ONTARIO, Calif. (2/9/15)--Some might think of California solely as a bountiful provider of produce, but the state is the nation's third-largest oil producer behind Texas and North Dakota. As oil prices slide, Bakersfield credit unions are primed to help members affected by a slowdown in production.
Consumers relish gasoline prices that are hovering in the $2.16-per-gallon range, but workers at large oil companies or oil industry contractors now face a volatile and unstable job market.
"We never fully recovered from the recession. Then the drought hit us, and now it's oil," said DeAnn Straub, president/CEO of $214 million-asset Kern FCU. "Everyone who's purchasing gas is happy, but the impact on our community makes it difficult," she told CU Weekly, a publication by the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues (Feb. 4).
"We've already seen modification requests coming in as local oil companies start laying people off," Straub said. "Life happens, but we are compassionate and we'll do what we can."
Members face wage and job cuts, and communities see fewer capital investments. Kern County supervisors declared a fiscal emergency Jan. 27, citing lower property tax revenue from oil properties and an expected $61 million loss in its budget (Los Angeles Times Jan. 29).
Bakersfield City Employees FCU CEO Gloria Scales forecast a "trickle down" effect on Bakersfield city workers and their families.
"We're holding our breath at this point," said Scales, who heads the $31 million-asset credit union. "How will it impact our credit union? We're not sure yet. But around the community, it'll start to hit home when roads aren't repaired and parks aren't kept up."
Meanwhile, $130 million-asset Chevron Valley CU is working with members one on one. "One size won't fit all," President/CEO Neil Sawyer told CU Weekly. "Families with different sources of income are in different situations."