Help Still Needed In Gulf Coast

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Credit unions in this ravaged region could still use a lot of help as they work to recover and rebuild. The Louisiana Credit Union League offered a variety of ways CUs from across the nation can step up to the plate.

Credit unions around the country have adopted about 20 of the Louisiana credit unions affected by the recent hurricanes. These adoptions are working quite well, the league said, encouraging credit unions who are looking to assist their sister credit unions to consider adopting a credit union in need.

Other suggested ways that credit unions can help include:

* Reimburse or pay rent for a credit union in need for several months.

* Assist with utilities and telephone costs. Because the flooding caused by the storm displaced people from their homes and businesses weeks and in some cases months, many credit unions are facing excessive cell phone bills that they used for business purposes during the disaster stages.

* Reimburse or pay for the additional transaction fee expenses that a hurricane-ravaged credit union may have incurred due to an increase in their member's usage of the shared branching network.

* Offer to assist a credit union affected by the hurricanes by producing and distributing their newsletter, or with their other marketing needs.

* Now that hotel accommodations are available in New Orleans, you may want to offer to assist with staff expertise such as member services, accounting or collection services onsite.

* Because many people are not returning to New Orleans collections have increased. You may want to offer to help by assisting a credit union with the collection process. This is something that you could easily do from your back office.

* Donate equipment. Because of the flooding many credit unions lost computers, printers, copy machines, fax machines and general office supplies.

* Reimburse or pay league and/or CUNA membership dues for a credit union hit hard by Hurricane Katrina or Rita.

* Financial contributions and/or direct donations are always greatly appreciated.

* Reimburse or pay for credit union staff and/or board members to attend league or CUNA educational programs.

Some of the biggest challenges that hurricane-impacted credit unions are having to and will continue to face are as follows:

* Field of Membership Issues: the league is concerned that there will continue to be field-of-membership issues for credit unions whose members have scattered across the country. There is uncertainty about how many members will return to the New Orleans area and what they'll be returning to-especially in terms of jobs and housing.

* Lending: On the lending front, credit unions lending stopped momentarily in some cases, a few weeks in others, and this will impact their income. Many credit unions waived fees for members during the period of crisis, and those actions too will impact year end profitability.

* Delinquencies: Credit union members' delinquencies will increase. With people dispersed, collection efforts may be almost next to impossible. The issue of collateral and whether credit unions will be able to repossess it in delinquencies is still uncertain.

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