ALEXANDRIA, Va.-Little news has been forthcoming from the Mississippi Gulf Coast area credit unions that bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina. “I have experienced hurricanes, but none of this magnitude,” said NCUA Director of External Affairs Nicholas Owens from his hideout 30 miles north of the beach in Mississippi on the Gulf Coast. He was initially scheduled to fly back to Washington, D.C. August 29, but his flight was cancelled and he was going to play it by ear until he could return. Owens, always on the job, stated, “Our priorities are to ensure the safety of NCUA personnel and to assist credit unions serve their membership in a safe and sound manner.” In response to the vast devastation Katrina has wrought-and continued to in New Orleans at press time-NCUA activated its disaster assistance policy for those credit unions impacted. The agency aims to assist credit unions and their members rebuild. President George W. Bush has declared major disaster areas in various counties in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. Under its disaster assistance policy, NCUA will, where necessary: 1. Encourage credit unions to make loans with special terms and reduced documentation to affected members; 2. Reschedule routine examinations of affected credit unions if necessary; 3. Guarantee lines of credit for credit unions through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund; and 4. Make loans to meet the liquidity needs of member credit unions through the Central Liquidity Facility. NCUA is working with the leagues and state regulators to ensure all federally insured credit unions know of the assistance available from NCUA. Region III examiners are in close contact with affected credit unions. During disasters, NCUA works to ensure credit union staff safety; keep facilities and operations open to members; and provide material and technical assistance to affected credit unions. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency gave the banks in the path of Katrina permission to close and the Office of Thrift Supervision is encouraging thrifts to assist customers in the affected areas by waiving late chargers and early savings withdrawal penalties and reassessing credit needs, among other things.

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