WASHINGTON -- Seeking more flexibility in how disaster donations are disbursed, the National Credit Union Foundation took steps last week to help out Alabama tornado victims at the same time it got donor approval to redesignate $200,000 in California wildfire contributions from last year.
Redeployment of the funds was necessary, said NCUF officials, to allow speedier transmission of financial aid to the needy by CUs, their leagues, vendors or volunteers regardless of the national calamity in which CU employees or members are victims.
Though there were no immediate requests, the redesignated moneys may eventually be sought for victims of this month's Midwest floods devastating rural communities across Missouri, Arkansas and Indiana, said NCUF.
In e-mails sent last week explaining the procedure change, NCUF said the major requests for financial aid from credit union victims of the October 2007 San Diego wildfires have now been fulfilled.
In that regard, William Cheney, the president/CEO of the California Credit Union League, said the league "does not anticipate additional grant requests," and so it has given its approval to redirect the funds "to provide urgent relief to other disaster areas."
On that score, Stephen Delfin, executive director of NCUF, said money is now urgently needed by Alabama CU employees and members following a series of twisters in February that hit communities near Montgomery, destroying 700 homes across the South.
"NCUF has already received over 10 grant requests from Alabama credit unions employees and members," wrote Delfin. "These requests will go unmet unless we can use the remaining disaster relief funds."
Those funds, now being released and drawn on checks written by individuals and businesses in response to the California fires, are now needed for use elsewhere, he concluded.
Apart from the checks, however, NCUF since last August has managed to successfully reallocate the online donations earmarked to California through NCUF's CUAid program.
Delfin told Credit Union Times that NCUF raised $219,000 as a result of its CU appeal last fall to help California, but "when all was said and done there was a fairly limited number of grant requests. In total, working with the California league we approved five grants ranging from $1,000-$10,000, totaling $21,500, leaving about $200,000."
There was, he said, about $15,000 in unrestricted Disaster Relief Funds so NCUF was able to make two immediate grants to Alabama CU members totaling $10,000.
Each grant request is fully vetted by the league, and individuals asking for help are interviewed directly, he said.
The California donors were asked in e-mails for permission to treat funds remaining from their contribution as undesignated and approved by you for use by NCUF to respond to credit union-related disaster relief needs in other parts of the country, starting with needs that exist in Alabama."
"If they agreed," said Delfin, "we asked them to respond via e-mail they approved the redirection of their contribution to NCUF's General Disaster Relief Fund for use in any future disaster."
Thus far, he said, about $160,000 of the $200,000 available, has been released "and we are confident that much of the remaining $40,000 will be released as well once hear from and reach those credit unions."
NCUF is pursuing this flexibility, he said, "to use disaster relief funds wherever a bona fide disaster affecting credit unions occurs," adding, "that's very difficult when donors restrict their gifts for specific use in a specific geographic area. Any opportunity we have to talk about the need to make disaster relief gifts unrestricted is appreciated."
On its Web site (www.ncuf.coop), NCUF broke down victim needs into critical, long term and operational, noting that in the critical area CU employees can receive assistance for daily living such as food water, clothing, housing, gas and transportation.
"After surviving the initial emergency, credit union employees, members and volunteers may still face long-term needs related to the disaster. Even after they recover what they can from insurance payouts, victims may need assistance rebuilding or relocating to a new home, replacing lost vehicles and household items," said NCUF.
As long as funds remain in the NCUF Disaster Relief Fund, NCUF "in concert with its agent or agents managing the recovery efforts may expand the grant criteria to include these and other longer term recovery needs that are not fully covered by insurance."
And there may be assistance given to operational needs and such expenses might be related to relocations, temporary service facilities, shared service networks, mentoring, hiring temporary staff or purchase of office furniture and supplies.
"All purchases must be reasonable and of the same standards as being replaced," concluded the NCUF e-mail.