More than 250 credit union advocates at the Washington state Capitol in Olympia talked to legislators about credit unions' community impact Feb. 6. (NWCUA photo)

Northwest CU advocates deliver strong message to state legislatures

February 20, 2020

Legislators across the Northwest are well educated about the credit union difference thanks to the robust army of advocates who joined the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) for Credit Union Day at the Capitol events in the past three weeks.

“Credit unions excel at being the solutions, ensuring people, families, communities, and economies prosper,” said Troy Stang, NWCUA president/CEO. “Credit union advocacy is about the credit union story and making sure 100% of legislators hear it. Only we can tell the credit union story to them, and we’re so proud of the Northwest advocates who are building on a decades-long tradition to show up in full force and voice at our state capitals.”

Advocates carried messages that credit unions, as not-for-profit cooperatives, are invested in Main Street, not Wall Street, and are uniquely positioned to support the financial wellness of the region’s 7.3 million members.

In addition to providing examples of their own credit union’s services to members, advocates had powerful new collective data to share with legislators. The first-ever Credit Union Community Impact Report was unveiled by NWCUA during the events. The association’s Community Impact Reporting Tool (CIRT) was the data portal for credit unions to share their information.

“It’s the first tracking tool of its kind in the Credit Union Movement,” said Jennifer Wagner, NWCUA’s executive vice president and chief advocacy officer. “It tracks credit union employees’ amazing volunteerism, giveback to communities, and how financial education helps members to manage their money, to spend and borrow responsibly, and to build their savings.”

Impressive Collective Headlines

Data collected for the year 2018 documented credit unions are serving strongly in areas of interest to state and federal lawmakers. For example:

  • Northwest credit unions’ giveback to communities exceeded $612 million in benefits to members, charitable contributions, scholarships, children’s hospitals, disaster relief and more;
  • Credit unions in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington made 4,866 donations supporting nonprofits in their communities;
  • Credit union employees provided financial education to 127,058 students and adults; and
  • Consumers who are budgeting wisely have saved $6 billion in credit union accounts including $79 million for children.

In Washington, the children’s savings data is landing well with legislators, who are focused on initiatives to encourage such opportunities. Because of the CIRT data, NWCUA is able to message the legislature that credit unions are already providing these services.

“The data showing Washington credit unions provided financial education to nearly 100,00 consumers and that more than $45 million has been saved in children’s accounts here is something legislators appreciate knowing,” said Joe Adamack, NWCUA vice president of legislative affairs for Washington.

Adamack noted 250 advocates registered for Washington’s Credit Union Day at the Capitol.

In Idaho, the setting was a luncheon attended by more than 100 advocates, and 60 legislators.

“Idaho credit unions worked closely with us over the last year to determine the priorities we will share with the legislature in this session and beyond,” said Ryan Fitzgerald, NWCUA vice president of legislative advocacy for Idaho. “We appreciate the advocates’ continued engagement.”

In the days following the legislative luncheon in Boise, two NWCUA-backed bills were introduced. One proposes modernizing the state’s Credit Union Act’s lending and investments sections, and the other requires towing companies to notify lienholders when a car is towed, potentially saving credit unions from incurring costly impoundment fees.

The Credit Union Act updated passed out of a Senate committee with a “do pass” recommendation this week, and the lienholder legislation has already unanimously passed in the House.

Oregon credit unions have a long track record of turning out in force during the legislative session and passing legislation updating the state’s Credit Union Act every couple of years. As in all even-numbered years, the Oregon Legislature is having a 35-day “short session.”

While NWCUA is not introducing a bill during the short session, it’s still important to share Credit Union Difference messaging with lawmakers. The showing at the legislative luncheon this year was strong.

Advocates presented the Community Impact Award to retiring Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-District 35).

“In her committee leadership and in her voting track record, Rep. Doherty has been a firm defender of Oregon credit unions,” said Pamela Leavitt, NWCUA’s policy advisor for Oregon state advocacy and grassroots.