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The Richmond, Ind.-based Natco Credit Union said it was able to forgive nearly $19,000 in interest on 50 loans for members affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Natco ($108 million in assets and 16,131 members) said a $10,000 COVID-19 grant from the NCUA helped the interest relief effort, and the credit union itself additionally forgave $8,737. Natco was one of more than 150 credit unions that received a COVID-19 grant from the NCUA, according to agency data.

The virus pandemic contributed to a loss of income among many members, Natco President/CEO Cynthia Duke told CU Times. The credit union, she said, wrote extension agreements for about 1,000 members from March through July. Natco said its Deferred Payment Relief for Service Industry Workers was distributed to members in July after the credit union was awarded the $10,000 grant from the NCUA.

Duke said the effort to forgive interest was part of a broader effort at Natco to help members affected by the virus, which spurred widespread layoffs and furloughs across industries. The credit union offered emergency lifeline loans, providing short-term financial assistance, from late March through the end of May.

“We continue to work with members who have reduced income or increased expenses due to COVID-19,” Duke told CU Times. “Our solution specialists work one-on-one with members to understand their specific situation. This allows us to grant extension agreements or create a plan that will help the member through this challenging time.”

Natco said it processed about 1,000 tax returns for community members at no charge “while operating in a safe, virtual and socially distant way.” About 30 employees at the credit union are working through the CUNA FiCEP program to obtain their certified financial counselor status.

“With this certification, we will be better prepared to help our members who have suffered financial difficulty during the pandemic,” Duke said.

More broadly, Natco said members in the virus era have embraced technology allowing the loan application process to unfold virtually. Natco said member use of mobile deposits has increased amid the COVID-19 crisis.

For Natco staff and leaders, the early fire-fighting mode of the pandemic has since shifted to ways to focus on growth.

“We accepted early on that we would use our reserves to help our members and be OK with showing a loss on our bottom line. We would not harm our members for the sake of our income,” Duke told CU Times. “As a result, our loan growth has been phenomenal, even though we don’t do mortgages or PPP loans, and we have maintained a positive bottom line.”

Duke added: “Our staff has been all-in for taking care of our members and their unique challenges. We have learned a lot through this pandemic and have seen many positive changes in our business.”