As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to spread, credit unions are taking steps to ensure staff and members remain safe while still being able to serve members.
Credit unions across the country have alerted members about their efforts to increase cleaning and disinfecting at branches, and limit physical contact. They’re also urging members to consider using alternative methods to access the credit union without going to a branch, such as online or mobile banking or the contact center.
Signal Financial Federal Credit Union went one step further by testing its business continuity plan as the situation became worse.
The $412 million asset credit union in Kensington, Md., announced the closure of six branches in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia for emergency preparedness training. The exercise involved all staff working remotely.
“This will help prepare our organization for a pandemic response if a public health emergency shuts down local business operations in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia,” says Francois Verleysen, president/CEO of Signal Financial.
Credit unions know the outbreak could affect members’ income and their ability to pay bills, and are reminding members to seek assistance if they need it.
WSECU in Olympia, Wash., offers emergency loans and free financial counseling to members who are worried about paying their bills.
“If they have concerns, they should reach out to their financial intuitions and see what options they may have,” Ann Flannigan, vice president for public relations at the $3.3 billion asset credit union, told the Public News Service.
The credit union already helped an Uber driver who has seen a drop in business as a result of the outbreak. The credit union worked with the member to modify his loan payments to make them more manageable, Flannigan says.
Precautions have also impacted credit union events as well.
VSECU livestreamed its annual meeting on March 18. The event was business only, with no social events, activities, or presentations that are normally part of the meeting.
While the $819 million asset credit union in Montpelier, Vt., encouraged members watch the livestream, they were allowed to attend in person, although physical contact, such as hugs or handshakes, were prohibited and social distancing was encouraged.
SAFE Federal Credit Union postponed its March 16 annual meeting. The $1.1 billion asset credit union in Sumter, S.C., has not announced a rescheduled date.
Downey (Calif.) Federal Credit Union canceled its annual food-packing event that was scheduled for April 3. Volunteers from the $228 million asset credit union were preparing to pack 60,000 meals for local families at the event.
Other credit unions are also canceling in-person educational workshops.
Andrews Federal Credit Union has temporarily postponed its in-person member seminars. The $2 billion asset credit union in Suitland, Md., will resume the seminars when health officials say it’s ok to do so. Also, $3.3 billion asset Travis Credit Union in Vacaville, Calif., has canceled all public financial seminars through April 30.
Some credit unions, such as $5.8 billion asset GreenState Credit Union in North Liberty, Iowa, have begun canceling staff business travel.
While credit unions are taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, federal and state regulators are reminding financial institutions about the impact the spread of COVID-19 will have on members.
Regulators note, “financial institutions should work constructively with borrowers and other customers in affected communities. Prudent efforts that are consistent with safe and sound lending practices should not be subjected to examiner criticism,” according to a joint press release issued by NCUA, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Conference of State Bank Supervisors.
Regulators will work with affected financial institutions that face staffing or other challenges to schedule examinations to minimize disruption and burden.
CUNA has provided suggestions to the NCUA on steps that can be taken to alleviate the financial strain and consumer disruption being caused by the coronavirus.