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AUSTIN, Texas – As the clean up effort in Texas and Louisiana continues in areas devastated by Hurricane Rita, news has slowly been filtering into the Texas Credit Union Department from credit unions around the Texas/Louisiana state line, the area most severely impacted by the hurricane. At press time, Deputy Commissioner James Deese said the department had heard from six out of the 10 CUs in the Beaumont/Port Arthur/Orange Triangle and said the most prevalent problem the CUs reported dealing with now is the loss of power. The six CUs and their status as of September 27 include: * Orange County Teachers CU, Orange – no electricity or water * Safe CU, Beaumont – they’re online at their branch in Austin and processing members’ transactions *Beaumont Municipal CU – maintaining a temporary office in the Houston area and members have access to ATMs * MCT CU, Port Neches – a couple of their branches are closed but one is open and the CU is operating out of that one * Gulf Employees CU, Groves – no electricity or water * Union Pacific Employees CU, Beaumont – no electricity or water As to the status of the structures of the credit unions, Deese said “at this point, I do not have any accurate information on that.” Deese said the Credit Union Department still had not heard from four small CUs in the area that are all $4 million or less in assets. They include: Government Service CU, Port Arthur; Orange County Employees CU, Orange; Coburn, CU, Beaumont; and T&FS Employees CU, Port Arthur. Deese said in the days leading up to the storm, all credit unions in the areas that were in the storm’s predicted path were contacted by the department to make sure they had a back up system, and Deese said these four credit unions confirmed they had one. “So at least we know the members’ information is safe,” he said. “As the credit unions contact us or vice versa, we’re trying to help them find alternate facilities to operate out of like a shared service center or another credit union’s facility,” he said, adding that the department has received several calls from credit unions around the state offering their assistance “with whatever is needed.” “The biggest issue is getting these credit unions back up and operating as well as they can be,” said Deese. In the days before Rita struck, the Credit Union Department took several proactive steps to address the imminent situation. At that time, Rita was being forecasted to strike as a Category 5 hurricane. On Sept. 21, three days before the predicted landfall, the department issued an “Advisory to State Credit Unions Affected by Hurricane Rita” that began with: “In conjunction with Governor Perry’s proclamation concerning the threat from Hurricane Rita, the Credit Union Department advises Texas state-chartered credit unions with offices in areas that may be affected by this Hurricane to take appropriate precautions to safeguard property and personnel. “The Department also asks all credit unions located in an area where the Hurricane ultimately hits to contact this Department as soon as reasonable possible following the Hurricane to report on any physical damage to offices and the operational status of the credit union. In addition, the Department would like to know an estimate of the time and resources the credit union needs to become operational again,” the advisory continued. Deese said the Department wanted to “make sure credit unions are prepared, have a plan in place, notify us if they’ll be closed and be able to contact us as soon as possible after the storm when they get a damage assessment.” Deese said most of the state’s examiners are based in the Houston or Dallas area, and all the examiners in Houston had made arrangements to be out of the area “to make sure they’re out of harms way.” In the aftermath of dealing with Rita’s devastation, Deese said, “The department would support giving credit unions the flexibility of having to work with their members,” including making loan payment arrangements. He also said the department will put off examinations of any affected credit unions “as needed to make sure we’re not in their way and to give them the chance to recover.” -

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