Irma's Aftermath Continues to Take Toll on Florida CUs
The aftermath of Hurricane Irma continued to take its toll on Florida’s credit unions, employees and members as they headed into the weekend with no power or running water, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions reported Friday.
The greatest challenge for the majority of Florida’s credit unions has been power outages at both branches and employees’ homes.
“We have been helping our employees nightly with bringing hot meals for them as many don’t have power still,” GTE Financial Credit Union President/CEO Brian Best told LSCU. “Today, 162 employees do not have power. We continue to feed them and provide resources to make sure that they feel safe and respected at GTE.”
To maintain morale for credit union employees working to serve members despite these difficult conditions, many CEOs are also providing such amenities as hotel rooms for staff to take hot showers, LSCU said.
Like many other credit union leaders throughout the state, Best also has no power or running water at his home.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management said 1,679,544 homes and businesses did not have power as of noon on Friday. But utility crews are working around the clock to restore power.
LSCU reported a tremendous amount of traffic throughout the state has caused shortages of cash in some areas, and employees at some branches are using their personal cell phones as hot spots to help with transactions in areas with no internet service.
While backup generators have kept many branches open, some credit unions have reported leaky roofs, structural branch damages, burned out ATMs, computer issues and flooded roads in some areas. Because some credit unions have been unable to reach staff, they are making trips to check on their status, according to the league.
LSCU said it was uncertain about the extent of damages to three credit unions – Monroe County Teachers Federal Credit Union, Keys Federal Credit Union and Southernmost Federal Credit Union – in Key West, which was hit hard by the hurricane.
On its Facebook page, however, Keys said Friday several of its ATMs were operational though it did not say anything about its branch operations. The credit union also said its mobile app also was working and that it was assisting members with specific financial transaction needs.
Outside of the Florida Keys, many credit unions experienced light water intrusion due to wind driven rains, and expenses for generators and gas to maintain operations because of power outages, Wendy Serafin, a spokesperson for CUNA Mutual Group in Madison, Wis., said.
“We will have a CUNA Mutual customer response team on the ground this weekend and next week to work with customers impacted by the storm in order to swiftly bring their claims to resolution,” Serafin said. “The Florida Keys is still not completely accessible due to authorities restricting access at this time. It is projected that [CMG] teams can gain access in seven to 10 days, and we’ll have boots on the ground to meet with our customers and assist in the recovery efforts.”
Credit unions that are open for business with power, internet service and other resources have reached out to the credit union community to help with recovery efforts.
“We see the true cooperative spirit and resiliency of credit unions at work during this time,” LSCU President/CEO Patrick La Pine said. “Despite still having some challenges themselves, the leaders and staff of the credit unions that are operational are extending offers of assistance to their members and their fellow credit unions. Seeing this generosity in action reinforces our sense of pride in being part of the credit union movement.”
Shared branching locations offered some relief to credit unions, allowing those affected by the storms to continue delivering services to members.
“While shared branching is extremely convenient to members for routine access to their credit union, members in hard hit areas of Florida are realizing the benefit shared branching offers during times of disaster,” La Pine said. “The network also benefits members that are displaced or needing to travel during this difficult time. We were pleased to see so many credit unions alerting their members to shared branching locations to enable them to access their funds.”
LSCU said it continues to reach out daily to impacted credit unions, updating current conditions online and assessing needs. The Southeastern Credit Union Foundation and the league are coordinating efforts with multiple partners to provide communication and relief efforts to Florida credit unions. Donations may be made by visiting lscu.coop/foundation/disaster-relief or CUAid.coop.