ST. PAUL – There was plenty of finger-pointing across both sides of the aisle of the Minnesota state government, but regardless who was to blame for the impasse in reaching an agreement on the state budget by midnight June 30, state residents are now facing a range of reduced services and 9,000 state employees – nearly a fifth of the state workforce – are dealing with a temporary layoff because of a partial shutdown of the state government – the first in the state's history. Credit unions around the state were hopeful the budget impasse would have been resolved in time to avoid the shutdown, but those that include state workers in their field-of-membership prepared for the worst. "I think it's fair to say that everyone is surprised that [the legislative impasse] has lasted this long," said Affinity Plus President/CEO Kyle Markland. The $957 million, 124,000-member credit union's field of membership includes state employees including elected officials and their staff. Minnesota has more than 20 unions that represent state employees, and Affinity Plus has been working for a month with many of them including the American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), and the Middle Management Association (MMA). Minnesotans are hopeful legislators can reach a budget deal soon – according to an article in the Star Tribune, state employees will officially be laid off if the impasse extends beyond July 15 – but Markland said if that doesn't happen and the impasse goes on for weeks, "that's when the meat of our work-stoppage policy kicks in." For Affinity Plus, that means the CU is prepared to offer automatic 30-day extensions on loan payments for members. The CU will also continue to apply regular underwriting standards based on normal income. Affinity Plus also has a loan arrangement with MAPE for these types of circumstances, and if a loan is initially denied by the credit union then MAPE will guarantee it. "Unfortunately bad things happen to good people, and this is a bad thing. But we're here for our members and we're going to prove to them the credit union difference." Hiway FCU is also ready to step up and help state workers that are part of the $646 million CU's nearly 50,000 members. The CU was originally founded to serve Minnesota Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety employees who still make up about 25% of Hiway's membership. Like Markland, Hiway FCU President/CEO Jeff Schwalen is hopeful for a "swift resolution to the shutdown." In a letter to members on June 30, he assured them that the credit union "will continue to conduct business as usual," and that "the interruption of state payroll will not affect members' credit ratings." Schwalen is also keeping his fingers crossed that the shutdown won't last for too long. In the meantime, Hiway plans to give state employees credit for income, ask them to continue making loan payments, and continue granting loans. He also encouraged all members in need of financial assistance to contact the CU office. If the shutdown lasts longer than hoped, Schwalen said he thought Hiway could see an increase in loan delinquencies and an increase in demand for the credit union's disaster relief program for short-term loans. "I can't speak for any one credit union, but I would say that all credit unions combined are more than willing to work one-on-one with any of their members that are finding themselves in financial hardship, especially due to no fault of their own," said Schwalen. -

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