2020: The Year of the Advocate

Say what you will about the trials 2020 brought to every business and every household, but advocacy proved its worth.

12/15/2020

Millions of Americans are counting down the 16 days remaining in what can only be described as a very difficult year during which one unexpected curveball after another was tossed across the plate at breakneck speed.

Credit unions hit those curveballs out of the park and were able to serve their teams and their members in ways that perhaps not even Credit Union Movement founders thought possible.

Before you take a well-deserved 7th inning stretch this month, take a moment to reflect on your accomplishments as an advocate, and how 2020’s best practices can serve the industry moving forward.

Here is a snapshot of some of the remarkable accomplishments credit union advocacy paved the way for, from the beltway to the statehouses in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

Regulatory Relief:

A key win early in the pandemic was regulatory agencies’ willingness to implement a streamlined offsite examination process. This has allowed  credit unions to operate more efficiently, with fewer disruptions.

Where legislation did not already exist allowing remote notarization or the ability to hold virtual board and annual meetings, state and federal regulators granted those flexibilities. This not only provided efficiencies, it protected the health and safety of employees and credit union members.

Both state and federal regulators acknowledge the impact that an influx of cash deposits is having  on credit union net worth ratio requirements and have outlined processes for flexibility as a result. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, who chairs the influential Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and NCUA Chair Rodney Hood, have heard credit unions’ voices and expressed their support for capital relief.

Advocacy resulted in NCUA including military families in calculations for Low-Income Credit Union designation, removing an important service roadblock for many defense credit unions. 

Regulatory advocacy also resulted in a win for Main Street families when the Federal Reserve Board implemented an interim Regulation D rule allowing consumers to make unlimited transfers and withdrawals from their savings accounts.

Federal:

More credit union advocates than ever engaged in advocacy with elected federal officials from the Northwest. That played a key role in legislative and regulatory flexibility that helped Main Street.

For example, the earliest drafts of the CARES Act did not specifically mention credit unions as vehicles to deliver financial aid to Americans. Advocacy changed that, and after the Act was signed into law, Northwest credit unions quickly provided $945 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program to more than 21,000 small businesses.

Idaho:

The advocacy army mobilized to pass legislation updating the Credit Union Act in the areas of lending, investments, fixed asset flexibility, and tax advantaged savings plans. Advocacy also resulted in passage of a bill that advances lienholder notification on towed vehicles.

Credit union advocates joined NWCUA in countless virtual meetings with legislators and candidates throughout the year and worked to lay the groundwork for the 2021 legislative agenda. The process of educating newly elected lawmakers about the Credit Union Difference is already underway!

Oregon:

Although a “short session” was scheduled for the legislature by law this year, the list of priorities was long. Credit unions were at the table throughout, providing frequent input on guidance and rules, and on proposed mortgage moratorium legislation.

As they saw credit unions stepping up time after time to provide extraordinary service to members during the pandemic, state leaders turned to credit unions to help distribute emergency payments to consumers, and grants to small businesses.

Advocacy protected credit unions’ tax structure, resulted in regulatory relief, provided insight on data security, marijuana banking, and notarization.

Year around, Oregon advocates worked to share the credit union story with legislators and  to help elect champions.

Washington:

While credit unions in the Evergreen State were providing unprecedented loan deferrals, Paycheck Protection Program loans, and other services to help members cope with COVID-19, they leaned into advocacy. Washington advocates worked closely with NWCUA in discussions with the Governor’s office and with legislators regarding mortgage regulation proposals, expedited remote notarization, protection of the tax structure, and other key issues that helped credit unions navigate the pandemic.

Advocates joined NWCUA in providing virtual testimony that demonstrated how they were helping their members. Communications with regulators and lawmakers ensured that regulations and mandates did not negatively impact member or community service.

Engagement in the elections helped to elect legislators in both chambers, and on both sides of the political aisle, who will support credit unions in the coming session.

Onward:

NWCUA’s member-driven Work Groups and Governmental Affairs Committees worked throughout the year to help develop a robust policy advancement agenda for 2021 and beyond. Learn more at virtual, “Day at the Capitol” meetings scheduled in each state early next year. Details will be provided in the near future.  Please mark your calendars for these dates:

Have a question or comment about advocacy? Email us!