In Brief: CUs Eligible for Postal Contracts

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WASHINGTON - For the first time, credit unions are being invited to bid on providing depository services to post offices across the country.

So far, however, none have won bids.

The U.S. Postal Service has historically used local banks for depository services and issues requests for proposals about once every five years, according to the National Council of Postal Credit Unions.

The Credit Union National Association lobbied the Postal Service to include credit unions in the bid process and pointed out that, as at banks, credit union deposits are federally insured.

"It wasn't that they were trying to exclude credit unions, but the wording made credit unions unsure if they were eligible," said Catherine Orr, the trade group's senior regulatory counsel. "Credit unions came to us and said this could be a good business opportunity for them, so we worked to ensure they would be eligible to bid this time."

The Postal Service has reworded the requests for proposals to state that any federally insured financial institution can bid.

Contracts for local post offices' cash receipt deposits can be lucrative, but they also can be very expensive and labor intensive, said Bob Spindler, a spokesman for the National Council of Postal Credit Unions. "Some [credit unions] may not want to do this; it means handling large amounts of cash."

It is unclear how many credit unions have responded to the requests for proposals. With 85 postal districts in the United States, the requests are being issued regionally, and in many regions the process has already closed.

One region where bids are still being accepted covers 6,546 post offices in Delaware, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, and parts of New Jersey and Virginia. Banks or credit unions interested in bidding on the contract must contact the Postal Service by Jan. 10.

Winning bidders earn an initial contract of three years, and the Postal Service may exercise options for five additional one-year terms.

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