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WASHINGTON-Federal credit unions have obliterated last year’s record for adding underserved areas by nearly one million in just the first three quarters of 2002. In the first nine months of this year, 184 federal credit unions have added 303 underserved areas for just over 17 million new potential members in underserved areas; in 2001, 165 credit unions adopted 282 underserved areas for a total of 16.1 million new potential members in those areas. NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar said that his own goal for adding potential members in underserved areas is 20 million in one year. The chairman commented, “The results are beyond our wildest imagination.” Dollar pointed out, during a teleconference sponsored by CUNA, that this does not even include the work the state chartered credit unions are doing in this area. The teleconference was focused on NCUA’s Access Across America initiative, which CUNA earlier this year made a commitment to promote. “As I’ve been talking to credit unions across the country, I’ve been talking about the need to reach out to extend service to the, quote, underserved,” CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica said in opening the teleconference. Dollar emphasized that in 1999 just seven credit unions added only 235,000 potential members and that the record-breaking results followed “the same rules [but] differing approach, differing prioritization.” He said that formerly the paperwork to add an underserved area could take 18 months or longer. Now it takes just eight weeks on the average. He added that one of the advantages of becoming chairman is directing agency priorities, and he stressed, he has the full backing of NCUA Board Members Deborah Matz and JoAnn Johnson. “It’s not right for everyone and I would not at all say that every credit union should do it, but every credit union should evaluate it,” Dollar said. Though it may not be right for every credit union, federal credit unions of all sizes are adopting underserved areas, according to NCUA data. He explained that Access Across America is not just about adding underserved areas to credit unions’ fields of membership. It is also about seeking ways to partner with other agencies to expand service. The agency plans to begin distributing pamphlets on Access Across America shortly, which include ways to work with other government entities, such as the Department of Agriculture, the Internal Revenue Services, Treasury, and others. Another segment of Access Across America is the chairman’s faith-based initiative, promoting the use of faith-based organizations and related credit unions to add underserved areas. This year three faith-based credit unions have added 10 underserved areas adding 236,737 new potential members. Dollar pointed out that this is more potential members than all federal credit unions in 1999. [email protected]

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