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Hurricanes devastate credit unions across US

Credit unions and affiliated organizations in the United States were roiled by a series of hurricanes that swept the Caribbean, Texas, Florida, other areas of the mainland and Puerto Rico this past summer.

After gathering strength and fury as a tropical storm while moving west over the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea towards the US, Hurricane Harvey set down in Texas on Aug. 25, causing catastrophic flooding as it moved into Houston then storming into Louisiana. Clean up was ongoing weeks later and Energy Capital Credit Union saw fit to provide employees with childcare services and free lunches during the massive recovery efforts, the Credit Union Times reported. Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys Sept. 10, causing virtually all of Florida’s 136 credit unions to remain closed the following day, reported the Credit Union Times. But credit unions rose to the challenge. Keys Federal Credit Union, for example, waived fees for ATMs, late loan payments, overdrafts and other services for its members.

Puerto Rico, a US commonwealth that is home to 16 credit unions, was slammed by Hurricane Maria
on Sept. 19, devastating the island’s infrastructure, killing dozens and causing food, water and gasoline shortages as well as power outages across the country. Wisconsin-based CUNA Mutual Group activated its Customer Disaster Response Team and Enterprise Crisis team, working with other organizations to help supply water, food, alternate power, shelter and other resources for desperate Puerto Ricans, the Credit Union Journal reported.

The hurricanes have caused soul-searching in the US credit union system about the adequacy of emergency planning. While flooding is devastating, what really stymies recovery is the lack of a generator to power the branches. The storms revealed a lack of modern data backup as well as a lack of effective emergency planning, reported the Credit Union Times. ◊