BECU Puts “People Helping People” Philosophy into Action to Help Members Through Financial Hardships
The credit union’s Member Assistance Program focuses on solutions that preserve members’ financial health.
With nearly 80 percent of U.S. workers living paycheck to paycheck, many are at risk of going into debt when an unexpected expense or unforeseen event, such as the recent government shutdown, sends them scrambling for funds. Some resort to predatory payday loans, while others rack up credit card debt to cover their expenses. Some members have learned to turn to their credit union in times of trouble.
Credit unions were founded on the philosophy of “People Helping People,” and are guided by this philosophy in their service to members in good times and bad. At Washington-based BECU, a special program honors this philosophy by assisting members through financially challenging times. According to BECU Vice President of Portfolio Management, Jim Tiegen, the Member Assistance Program takes it a step further by considering each member’s financial standing.
“The program takes a two-step approach to assisting members, by understanding the nature of their specific need and then identifying viable solutions that help preserve their financial health,” said Tiegen.
The program is operated by BECU’s Member Assistance Department, which was created in 2008 in response to the Great Recession. It has dedicated staff members who work in collaboration with the collections staff to assist members. In 2018, the program helped over 1,500 members, mostly addressing short-term hardships with a modification of payments to support them through a difficult time.
The program was activated recently when the credit union assisted members who were directly impacted by the short-term effects of the government shutdown. It granted 43 new loans, modified 101 loans that included short-term interest only payments or short-term forbearance on mortgages, and provided debt consolidation or credit protection.
“Member assistance is an important and sustaining element of our portfolio management operation,” said Tiegen. “We are always available to work with members to understand their unique circumstances and to try to identify sensible options.”
In addition to the Member Assistance Program, the credit union also offers a Member Assistance Loan. It assists members while they’re experiencing a temporary interruption in income due to a strike other economic event.
According to BECU Program Manager, Karen Simmons, the loans have more recently assisted members affected by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Florence. The credit union also saw an increase in requests of these loans throughout the government shutdown.
“We will deploy the loan program whenever we see an impact to an area where we have a population of membership,” said Simmons.