Calif. CU Seeks To Help As School Budgets Cut

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Orange County Teachers FCU last week said it has set a goal of raising $1 million for local schools to help reduce the effects of cuts to education spending due to California's budget crisis.

Rudy Hanley, OCTFCU's president and CEO, told The Credit Union Journal the credit union will also make interest-free loans and offer outplacement services to the county's teachers or school employees who lose their jobs as a result of spending cuts. In addition, it is working with the Orange County Department of Education to develop an education foundation to provide schools with money for special projects and programs that are eliminated.

Overall, Orange County Teachers FCU said it has committed more than $1 million in cash and products-$500,000 in cash directly to local schools, $250,000 to the new foundation, and approximately $250,000 in indirect expenses for waiving interest and providing other services to displaced workers.

"It is a big program from our side, but when you take a look at the impact of the budget shortfall, unfortunately, it is just a drop in the bucket," said Hanley. "It is one way for us to show the support and empathy we have, and help make up for part of the money the state is cutting from the education budget."

"A program like this creates goodwill that, I think, the entire membership benefits from," he added.

OCTFCU began the "Step Up For Education" fundraising drive May 12 by presenting a $250,000 check to William Habermehl, the Orange County Superintendent of Schools. Hanley said just one day after the CU announced it would match contributions by county businesses on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to $500,000, three businesses called asking how they can help.

"There are thousands of businesses in the county, and we all benefit from the educational system here," he said. "If we just get 100 businesses to give $5,000 each, that would be $500,000. And I don't think that's asking too much."

All teachers and school employees in the county are eligible to join OCTFCU. Any member who loses his or her job will be able to apply for interest-free loans for COBRA insurance payments, will be able to defer credit card and loan payments, and can take out low-interest loans for classroom supplies, computers and higher education degrees.

The credit union also will provide workshops on how to interview, how to write a resume, as well as counseling on whether to accept a retirement package.

Hanley said if a teacher or other school employee is not a member at the time he or she loses his or her job, the credit union would ask the person to join before receiving the special services, but would waive the usual membership fee.

OCTFCU is the largest education-based credit union in the United States. It has 275,000 members and $4 billion in assets.

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