CUs Seek Ways To Help With Oil Spill Recovery

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-The League of Southeastern Credit Unions is helping CUs find more ways to help small businesses struggling along the Gulf Coast as a result of the BP oil spill.

The league, which serves CUs in Florida and Alabama, held a workshop for credit unions and regulators from the Gulf Coast states at Pen Air FCU in Pensacola, Fla.

Patrick La Pine, president/CEO of LSCU, said the goal was to not only help generate ideas on how to help local businesses affected by the oil spill, but also secure "flexibility from regulators on loans to fishermen, boat operators, and small businesses that are dependent on the water."

La Pine said the meeting addressed how to provide check cashing alternatives to prevent some Gulf businesses and workers hired to handle matters related to the spill from having to cash their BP relief checks through payday lenders. The league also expects to develop a white paper on CU best practices in assisting businesses during the crisis.

"Even though the flow of oil has come to a halt, the true impact on the region is only starting to be realized," La Pine said. "It will take several years to recover-just like coming back after a hurricane. It's just a different type of natural disaster we are facing."

The league also recently met with Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Ken Feinberg to discuss ways CUs could offer assistance, such as cashing checks paid to claimants. The league also suggested using the fund as a loan guarantor for small loans made by CUs, expecially to small businesses on the Gulf Coast. Feingberg noted that current rgulation and legislaton dosn't allow for the fund to guarantee loans made by CUs or banks but said he would look into this issue and bring it to the attention of BP CEO Robert Dudley.

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