HAWTHORNE, Calif. – There’s never a good time for a hurricane the strength of Katrina, but for the Transportation Security Administration which had just relocated its payroll office to the Big Easy, the timing was particularly bad. The TSA was preparing to process its first payroll cycle from New Orleans for the agency’s 57,000 employees when the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast. Eileen Rivera, President/CEO of FAA First Federal Credit Union, said her institution typically receives a payroll tape from the agency every other Thursday, with a settlement date of the following Tuesday. As a courtesy, FAA First credits payroll to TSA employee accounts early, on Friday. But on Friday, September 9, there was no tape and no indication of when payroll would arrive. Thankfully, the tape arrived on Monday, September 12, and at press time, the CEO was confident that Wescorp would honor Tuesday’s routine settlement date. Rivera said the credit union first learned about the payroll situation when it received a call from a member who is a TSA employee. The member reported that he had received a letter from his employer, notifying him that he may not be paid on time. “We didn’t learn about it from our sponsor, we learned from a member who called to ask `what can you do to help me?’” Rivera said. Approximately 11% of FAA First’s 24,000 members are TSA employees, and because of the early payroll service, many of them have direct deposit or payroll allotments. To assist members, Rivera said the credit union allowed TSA employee accounts to go negative up to the amount of their most recent direct deposit or allotment. The credit union was already offering courtesy pay to qualifying members, Rivera said, so procedures and automated processes to allow the negative balances were already in place. However, operational staff had to manually review accounts that were automatically assessed the $25 courtesy pay fee, determine whether the member was a TSA employee, and if so, reverse the fee. “We were prepared to let them stay negative for up to 30 days, but if they couldn’t bring it positive, we decided we wouldn’t seek aggressive collection,” Rivera said, adding, “although, after 30 days we wouldn’t allow the negative amount to increase.” On Friday, September 9, daily reports showed a 105% increase in the number of negative checking accounts from the previous TSA payday – 300 negative accounts representing $77,000 in the red. “We haven’t tracked whether those were all TSA employees, but we’re assuming the increase is connected to the late payroll,” Rivera said. The chief said she’s thankful the agency was able to correct the situation within a few days. “It turned out good for us, because we only had to worry about Friday and the weekend,” Rivera said. -

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