Lt. Gov. Extolls CUs; Touts Yellow Ribbon Loans

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Most politicians are always claiming to have some affinity with credit unions, even if it's just having driven by one.

But other than Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who's a credit union board member, few can claim the credit union credentials of Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn helped establish the North Side Community FCU in Chicago, and has been active in other credit union start-ups as well. Moreover, his own father was the first president of a credit union in his workplace, and he has been a member since his mother signed him up for membership in DuPage Schools CU when he was a child.

"I went to a high school where I had to take four years of Latin," he told NASCUS annual meeting. "And one of the words we learned is credit. The root of the word credit means 'to believe' in Latin, and I think that's what credit unions are all about. You believe in your community and in your members. Credit unions are a movement, and we should never forget that."

What Quinn stressed also shouldn't be forgotten is the role credit unions can play in reaching the huge numbers of people with no financial account at a depository institution.

"We have far too many of the unbanked in our state and in our country and we want to break down the barriers for citizens who rely too much on cash," he said. "I'm a member of a community development credit union, and we need more of those. It's an exciting concept and I think we're all learning as we go along. These CDCUs want to learn from the experience of all of you and watch their growth."

"I think its quite important that our credit unions be aggressive in recruiting members," Quinn continued. "We can't just look to the past as prologue for the future. We need to get people who are in that unbanked system to join the credit union. Another thing that's sad to see in our state and any state is these payday lenders, who often charge unconciousnable fees. Just this year we passed a law to reform payday lending, but even with those reforms the interest rates on payday lenders are still quite high. In Illinois, we have more payday lenders than we do McDonalds restaurants. We need to work on a market alternative."

Quinn said he has been a big supporter of a program called "Yellow Ribbon Loans," which are aimed at helping returning servicemen to "get back on their feet." He noted that 22 states have now adopted a program pioneered in Illinois in which any citizen called to active duty is given a "grant on behalf of the people of Illinois for the service they are providing us."

In Illinois to date more than $3 million in grants have been distributed to more than 6,000 families. Each person gets a basic grant of $500 for each deployment, and under some circumstances some get more.

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