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HARAHAN, La. – In the early weeks following Hurricane Katrina’s, and then Hurricane Rita’s, demolition of the Louisiana coastal landscape, one phrase was repeated over and over: nothing is the same. The familiarity taken for granted with living conditions, working conditions, personal relationships, communication, transportation, and even finding sustenance had all disappeared. Since then, Louisiana credit unions, under the guidance of the Louisiana Credit Union League, have made tremendous strides in re-defining normalcy. Credit unions worked through their disaster recovery plans, focusing first on the well-being of their employees, second on the security of their facilities and third on member access to their accounts and emergency funds. Shared branching became the knight in white armor for many credit unions with destroyed or damaged facilities. Six Louisiana and two Mississippi credit unions joined Louisiana’s shared branching network, Credit Union Cooperative Branching (CUCB), in the weeks immediately after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, enabling an estimated 400,000 additional credit union members to gain access to their accounts. CUCB is currently working to connect an additional 15 credit unions and their data processors to the shared branching network by yearend. The Baton Rouge service center became a “hub for evacuees” in the early days following the hurricane, disbursing $769,000 in one week. The center averaged 500-900 transactions per day prior to the hurricane. For the six weeks immediately following, the center performed 80,000 total, or roughly 2,600 transactions per day. During that time, the service center had to reduce its normal hours because of the sheer volume of transactions taking place (the risk of running out of cash) and because security personnel were unavailable. The Metairie shared branching service center, which was closed three months to repair damage from the hurricane, reopened its doors for business Friday, Nov. 25. Louisiana Corporate was displaced from its Metairie-based headquarters here for nearly three months following Katrina. The corporate relocated staff to its back-up facility in Lenexa, Kansas at U.S. Central’s headquarters. Amazingly, it continued to provide service, even in the immediate days following Katrina. The Louisiana Credit Union League was displaced from its office in Harahan because of flooding and wind damage for 12 weeks. It initially set up temporary headquarters in the Baton Rouge shared branching service center, and later moved into Bayou Federal Credit Union, where it conducted daily operations until returning to its former headquarters building Nov. 28. Knowing that Louisiana credit unions affected by Hurricane Katrina will face several challenges in the coming months, LCUL recently hosted two “Surviving Hurricane Katrina” programs, presented by former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar and Kirk Cuevas of Dollar and Associates, on tactical planning for the next three, six, nine and 12 months. “There is still much uncertainty facing credit unions in the New Orleans area. Field of membership issues, staffing, the lack of new loans, an increase in delinquencies – just to name a few,” said Anne Cochran, LCUL president and CEO. “As part of our relief efforts, we felt that it was important for New Orleans credit unions to hear from a credit union expert on what they may be facing in the coming months.” Some of the topics covered during the two sessions – one for small-asset credit unions and one for larger-asset sizes – included field of membership issues, overdrafts, delinquencies, capital/asset ratios and NCUA’s focus six to 12 months after a disaster. More than 30 credit unions attended the sessions held Nov. 17 at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. -

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