Jim Nussle

Member-centric advocacy

We’ve refined our focus to ensure our advocacy agenda hits at the heart of what members need most.

February 18, 2022

I like to look at a new year as a new chance for success—a chance to build on what we’ve accomplished but also lay the foundation for what we hope to achieve in the future.

The start of 2022 saw an economy still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and its effects, but gradually returning to something resembling normal.

Thousands of credit union leaders planned to come to Washington, D.C., for the 2022 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) to capitalize on the power of our people together.

CUNA GAC is when we can see our legislators face-to-face and tell them what we’ve been doing—and what we can do—for their constituents, our members.

Look at our biggest advocacy issue last year. We removed expanded IRS reporting requirements from the Build Back Better legislation.

Hundreds of thousands of credit union voices told policymakers exactly why this proposal would harm financial inclusion, and it made a difference.

Congressional leaders heard about credit union members who were going to close their accounts because of the proposal. Op-eds and letters ran in community publications about the harm this proposal would have.

Those stories are hard to ignore, and they’re why we can make a difference. No legislator wants to cast the vote that will cause their constituents to close their bank accounts and start stuffing cash under their mattresses.

These stories painted a vivid picture, one that became impossible to ignore by the majority of Congress.

This year, we’ve refined our focus to make sure our advocacy agenda hits at the heart of what members need most.

Like everything we do, it’s a collaboration. We spend months engaging with leagues, credit unions, and policymakers to set an agenda that captures the spirit of the moment we’re in, but also has a chance to move forward:

Expand and protect credit union powers and opportunities to ensure consumers and small businesses can more easily access credit union services. 

A mid-term election year means we’ll be competing hard for every bit of time and attention from members of Congress.

Reduce regulatory burden so credit unions can focus time and resources on efficient service delivery. 

Protect our relevance to those who rely on our experience and trust the credit union difference. 

These priorities aren’t about improving the bottom line or a stock price, they’re to make people’s lives better.

There are far too many barriers in place for consumers already. That’s evident with the financial deserts and underbanked communities we see today. This is a status quo that won’t cut it.

Imagine if—instead of a financial desert—the community had a credit union acting in members’ best interests, interested only in making sure consumers get the services they need.

Imagine telling your elected officials those exact neighborhoods that would benefit from safe and affordable credit union services under a modernized Federal Credit Union Act.

Once again, that becomes a vivid picture that’s difficult to ignore and even harder to vote against.

That’s how we’ll make our voice resonate in 2022. A mid-term election year means we’ll be competing hard for every bit of time and attention from members of Congress.

We’ve also got our work cut out for us in the regulatory arena. President Joe Biden has put in place his NCUA, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Housing Finance Agency, and Ginnie Mae leaders, among others.

Those regulators have their bearings now and will look to put their stamp on the policies coming from their agencies. 

It’s up to us to not only find but to emphasize the many ways their mission intersects with our mission.

We share a goal of financial inclusion. It’s our job to show them credit unions are a crucial component to their goals, and their policies should reflect that.

JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of Credit Union National Association.

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.