WASHINGTON - The chorus urging regulators to delay data-collection requirements in the revised Community Reinvestment Act rules just got louder.

The American Bankers Association and the Bankers Roundtable told the agencies in a Dec. 8 letter that institutions do not have enough time to prepare for the collection requirement, which is scheduled to start Jan. 1. They asked for a six-month delay.

"Nothing in this letter should be taken to imply that banks are not serious about complying with the new regulations or living up to the spirit of the statute," the groups wrote. "However, our bankers are serious when they advise us that a delay in the data collection is needed to provide banks with a reasonable time period to implement all the changes required."

The Consumer Bankers Association requested a similar delay last week, and individual bankers have made private appeals in the last two months.

The agencies adopted revised CRA rules in April to grade banks on performance, rather than process. Part of the rules require banks to record the location and amount of small-business and farm loans.

The agencies do not appear to be backing down from the start-up date. "There is no change in the plans to go ahead with the Jan. 1 implementation," said William Fulwider, a spokesman for Jonathan Fiechter, acting director of the Office of Thrift Supervision and chairman of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, which is coordinating CRA policy.

The trade groups said the Jan. 1 date isn't realistic. The computer format for the new data was not released until late October and the agencies still haven't distributed long-promised software programs designed to ensure uniform data collection.

The trade groups argued that bankers are unsure how to treat businesses which renew credit lines, and that they're also having trouble geocoding rural loans.

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