Advocacy Army Shares the Love with Oregon’s Legislature

It may be a “short session” for the Legislature this year, but advocates made a lasting impression at this year’s Legislative Lunch at the Capitol last week.

2/18/2020

When the Credit Union Movement tells advocates to jump, they ask, “How high?” and go twice the distance.

As Valentine’s Day weekend approached, advocates showed up in full force for the Northwest Credit Union Association’s Legislative Lunch at the Oregon Capitol Feb. 13, and shared credit unions’ positive stories with legislators.

The Legislature has a “short session” of just 35 days to complete its agenda this year, yet it’s no less important for representatives to see credit unions engaging in advocacy, according to NWCUA EVP and Chief Advocacy Officer, Jennifer Wagner. 

“In a short session, as at any other time, we are persistent telling our elected officials why credit unions are consumers’ best financial partners,” Wagner said. “The value of that partnership is borne out in the real member stories about how credit unions step up to open branches in unserved rural communities, when they grant business loans that help veterans open businesses on Main Street, and when they help people achieve the American Dream with no-down-payment home loans and security deposit loans that help them get into affordable rental housing.” 

Lawmakers often ask exactly how many people receive financial education from credit unions, how much business lending is invested on Main Street, how many nonprofits credit unions support, and how they are serving rural consumers.

Advocates had those answers because a high percentage of Oregon credit unions shared data from the Community Impact Reporting Tool (CIRT), the first-of-its-kind tracking tool in the Credit Union Movement. NWCUA worked with expert partners to develop the tool.

Oregon Credit Unions’ Headlines:
  • Through financial education, credit unions help members manage their money, borrow responsibly, and save for the future. In 2018, credit unions provided financial education to 23,000 Oregonians.
  • Oregonians deposited $4.8 billion in credit union savings accounts.
  • Oregon credit unions reported 1,811 donations to their local nonprofit organizations.
  • In addition to providing loans that helped Oregonians open small businesses, buy homes, and purchase vehicles, credit unions reported 25,000 special loans, totaling $2.7 billion, which empowered first-time homebuyers, veterans, families with unique needs, and minority households.

NWCUA and member credit unions honor legislators who champion credit unions and their members each year with the Community Impact Award. This year’s award was presented to Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-District 35).

Advocates dropped by their legislators’ offices with new information about credit unions’ community impact including financial education, giveback to members and communities, and special lending.

“In her committee leadership and in her voting track record, Rep. Doherty has been a firm defender of Oregon credit unions as not-for-profit, member-owned, and community-centered financial institutions whose main focus is to serve their members and help them achieve their financial goals,” said Pam Leavitt, NWCUA’s Policy Advisor for Oregon State Advocacy and Grassroots.

Doherty is retiring from her public service career at the end of the year, so the Impact Award presentation was timely. She has been a credit union member for 47 years and posted on her Facebook page that she was honored to receive the award.

“They do fantastic work with their communities and are always there for their members,” Doherty said.

Advocates welcomed key state regulators at the luncheon, including Lou Savage, Acting Director of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services; Andrew Stolfi, Insurance Commissioner for the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation; and Janet Powell, Manager of the Credit Union Program for the Division of Financial Regulations.

The Northwest Advocacy Army next marches into Washington, D.C., for the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference. More than 230 credit union professionals from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington will join the NWCUA advocacy team, meeting face to face with nearly all Northwest members, Congress, and U.S. Senators.