While 11 Oklahoma state agencies have put in place furlough plans for their employees, Oklahoma Employees Credit Union is bracing for even more salary cuts among its members this year.
"There is a significant budget shortfall," said Brian Gebard, vice president of marketing at the $314 million cooperative. "The biggest overhead is personnel, so we anticipate furloughs will grow over the year."
The salary adjustments were part of the reason Oklahoma Employees CU launched a new Web site (www.helpingok.com) for state employees who have been affected by furloughs. The site contains furlough news and updates from Oklahoma's state agencies, financial tools, a frequently asked questions section, a blog and other resources. OECU President/CEO Mark Kelly said the idea for the site came about after the CU did some research and found that such a resource did not exist.
The site had more than a couple thousand hits the week it went live in mid-February, Gebard said. Since then, visitors have logged on to get everything from tips on saving at the grocery store and information on food banks and housing assistance to updates on which agencies have implemented furloughs. In the FAQ section, visitors can read about free activities to do on furlough days and find out if they are eligible for unemployment benefits.
"We wanted to raise awareness of what [employees] can do now," Gebard explained. "For those thrown into the midst of this, there is some assistance to address their immediate needs."
Founded in 1954 by employees with the Oklahoma Highway Department, the CU completed a merger with Capitol Credit Union in 1990, creating a membership that included employees of state agencies without their own CUs as well as Oklahoma County employees. Over the years, other CUs have merged with OECU, and the cooperative now has 230 select employee groups with most being state agencies. Although the CU has a community charter, most of its 45,000-members are state employees.
Kelly said that because many Oklahomans have experienced furloughs, he is hoping other organizations will get involved--for example, by offering discounts to those affected by the state's budget cuts. Gebard said the CU will continue to keep communication lines open with state agencies for the most current furlough news.
To help members more, OECU is offering several furlough assistance specials, including a $500, 90-day loan with a 0% annual percentage rate for those who have an existing checking account with direct deposit at the CU. The rate is 4.99% for new account holders. Furloughed members also have access to free financial checkups and lines of credit deals.