The NCUA took an active approach to shoring up credit unions and consumers affected by Hurricane Sandy, making use of field examiners who placed phone calls and sent emails to their assigned credit unions in attempt to survey the damage.
The NCUA said on Oct. 30 examiners would ask if credit unions have had to curtail hours, services or locations because of the storm and offered advice, material and technical assistance as needed. The NCUA also worked closely with state regulators and state league organizations so all credit unions knew federal assistance was available, the agency said.
A toll-free consumer assistance hotline was also activated, providing credit union members needed emergency assistance with operators, who will answer calls between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
The NCUA’s Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives notified low-income credit unions that need help digging out from under Hurricane Sandy can access up to $7,500 through emergency assistance grants. The funds must be used to cover expenses so credit unions can repair damage or replace equipment to restore service to members, the agency said. Credit unions in need of grant assistance may apply online through the NCUA’s website.
On Oct. 29, before the hurricane made landfall, NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz participated in a telephone meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council convened by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. A spokesman said FSOC members discussed financial markets and infrastructure as Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast.
With the NCUA’s disaster relief policy activated, the regulator will extend the following benefits to affected credit unions:
Encourage credit unions to make prudent loans with special terms and reduced documentation to affected members. Credit unions may extend terms or restructure debt for existing loans, and ease credit terms for new loans.
Reschedule routine examinations of affected credit unions, if necessary.
Guarantee lines of credit for credit unions through the NCUSIF.
Make loans to meet the liquidity needs of member credit unions through the Central Liquidity Facility.
Federal credit unions may also provide assistance to other credit unions, their members and nonmembers in the affected areas, under certain conditions. Emergency financial services for nonmembers, including check cashing, access to ATM networks, or other services to meet short-term emergency needs of individuals in the areas affected, can be provided under the authority to engage in charitable activities. However, federal credit unions providing services on this charitable basis may not impose charges that exceed their direct costs. A federal credit union may provide services to other credit unions that it is authorized to perform for its own members or as part of its operations. Because this activity is part of a federal credit union’s incidental powers, the service providing credit unions may charge for the services.
The NCUA added that credit unions needing assistance to serve members affected by the disaster should contact their primary supervisory official.