Credit union advocacy means telling policymakers what you’re doing, showing the data, and asking for their help, CUNA Deputy Chief Advocacy Officer Jason Stverak and a panel of League presidents told attendees Monday at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). The panel focused on how to execute the credit union advocacy agenda, with specifics on a few issues.
“Most of the major changes we seek require updates to the Federal Credit Union Act or other statutes, meaning an act of Congress,” Stverak said. “We need their help—their vote—to continue to do bigger and better for our members and communities. We also need their trust—that we’ll reward their support by continuing to look out for the best interests of their constituents.”
The CUNA-League advocacy priorities are:
Stverak added that nothing in the credit union movement happens alone, and welcomed Dakota Credit Union Association President/CEO Jeff Olson, California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues President/CEO Diana Dykstra, Credit Union Association of New Mexico President/CEO Juan Fernandez, and League of Southeastern Credit Unions President Samantha Beeler to the stage.
Olson discussed why field-of-membership modernization is so important for consumer access to safe and affordable financial services, noting that the Dakota Credit Union Association is currently working on the issue at the state level.
"This work is about the strong foundation of credit unions, state Leagues, and CUNA as our national association working together toward something better," he said. "Better for our individual members, and better for our movement’s long-term sustainability."
Dykstra discussed how credit unions must demonstrate to policymakers why policies to restrict overdraft services would harm consumers, rather than help them as proponents of restrictions say.
“Credit unions serve our members however they need to be served. The whole idea that overdraft is evil, or not in the best interest of consumers, is wrong,” she said. “The consumer gets to decide how to manage their money best.”
Fernandez tackled a similar topic: the administration and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s broad classification of “junk fees” that include many standard financial services fees.
"How many communities would not have access to financial services without credit unions? We have communities in New Mexico that, if credit unions were to close their doors, people would have to drive for hours to reach a reputable financial services provider," he said. "The fact is, there are costs we have to cover to be able to operate."
Beeler addressed one of credit unions’ major priorities over the last year: stopping the Credit Card Competition Act. She called on credit unions to frame meetings around what interchange revenue means.
“Who here has made a member whole after a data breach? Who had to re-issue a card? Who has insurance covering those losses? That’s the income that’s being attacked during this interchange conversation," she said. "That’s the income that helps us keep the doors open during times of crisis, keeps us offering products and services that change lives.”
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