When Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, Tracy Sussmann President / CEO at $17 million MidState Federal Credit Union in Carteret, N.J. was already making plans to reopen for her storm-stricken members.
MidState is located next to a bay where floodwaters rose three feet into the streets during high tide. By Friday, Nov. 2, Sussmann’s small team carried lanterns, blankets, extra coats and gloves and unlocked the doors and opened for business.
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“We’ve prepared for a disaster and now we know it works,” Sussmann said. “We made it through the storm on Monday and Tuesday and by Wednesday we were making plans to reopen. Our members needed cash and we were determined to give it to them.”
Sussmann said that her employees were lucky and only reported minor damage to their own homes, although the neighborhood where MidState FCU is located was hit hard and one member’s home blew up. The costs of the hurricane are still rising but officials agree that Hurricane Sandy would become one of the 10 costliest hurricanes in the United States, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
In light of payroll for the community’s largest employer, Social Security and pension checks, and the fact that no ATMs were available due to the power outage, Sussmann and her staff deemed it necessary to provide cash to members.
They worked offline to cash checks and allow members to make cash withdrawals with an off-duty police officer standing guard. Cash was king during the crisis with stores and gas stations unable to accept debit or credit cards. MidState FCU was the only financial institution open in Carteret before the weekend, Sussmann said.
In 2005, MidState was among the group that partnered with the New Jersey Credit Union Foundation and donated $60,982.55 to victims of Hurricane Katrina on behalf of New Jersey's credit unions and the National Credit Union Foundation relief fund.
“This is why I’m in this industry,” Sussmann said Tuesday. “If I can help one person a day I know I’m in the right business.”