SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Credit unions in California are again this year offering beleaguered state employees some financial relief as lawmakers remain locked in a budget stalemate. At press time, there were signs that some progress was being made on resolving the few remaining issues over the $103 billion budget. Only a day earlier, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, a San Francisco Democrat and considered one of the most powerful lawmakers in Sacramento, had said final budget approval could still be at least two weeks away. His comment came after he and other Democrats lambasted Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for describing them as "girlie-men" who were beholden to special interests. Schwarzenegger made the comment while taking his case for his budget to legislative districts held by Democrats. With the state budget already three weeks late at press time, several credit unions have ramped up plans to offer financial assistance to state workers who may find themselves without a paycheck until a budget is approved and signed by the governor. Legislative staff and gubernatorial appointees usually are paid on the 15th and last days of every month while legislators are paid at the end of each month. Credit union efforts, which include zero percent interest loans, paycheck advances and deferred loan payments, have become a ritual during the annual budget stalemate. "Since we're a member-owned financial institution, we're much more familiar with our members, we're better able to anticipate their needs, and we can respond more quickly and more effectively to take care of them," said Teresa Halleck, chief executive officer of The Golden 1 Credit Union in Sacramento. The Golden 1, as it has in the past, was offering zero percent loans to affected members who have direct deposit. The Golden 1, which has a branch across the street from the Capitol, serves more state employees than any credit union in California. At SAFE Credit Union in North Highlands outside Sacramento, members with direct deposit are eligible for a loan of 100% of their net pay with zero interest for 61 days. Members who do not have direct deposit are offered a no-interest loan for 50% of their net pay. "If our state employee members get minimum wage rather than their full pay while the state is operating without a budget, they can receive a loan to make up the difference for 61 days," explained Patty Dutton, a lending systems analyst at SAFE. State employees who sign up for SAFE membership can also apply for the loan at the same time. Those loans are at 5%. SAFE also offers loan extensions to members impacted by the budget impasse. Arrowhead Credit Union in San Bernardino announced it will advance paychecks to its members who are affected by the battle over the state spending plan. Arrowhead will also forgive loan payments for one month, officials said. "They (state employees) are all on cue to call us the morning of the first payday without a budget, and we advance their payroll," said Elsa Montes, vice president of membership development at Arrowhead. "We'll do it until the budget is approved and passes. Once the budget passes, we debit their account. There are no fees and no charges. "They don't even need to come into a branch," Montes added. "They can just call us." -

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