CUs Shine in the Face of Hurricane’s Devastation

Assistance shows the movement’s principles at their best, CU leaders say.

December 1, 2012

New Jersey CU League President/CEO Paul Gentile (left) helps NCUA’s Buddy Gill unload donations of clothing and food.

Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states, killed more than 100 people, caused billions of dollars in damage, destroyed thousands of homes, and left millions without power.

Some 2,000 credit unions were in the hurricane’s path, and more than 800 were unable to operate during the storm and its aftermath, NCUA reports.

Weeks later, many remain without power, and cleanup and recovery continue. Credit unions from coast to coast have reached out to help with volunteers, loan relief, and direct financial aid.

1. Volunteers

Some credit unions are rolling up their sleeves—literally—to help the East Coast rebuild.

The $2.5 billion asset SEFCU in Albany, N.Y., coordinated with the American Red Cross to contribute labor for cleanup efforts.

The credit union, which also collected monetary donations at all of its branches,  assembled and sent four buses of volunteers to assist the Red Cross in New York City and New Jersey.

2. Loan relief

Many credit unions are offering special loan programs to make rebuilding easier on members and communities affected by the storm.

NEFCU in Westbury, N.Y., ensured members had access to their funds via ATMs, debit cards, home banking, and mobile banking during the storm. The $1.9 billion asset credit union now aims to ensure members will have access to assistance during the recovery.

NEFCU is offering a variety of special loan programs for those affected by the storm, including hurricane relief loans, auto loan discounts, payment deferrals, and zero interest on home improvement-related credit card purchases.

“We know many of our members are faced with significant losses, and we want to assure them that NEFCU is here to help,” says President/CEO Edward Paternostro. “Restoration will take both time and money, and we are pleased to offer assistance that can ease members’ financial burdens.”

Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union in Brooklyn, N.Y., assigned $2 million for emergency Disaster Relief Loans up to $3,500 at 3% interest. Members have 27 months to repay the loans, and are eligible for a three-month payment deferment.

3. Direct aid

Even credit unions outside of the region, including those as far away as the Pacific Coast, are collecting and forwarding direct aid.

Global Credit Union in Spokane, Wash., was one of many credit unions to respond to the devastation by contributing $1,000 to CUAid, an online disaster relief fundraising center for credit unions.

“Credit unions are founded on the philosophy of people helping people,” says Jack Fallis, president/CEO of the $350 million asset credit union. “That doesn’t stop at financial services. We want to do what we can to help those impacted by the hurricane.”

Through CUAid, all donations are directed to the National Credit Union Foundation. Many credit unions donated generously immediately after the storm.

“In just seven days, we raised more than $100,000, with donations ranging from $10 to $10,000,” says Christopher Morris, the foundation’s director of communications. “It’s inspiring to see so many credit unions stepping up, yet again, to help those in need.”