest Credit Unions Respond to Shutdown: USAgencies Eases Worker’s ‘Momentary Panic’ With Furlough Assistance Program

“This situation may be more far-reaching than the ones we usually deal with, but our resolve is the same: to help our members, through whatever means are available to us, to make it through a financial crisis.”Claudette Tulp, Connection Credit Union

Barry Hansen is still on the job as a fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service in Lakeview, Ore. But he won’t get a paycheck this week, thanks to the federal government’s shutdown. And that was cause for concern.

“When you’re considered an ‘essential’ employee, you usually get reimbursed for the time you work,” says Hansen, who has worked for the Forest Service for more than 30 years. “But the problem is timing. Sometimes, there’s a significant delay. The last time this happened, paychecks didn’t show up for several weeks.”

With unexpected expenses looming—including transportation costs for travel to a family member’s funeral—Hansen turned to USAgencies Credit Union in Portland, where he’s had an account for years.

“The last shutdown is the reason I became a credit union member,” he says. “I opened an account after seeing the help my co-workers were given. I’ve had such good luck working with USAgencies over the years, and they certainly helped me to relax the other day.”

Hansen was able to secure a “Just in Case” loan, part of the Furlough Assistance Program activated this week by USAgencies to help members affected by the shutdown. First payments on the low-interest loans are due 60 days after disbursement, repayment terms can extend up to 24 months, and there’s no penalty for paying the loan off early.

“It’s a short-term fix for a short-term problem,” Hansen says. “I’ve moved several times over the years, and I’ve dealt with banks as well as credit unions. No one else has ever offered something like this. And believe me, it stopped my momentary panic.”

USAgencies also is offering to defer loan payments for furloughed workers. “For most workers who are furloughed, there’s no guarantee that they’ll ever be reimbursed,” Hansen says, “so the chance to defer a payment? That’s huge.”

Both the National Credit Union Administration and the Credit Union National Association went out of their way Wednesday to assure members that credit unions were still operating and still the best source of financial help during the shutdown. NCUA board Chairman Debbie Matz said the shutdown would have no effect on the agency’s operations, and that individual accounts will remain insured up to $250,000. CUNA president and CEO Bill Cheney said his organization’s services would also continue uninterrupted.

Cheney also said that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency would remain open during the shutdown, and that the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac were open and able to process and endorse new loans.

Meanwhile, credit unions throughout the Northwest continued to roll out special rates, skip-a-payments, financial counseling and more to make sure their members survive the government shutdown with their finances intact.

“The three credit unions in our area—Connection, Kitsap and Peninsula—have gone to great lengths, with a town hall meeting and financial education geared toward government furloughs, to let our communities know that we’re here to help,” says Connection Credit Union’s Claudette Tulp. “This situation may be more far-reaching than the ones we usually deal with, but our resolve is the same: to help our members, through whatever means are available to us, to make it through a financial crisis.”

USAgencies President and CEO Jim Lumpkin echoed that resolve.

“We’re here,” he says, “to help ease the pain.”

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News, Federal.