Bill Would Allow CUs To Expand Reach-Out Effort

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The credit union community continues its efforts to reach out to the underserved market.

A new bill introduced by Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) last week would allow federally chartered credit unions to provide a variety of lifeline services, services generally aimed at low- and moderate-income people, to anyone, regardless of field of membership (see related story, page 3). The measure would allow credit unions to cash checks, sell money orders and travelers checks, transmit money both domestically and overseas, and receive money transfers for anybody.

A spokesman for Baca said the congressman decided to sponsor the bill as a way to help the millions of immigrants in California and elsewhere to gain access to these services at low-cost credit unions. A similar bill is being debated in the state Assembly in California.

This bill differs from the several proposals introduced in the states and in the pending regulatory relief legislature that would allow credit unions to provide these services to non-members, but only those already within the credit union's field of membership.

The proposal, which is very unlikely to be passed this year, has positive and negative aspects. The positive ones, of course, are making these financial services more broadly available to people who desperately need them. It would also increase the potential membership base for credit unions outside their FOMs. This is also a negative as it invites more criticism from the banks.

And it would also erode further the concept of common bond, which was intrinsic to the credit union movement up until the past five years or so.

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