September 30, 2013

CUs ready programs to help furloughed members

As the federal government neared a partial shutdown due to lack of any stopgap measure funding operations past Sept. 30, credit unions were getting their programs and services in place to help affected members and ease the pain of furloughs.

Monday evening came and went with no agreement among the House and Senate on at least a temporary funding bill for fiscal 2014 (which begins today), setting the stage for a shutdown of "nonessential" operations.

The impact of a shutdown will be mitigated to some extent by, H.R. 3210, a measure that cleared the House Saturday and the Senate on Monday to ensure the military continues to receive pay in the event of a government shutdown. Signed by the president late last night, this measure will reduce the number of credit union members that will be left financially strapped in a furlough. Titled the "Pay Our Military Act" and introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., it also protects the pay for Department of Defense civilians and contractors essential for the military's support.

A number of credit unions reported they are offering specific assistance to help their members not covered under the act. For example, many are offering interest-free, advanced credit of direct deposit, low-interest loans, loan deferments and other arrangements.

All affected credit union members should contact their credit unions to see what assistance they can receive. NAFCU has assembled a partial list of credit unions offering such help.

NCUA, an independent agency which does not rely on appropriations and is funded by credit unions, issued a statement Monday that it will remain open, and federal share insurance of credit union members' accounts will remain in effect, during the shutdown.

"Members will have questions and they will have needs, so credit unions should have plans to respond if Congress does not pass legislation to keep the government running," Matz said in the statement. "Credit unions that serve federal workers and the military have responded before to members' financial needs resulting from furloughs, reimbursement delays, suspension of government programs or the closing of federal buildings housing branches. They need to prepare to do that once again."