CDCUs Looking For Bright Spot Despite Taking An Economic Hit

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Community development credit unions, which note they have felt the economic downturn as much as any group, nevertheless are reporting they see some bright spots in obtaining additional financing to help grow lower-income communities.

During the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions' (NFCDCU) annual meeting, the 225 people in attendance were told by CDFI Fund Director Tony Brown and Ford Foundation Program Officer Millard "Mitty" Owens that strides have been made in how far the community development finance field is advancing, although they cautioned that can change as political and economic priorities shift.

Also discussed at the conference:

* NCUA Board Chair Dennis Dollar told the meeting of his plans to make it easier for NCUA to grant new credit union charters. "The federation has been the only major credit union trade group to support such a policy and is looking forward to bringing new CDCUs into existence," said NFCDCU Director Cliff Rosenthal.

* NCUA Board Member Deborah Matz called for greater CDCU partnership with government agencies and larger credit unions.

* During a debate entitled "Rhetoric or Reality: Are Credit Unions Serving Low-Income Communities?," credit unions heard from Malcolm Bush, president of the Chicago-based Woodstock Institute, which has recently published a report criticizing the credit union industry for its lack of service to low-income communities. Defending the credit union record was Bill Hampel, chief economist and senior VP-Research and Policy at CUNA, and Ed Jacob of Northside Community FCU in Chicago, and a former banking industry CRA Officer.

One question that has been raised, including in extensive coverage by The Credit Union Journal, is just what data is actually available to measure credit union service to low-income communities.

During the conference NFCDCU launched its campaign to research and document credit union service to such constituencies. At one conference workshop featuring Caryl Stewart of the Vermont Development Credit Union, she highlighted the impact data collected on and for that institution. Plans call for replicating such efforts nationally.

* Winners of the 10th annual Annie Vamper "Helping Hands" Awards were Maria Berkowitz, Central Appalachian Peoples FCU (Berea, Ky.); James Gilliam, St. Luke's FCU (Windsor, N.C.), and Mary Spink, Lower East Side People's FCU (New York).

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