The President's Perspective
by Jeff Olson

Greetings and Happy Monday. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly proven to be a challenging situation for us all these last ten months. We have had to make sacrifices and adjustments at home and work to remain healthy and safe, but despite our best efforts, there have still been far-reaching impacts. For me personally, I lost my mother to the disease in November. The pandemic prevented me and my brothers the opportunity to spend quality time with her throughout the year. Because she was admitted to a special COVID healthcare unit, we could not visit her, and we had to rely on limited phone calls and face time chats. Let’s hope the new vaccines prevent the further spread of this terrible virus and that we can all get back to “normal” – or at least a “new normal.”

A Wake-Up Call. 

Despite the pandemic, 2021 is off and running. What transpired in our nation’s Capitol last week was certainly unsettling. It is clearly obvious that we are truly a nation divided. Perhaps the images we witnessed last week, and throughout the majority of last year, are a wake-up call.

We have seen cities and communities burned and destroyed and lives negatively impacted. We all know that we are better than this, as individuals and as a nation. We need to realize that no matter what our political personal leanings are, at the end of the day, most of us still share the same values. The values of enjoying our freedoms we have as Americans. The basic human rights (God given rights) such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When our founders drafted those words, they were crafting a republic that would protect these basic human rights for every citizen of this great country. We are a nation founded on the principles of freedom of expression and speech. We may not always agree, but we should always agree to listen, seek to understand, and work on things that bring us together rather than divide us even further apart.

Where do we start? Why not start right here in the credit union movement. Let us come together and celebrate who we are and what we do collectively. We have always been better and stronger together. We were founded during difficult and economically troubled times. We are cooperative and collaborative by nature. We grew and prospered on the basic principles of helping our neighbors and our communities. Credit unions across the Dakotas engage in these values every day. In fact, advancing our communities and giving back is the mission of every credit union and is at the very heart of our cooperative principles. We see your kindness and hard work within your communities. We support and respect your efforts to build strong connections in the world around you. Credit unions make a difference every day, especially when they are needed most. We are built for times like these. So, let us start here and work our way through this. For me, the path to reconciliation begins with gratitude.

Here at the Dakota Credit Union Association, we will continue to support our credit unions in every corner of our two states. We are grateful for your continued partnership and affiliation because it allows us to do the work that we genuinely love – supporting and advocating for credit unions and our members through difficult times and a challenging financial landscape.

North Dakota Legislative Session off and running.

Despite the challenges of navigating the pandemic protocol at the North Dakota Capitol, the 67th North Dakota Legislative Session opened with Governor Burgum’s State of the State Address last Tuesday. This was the 10th such address that I have personally attended, and the Governor presented a positive outlook and agenda for the 80-day session. The very next day we were in front of the Senate Industry, Business, and Labor Committee testifying on SB 2101 and 2102. Both are bills sponsored by the Department of Financial institutions and are modernization and upgrades to language in the state statutes as they relate to the laws governing banks and credit unions. Be sure to check out the recap and specific updates from last week’s hearings and legislative activities in our North Dakota Legislative Update from our advocacy team in today’s Memo.

In South Dakota, lawmakers head to Pierre today and will open the 96th South Dakota Legislative Session tomorrow, Tuesday, January 12th. Governor Kristi Noem will lay out her administration’s agenda for South Dakota in her State of the State Address in the House Chambers around noon (CT). Look for the South Dakota Legislative update here in the Memo each Wednesday.

PPP Updates. 

We heard from our Dakota delegations late last week that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury Department announced the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will re-open this week (beginning today Jan. 11) for new borrowers and certain existing PPP borrowers. To promote access to capital, initially only community financial institutions will be able to make First Draw PPP Loans on Monday, Jan. 11, and Second Draw PPP Loans on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Up to $284 billion is authorized to be used toward job retention and certain other expenses through March 31, and by allowing certain existing PPP borrowers to apply for a Second Draw PPP Loan.

Key PPP updates include:

  • PPP borrowers can set their PPP loan’s covered period to be any length between 8 and 24 weeks to best meet their business needs;
  • PPP loans will cover additional expenses, including operations expenditures, property damage costs, supplier costs, and worker protection expenditures;
  • The Program’s eligibility is expanded to include 501(c)(6)s, housing cooperatives, direct marketing organizations, among other types of organizations;
  • The PPP provides greater flexibility for seasonal employees;
  • Certain existing PPP borrowers can request to modify their First Draw PPP Loan amount; and
  • Certain existing PPP borrowers are now eligible to apply for a Second Draw PPP Loan.

A borrower is generally eligible for a Second Draw PPP Loan if the borrower:

  • Previously received a First Draw PPP Loan and will or has used the full amount only for authorized uses;
  • Has no more than 300 employees; and
  • Can demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.

New guidance released includes:

Thank you, Roger Heacock!

The pandemic has also prevented us from properly recognizing our credit union friends and mentors who have recently left the movement. One such retirement was that of Roger Heacock, longtime President and CEO of Black Hills Federal Credit Union. I had the privilege to know and work alongside Roger for more than 12 years. He truly made a positive and long-lasting impression on many of us here in the Dakotas, including myself.

Even though I knew this day would be coming, it is still hard for me personally to imagine that Roger will not be at our future events, sharing his thoughts and experiences with all of us. He will be missed, but his impact on the credit union movement here in the Dakotas will not be forgotten. (Photo right: Roger and Jeff at the Credit Union House in Washington, DC in 2019.) 

To my knowledge, no one person has contributed as much to the growth and expansion of the credit union movement here in the Dakotas as Roger Heacock. He certainly has been a positive influence on me and my personal growth in the movement, and I have learned a lot from listening and watching him over the last decade. He has been a mentor to many, including me. I hope you will check out our tribute article on Roger for a look back at his extraordinary career in today’s Memo.

Sometimes it is hard to express your gratitude, especially to someone who has had such a positive impact on your life and professional career. So, I will keep it at a heartfelt congratulations and thank you! I am looking forward to the day when we can properly thank you for all that you have done to advance the credit union difference. Best wishes to you and Chris on your retirement; be well and enjoy the forthcoming opportunities, my friend. God Bless!

Have a great week,  



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