Nearly 700,000 Department of Defense civilian employees began once-a-week furlough days Monday that will cut their pay by roughly 15%.
NCUA Chief Economist John Worth said that over the next three months, it’s “reasonable to assume” the pay cuts will have an impact on loan growth at affected credit unions.
Worth said that while just less than 2% of federally chartered credit unions have primarily military-based fields of membership, their relatively large size means they represent about 21% of federal credit union assets.
The 82 FCUs that claim a military common bond include the nation’s largest credit union, the $54 billion Navy FCU, and the third largest, the $16 billion Pentagon FCU.
“I would expect weaker loan growth and potentially some transitory higher delinquencies, because we might have some people who haven’t effectively planned for this,” the NCUA economist said. “But, because these are furloughs, and not layoffs, that income will return in October.”
Credit unions with high concentrations of DoD civilians in their fields of membership have already activated programs to communicate with members, Worth said, and that approach will keep balance sheet impact to a minimum.
He added that he doesn’t expect loan growth to turn negative, or delinquency rates to rise. However, low growth this year may be muted, and delinquency rates may not continue to fall as rapidly as they have been.
Worth also stressed that the macroeconomic impact of federal sequester cuts are already apparent, as government contracts were canceled or not renewed earlier this year.
Claudia Warszawski, manager of Navy Federal’s Personal Finance Management division, said the furloughs are only a temporary setback for members who have been secure and stable throughout their membership. “They've responded well to the assistance we've provided through both the financial tips we've shared and the special products and services we're offering,” Warszawski said. “Therefore the assistance we are extending does not have an impact on our delinquency ratios.”
The majority of Navy’s members are active duty military and are not subjected to the furloughs, she said. But for those who are, the 4.3 million-member credit union is offering loan assistance, penalty-free early withdrawals on certificates of deposit, and a special 3% APR checking overdraft line of credit.
Navy Federal has also set up a special sequestration hot line to help members assess their situation and review their available options, Warszawski said.
At the nation’s eighth-largest credit union, the $7.2 billion Security Service FCU, Vice President of Public Affairs Bruce Gillooly said he estimates only a couple of thousand out of 600,000 members face sequestration-related furloughs.
“That number is not staggeringly high,” he said. “It’s what we consider to be manageable enough that our call center and branches should be able to handle volume of people who have concerns.”
Because of that, he said, the San Antonio-based credit union will work with members on a one-on-one basis. Because federal budget cuts have already affected some members working under government contracts, Gillooly said, the credit union has already been offering programs like no-fee loan extensions and pre-approved emergency loans, and has also been reversing fees related to insufficient funds and late loan payments.
On the West Coast, the $704 million Pacific Marine Credit Union isn’t anticipating a large impact from the furloughs, either. Vice President of Strategic Development Brad Smith said Southern California’s Camp Pendleton, the nation’s second-largest Marine base that is home to the credit union’s headquarters, has about 40,000 active duty Marines and 2,000 civilian employees.
“I don’t believe it will be a very large percentage of membership, because the number of DoD personnel that are not active duty in this area is not a significant as in some other areas,” he said.