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WASHINGTON-The House and Senate are back in session after anthrax scares forced them to cut sessions short a few weeks ago. The House adjourned for the week after business Wednesday, October 17, receiving some criticism from the Senate, which adjourned the following evening as is customary. The five of the six House and Senate office buildings remained closed at deadline. One item of business the Congress may confront this week is the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations (VA-HUD) bill. The legislation contains funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund ranging from $80 million in the House to $100 million in the Senate. However, NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Charlie Frohman pointed out that the entire bill has to be pared down by $100 million overall because of money being diverted to clean up and retaliation following the September 11 events. CUNA Vice President and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn said he does not expect much change in the final language regarding the CDFI. “It’s a fairly small amount of dollars that you’re looking at anyway,” he said. The VA-HUD bill has been stalled since September 20 when the House named conferees. It also contains the borrowing authority limit for the Central Liquidity Facility, currently agreed upon at $1.5 billion, and the funding for the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund (CDRLF), agreed upon at $1 million, with $350,000 earmarked for technical assistance grants. In a recent Letter to Credit Unions (01-CU-14), NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar urged credit unions to make use of the technical assistance grants available through the CDRLF. He announced that the CDRLF loans and investments are expected to bring in $226,000 this year and that Congress appropriated $350,000 for 2001. “All low-income designated credit unions are encouraged to utilize this program to further improve credit union efficiencies and to better serve their fields of membership,” the letter read. Additional information is available through the respective regional offices. Typically, technical assistance grants are less than $5,000 due to limited resources, Dollar explained. NCUA’s procedures for reviewing requests are attached to the letter. The House also took up, just prior to deadline, the conference report for the anti-terrorism bill and passed it 357-66. In a procedural move, the conference report for H.R. 2975, the Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act-now H.R. 3162-replaced the original legislation to help move it along faster, according to NAFCU Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler. He added that the Senate indicated it would also take up the bill Wednesday in order to get it to the White House by the end of last week. Money laundering provisions were included in the legislation. The House leadership originally wanted to keep the anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering bills separate. The bill’s anti-money laundering provisions would: *create new regulations in dealing with shell or offshore banks; *require stricter identity verification for opening new financial accounts; *develop a secure Web site for financial institution to report suspicious activity more quickly; and *criminalize smuggling of cash over $10,000 across U.S. borders. Credit union trade associations have supported the money laundering provisions in the bill as they appear to cause no undue burden for credit unions. At dead line, the House was also expected to consider a $100 billion economic stimulus package, supported by the administration, composed primarily of tax relief measures. These cuts included the capital gains tax, as well as providing another tax rebate for those who did not receive the earlier one. CUNA and NAFCU have both urged House and Senate leaders to include Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) in the final package. IDAs provide matching funds for low- to moderate-income families. The Senate was slated to consider the fiscal year 2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill at deadline. The bill contains funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development for $1.1 billion. Up to $2 million of those funds could go toward the World Council of Credit Unions to be used in its efforts in South Africa and Mexico for next year. The Foreign Operations bill is just one of 13 appropriations bill awaiting lawmakers’ attention. The Treasury Appropriations bill is another spending bill in which credit unions have taken an interest. In the Senate version of the bill are provisions for creating “Unity” or war bonds. The House passed the bill prior to September 11 and does not contain such a provision, though a separate measure has been introduced. The Treasury Department has not made any public statements on the war bonds. The Treasury bill awaits conference. Though not slated for action in the near future, credit unions are closely monitoring deposit insurance reform. New Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) Chairman Donald Powell testified before Congress that increasing insurance coverage for Individual Retirement Accounts should be considered. If such legislation does pass, credit union lobbyists have said they would work toward parity for the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. Also among deposit insurance reform recommendations by the FDIC is changing the premium payment structure. Currently, if the ratio of federal reserves to insured deposits falls below 1.25%, banks are required to pay a 23-basis point premium when the economy is weak. According to a recent report in the American Banker, banks are becoming concerned that this will be the situation shortly due to the economic dip following the September 11 attacks. [email protected]

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