Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gustav damages to CUs less than $1 million

MADISON, Wis. (9/11/08)--Damages to credit unions from last week's Hurricane Gustav have added up to less than $1 million, according to CUNA Mutual Group. And the National Credit Union Administration reported that only a few are still not operating.

"We had reports of wind and rain damage, mostly in Louisiana, with some extension into Mississippi, and we continue to see a few claims trickle in as credit unions get back to business," said Phil Tschudy, media relations manager at CUNA Mutual.

"About 30 policyholder credit unions have submitted slightly more than 50 claims to date, with losses totaling less than $1 million," he told News Now.

"Fortunately, damages from Hurricane Gustav were far less than we expected; however, as I mentioned last week, this doesn't mean some credit unions will not have challenges ahead of them," he said.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) checked the overall operating status of 211 credit unions in Louisiana and Texas affected by the hurricane. Of those, "only 13 remained non-operational Sept. 9," the agency said Wednesday, adding that 98% of credit union members affected by the hurricane have access to their accounts.

NCUA and credit unions in the Gulf Coast took a variety of proactive measures that enabled rapid recovery from the potentially disastrous Gustav, the agency said. In the days leading up to the hurricane Sept. 1 landfall in eastern Louisiana, NCUA established a toll-free telephone number to provide members with immediate access to information and assistance.

It activated backup continuity teams and provided direction on Aug. 29 through regional offices about hurricane preparations. It also released a public service announcement (PSA) for consumers to nearly 60 media outlets in the potentially affected areas.

The PSA detailed:

Federal deposit insurance coverage for credit unions;
How members could access their credit union funds in a natural disaster;
The toll-free credit union member hurricane telephone line; and
How to access NCUA via the Internet for information about affected credit unions.

Since 2006, NCUA has advised credit unions in hurricane-prone states to review contingency of operation plans and business continuity procedures to ensure their ability to provide financial services to their members, the agency said.

IT also promoted U.S. Treasury's GoDirect program, the electronic delivery of federal benefits to ensure consumers have consistent electronic access to their funds, even in a disaster.

Many credit unions came through Gustav just fine. In Louisiana, New Orleans Firemen's FCU, based in Metairie, said it was able to provide continuous service during Hurricane Gustav.

"We were able to provide continuous service to our members via shared branching and through an alliance with CUNA Mutual's Loanlink center," said Cami W. Crouchet, chief operations officer of the $122.7 million asset credit union.

"We also work with Telecom Recovery, which was a wonderful way to update our staff on what was going on," she told News Now. The credit union also updated its website several times a day with the most current information on the credit union, she said.

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