Addressing Credit Unions’ Concerns About Coronavirus Disease

Prepare. Don’t panic. NWCUA provides resources for credit unions to serve their teams, members, and communities.

2/28/2020

Amid growing concerns about coronavirus (COVD-19), the Northwest Credit Union Association is providing resources for credit unions. Of key concern is the health and wellness of credit union employees and members, and the impact disruption of services may have in communities. 

“We recommend that our member credit unions review their Business Continuity Plans, as well as the resources we are providing from NCUA and from health agencies,” said David Curtis, Northwest Credit Union Association Director, Compliance Services.

Resources are posted to NWCUA’s Marketing Resource Center and will be updated frequently, as needed.

Minimize the Risk for Staff and Members

“Trusted by members and communities, credit unions have an opportunity to inform, educate, and protect the well-being of their communities,” said Eileen Korey, Crisis and Media Strategist for ReputationUS, a Portland agency with both credit union and healthcare clients. “Proactively, credit unions can remind their staff and members that the best way to protect themselves is to wash their hands frequently. Practice greeting people with elbow bumps instead of handshakes, avoid touching your face with your hands, and maintain a distance of about three feet from anyone who is coughing and sneezing.”

Credit unions should consider placing hand sanitizers in their branches and asking any visitors who are coughing or sneezing to please wear a mask, Korey advised.

Curtis stressed that if there is an outbreak in a credit union’s local community, a large part of the staff may not be able to report to work if they’re ill, if local schools close, and if family members need care.

NWCUA recommends credit unions consider taking the following steps:

  • Enabling as many staff members as possible to work from home;
  • Replacing face-to-face meetings with video or teleconferencing;
  • Limiting access to lobbies and using the drive through windows instead to serve members; and
  • Encouraging members using the ATMs to wear gloves or use a pen when they are touching the keypad.

Additional links from the World Health Organization provide protective advice and “myth busters” information about the coronavirus disease.

Serving Members who are Impacted

“Helping members through emergencies is the cornerstone of the credit union philosophy,” Curtis said. “Northwest credit unions proved this beautifully during the U.S. Government shutdown last year by providing skip payment options, low-interest emergency loans, and other services to workers who went weeks without paychecks. We may see similar hardships for members or for local businesses in the event of a pandemic.”

If your credit union plans to offer such services, please notify NWCUA to ensure that information is included in Association website resources, as well as in any outreach to consumers from state regulatory agencies, Curtis added.

NWCUA in is contact with state regulatory agencies in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, and will share more information as it becomes available.

NWCUA Credit Union Meetings

The Association has a number of Town Hall and Council meetings scheduled in the near future. At this point, NWCUA has made no changes to the event calendar. We continue to monitor the coronavirus situation closely. If any changes are made to the schedule, members will be notified immediately. As always, if you feel that it is not in your best interest to attend an in-person event, dial in and Zoom options will be available.

Additional Resources

Washington state has activated a coronavirus hotline: 800-525-0127 then press #.

NWCUA’s compliance article for the week of Feb. 11 provided an extensive list of recommendations by regulators and resource links.

Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 page guide – https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Pages/emerging-respiratory-infections.aspx

Washington State Department of Health 2019 “Novel Coronavirus Outbreak” page – https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Novel Coronavirus page – https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/COVID19/tabid/4664/Default.aspx

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus Disease 2019 page – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Additional CDC communications resources pages:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/factsheets.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/buttons-badges.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/videos.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/whats-new-all.html

NCUA has provided guidance in the past for credit unions to assist members who are experiencing financial hardships. The NCUA’s Letter to Credit Unions 11-CU-05 regarding potential government shutdowns, may be helpful again this year, especially if members working for import or export companies face similar hardships. The guidance suggests that credit unions:

  • Ensure policies provide flexibility to respond to members’ financial needs in the event of a federal government shutdown;
  • Prepare for service interruptions if a shutdown affects access to credit union offices and branches located in federal buildings;
  • Take steps to prudently work with members affected by a shutdown, including providing advances to individuals receiving direct deposits from the federal government;
  • Develop contingency plans for what will happen with respect to participation in government programs in the event of a shutdown. (For example, some credit unions offer loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Individual credit unions will therefore need to decide whether to proceed with scheduled FHA loan closings and whether to hold and guarantee new FHA loans until any impasse on federal spending ends); and
  • Communicate your credit union’s response plans and efforts before, during, and after any shutdown to keep members, volunteers, and employees informed.

As employers, credit unions may wish to review the latest Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued.

In addition, the guidance from the EEOC states that during a pandemic, employers may advise an employee to go home if they become ill with symptoms of influenza-like illness.

Editor’s note: Please reach out to David Curtis if you have questions, concerns, or best practices to share with the Northwest Credit Union Movement.