Dakota CUs Stepping Up to Help Members During Shutdown!
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist

The current government shutdown has now lasted more than 20 days, and credit unions all across the Dakotas and around the country are stepping up to assist members who have been furloughed or otherwise impacted by the shutdown. Yesterday, the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas (CUAD) put out a call for specific stories about these good deeds, which was quickly answered by many of our member credit unions.  

“When we were approached by one of our members who was facing a real hardship due to the shutdown, we knew we wanted to do something to help,” stated Kim Colbenson, CEO of GEM Federal Credit Union in Minot, ND. “To make sure our members do not suffer dire financial consequences during this shutdown, GEM FCU began offering a special ‘Government Shutdown Loan Program’ on January 9th.”

At GEM FCU, any qualifying member who is affected by the temporary shutdown may take out a 6 month loan at 0% interest, up to $7,500. The 0% loan program is reserved for those who are not receiving a paycheck because of the shutdown. “If the shutdown continues, the special program will be re-evaluated as needed,” added Colbenson. “The feedback has been very positive at this point, and we are just happy to be there when our members really need us.”

Early this morning, a local television station in Minot, KXNews featured GEM’s uplifting story on their “Good Day Dakota” broadcast. You can view that segment here.

In Rapid City, South Dakota, Minuteman Federal Credit Union is reaching out to their members with a “Government Life Line of Credit” for federal employees and active military affected by the government shutdown. As part of their “Life Line,” Minuteman FCU is waiving any penalties for premature withdrawals on savings certificates made by affected federal employees. In addition, they have extended the option for affected members to skip one month’s payment on any existing loan without incurring any fees. The credit union is also offering a line of credit at 0% for 30 days under certain restrictions.

Sentinel Federal Credit Union that serves Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota and the surrounding community is also prepared to help their members impacted by the government shutdown. The credit union is offering several services and benefits to help members during this financial hardship, including: Loan payment assistance; special loans for 30 days with no interest or up to 18 months for 1%; and early withdrawal fees are being waived on certificates and other special savings accounts. The credit union is also promoting their free financial counseling where trained staff can help members stay on track during this challenging time. “While we have not seen a rush for these options since most of the people at Ellsworth AFB are considered ‘Essential Personnel’ and are continuing to work and get paid, I do expect to see higher utilization if the shutdown continues,” stated Keith Robbennolt, President/CEO of Sentinel FCU.

Over in Huron, South Dakota, M-O Federal Credit Union is offering a 0% loan for affected members, with a promise of “funds deposited within minutes” during this emergency. In addition, loan officers there are standing by, ready to add to vehicle loans, extend payment dates, waive late fees, and provide access to funds in Christmas Savings Club accounts.

Meanwhile, at Oahe Federal Credit Union in Pierre, South Dakota, furloughed members are being offered deferrals on their loan payments at no charge. The credit union is also offering unsecured loans to those who may be short on funds and need a little help before their government paychecks return. 

North Star Community Credit Union in Maddock, North Dakota has also committed to offering financial solutions to those impacted by the government shutdown. “Operation Shutdown Safety Net” has been implemented to help members with expenses that keep rolling in even when their paychecks don’t. North Star is offering no-hassle loan extensions, as well as low interest loans, and invited anyone impacted by the shutdown to stop in at any of their 11 Member Service Centers to discuss what they can do to help.

Taking it a step further, the credit union then asked each branch manager to pull their team members together to identify what additional resources and options are available in their specific communities that members can access, such as food banks, churches, and other charities. They also developed a list to remind members to inform utility companies, landlords, and other creditors that they have been temporarily negatively impacted by the government shutdown.

Black Hills Federal Credit Union based in Rapid City reported just this morning that they have implemented a government furlough program to assist members affected by the recent government shutdown. “Through this program, we are working with affected members to evaluate their loans, accounts, and finances, as well as find creative solutions to their individual financial needs,” stated Carol Brown, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Black Hills Federal Credit Union. “Additionally, we have a variety of personalized solutions to assist members during this difficult time. We are encouraging members needing assistance due to the shutdown to give us a call or stop by one of our locations to visit with us about their options,” she added.

“These are great examples of what credit unions can do for their members and their communities, and what differentiates them from other financial institutions,” says Jeff Olson, President/CEO of CUAD. “The not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative structure allows credit unions to make local decisions that are based first on members’ needs and not on profits. Credit unions across the Dakotas have been helping and improving members’ lives and communities for more than 80 years in these ways, and we are very proud of these credit union responses,” he added.

At CUAD, we would like to know what your credit union is doing to help members and families that have been impacted. We are asking you to please share your stories about any special loans or delayed payment programs you have instituted. You can email your stories to Shawn Brummer at sbrummer@cuad.coop. It is times like this that credit unions truly shine. We will be preparing a state-wide release on how credit unions here in the Dakotas continue to make a difference, assisting members in need and improving lives.



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