NCUA Dispatches Emergency Teams To Gulf

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NCUA sent an emergency team of examiners to New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport and other targets of Hurricane Katrina to help in the recovery work for credit unions and their employees. Several NCUA employees, including examiners, were among those who lost their homes in the wake of the disaster.

The agency has set up staging areas in the affected areas to assist credit unions on an individual basis and issued several directives to ease the regulations for impacted credit unions.

Immediately after the storm hit, NCUA issued an emergency directive allowing federal CUs to provide emergency and other financial aid to non-members battered by the massive disaster. This includes services like check-cashing, access to ATM networks or other short-term financial services.

NCUA joined the other federal banking agencies in a rare directive urging affected and unaffected CUs to engage in some kind of forbearance on loans, cash withdrawals and other financial services for needy victims. That includes waiving ATM fees, increasing cash withdrawal limits, easing restrictions on out-of-state and non-customer checks, waiving overdraft fees, waiving early withdrawal penalties for time deposits, waiving availability restrictions on insurance checks, allowing members/customers to skip or defer loan payments, waiving late fees for credit card or loan payments, and easing credit limits and delaying delinquency notices to credit bureaus.

Ed Dupcak, head of NCUA's Hurricane Katrina Task Force, said the agency has also taken other steps in its efforts to aid victims of the huge disaster, including establishing a call center for credit union members (1-800-827-6282) and emergency e-mail addresses (KatrinaAL NCUA.GOV; KatrinaLa NCUA.Gov; and KatrinaMS NCUA.gov). Regina Metz, a staff attorney working with the task force, said most of the 1,000 or so inquiries fielded by NCUA staff immediately after the hurricane were about deposit insurance and the safety of individual funds while others "were just to vent," she said.

"Our purpose is to act to respond to the urgent human needs of people served by the 139 federally insured credit unions in those affected areas, mobilize agency resources, work with governmental and non-governmental organizations and prepare for the issues this disaster presents," Dupcak told separate briefings last week before both the House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee.

NCUA also made available at its website at NCUA.gov updated contact information for each federally insured credit union. The agency also posted information on the 139 affected credit unions in the three affected states and their operational status.

Dupcak also said NCUA was working to ensure that adequate liquidity was available throughout the credit union system, both in the affected regions and in other areas where funds may be drained from to aid disaster relief. He said funding was readily available through 208 assistance offered by the National CU Share Insurance Fund, through the Central Liquidity Facility, and through the corporate credit union system.

NCUA was also working with major data processing vendors to ascertain the status of credit union operations and provide potential back-up services to those credit unions in need, said Dupcak.

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