When Policies Need To Bend

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MOSS POINT, Miss.-Not surprisingly, many credit unions that have been through natural disasters reported the need to be fluid with policies as the situation dictates. That can be particularly true with meeting members' emergency needs.

At Singing River FCU here, for instance, CEO James B. Smith recalled that in the wake of Hurricane Katrina one credit union in its market was unable to open for several weeks.

"On a number of occasions we would give money to those people and we allowed them to make withdrawals out of our credit union," Smith said of members of the other credit union. "When they were back up and running six weeks later, we presented those receipts to that credit union and they honored all of those."

For Singing River's own members, said Smith, during the 10 days immediately after Katrina SRFCU allowed members to overdraw funds if necessary "and we did not lose one penny to members because of fraud and dishonesty."

Many interviewed for this story noted the immense potential credit unions have to serve their local communities in such disasters, often serving as gathering points for distributing food, water and other necessities.

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