Matz Ties N.Y. CUs History To Present

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In remarks before the New York league, NCUA Board Member Debbie Matz linked the history of New York credit unions with their future.

"Eighty-five years ago," Matz began, "millions of hard-working people clearly had a need for affordable credit. The first New York credit unions, including Municipal Credit Union in New York City, filled the need for people who could not get loans from banks-people who had nowhere else to turn but to loan sharks who made profits from their pain."

While Congress in 1920 was debating whether to allow women the right to vote, Matz noted, "New York credit unions welcomed women, immigrants, and minorities as voting members with equal rights.

"Credit union organizers embraced the philosophy that you still cherish today: regardless of a person's gender, nationality, or income, each person is a valued member."

While much has changed since 1920, Matz told the state's credit unions that there remain large numbers of people outside the financial mainstream whose lives could be and are changed by credit unions.

Matz also pointed to several Empire State credit unions whose practices she said should be emulated. Among them:

* Bethpage Federal Credit Union, which is reaching the emerging Latino communities on Long Island. Staff and volunteers invest countless hours networking with Latino community leaders, donating time and money to 43 community groups.

Because they took the time to understand the communities' needs, when Bethpage opened a new branch, Latino residents were ready to move their business to the credit union-and these new members brought in millions of dollars of new business.

* Through an innovative consortium, four small credit unions in New York City (Lower East Side People's, Union Settlement, Homesteaders, and Bushwick Co-op) are making business loans to new members who could not get commercial financing anywhere else.

* As a result of Matz's PALS workshop last October in Rochester, New York credit unions (led by The Summit FCU and ESL FCU) have raised $150 million to fund affordable mortgages in underserved areas. In addition, they pledged another $2 million for renters who need emergency loans to avoid losing heat, electricity, and other living necessities. Together these funds will change the lives of 9,000 families in underserved areas, Matz said.

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