BIRMINGHAM, Ala./TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—The aftermath of Hurricane Irma continues to take its toll on credit unions this week after the storm devastated much of Florida with flooding and extended power outages.
More than two million residents are still without power and many without water. The most extensive damage occurred in south Florida with the hardest hit to the Keys. Monroe County News reported yesterday that the Key West airport would not begin commercial service until it has power and water. At this time, damage to the three credit unions operating in this area is still uncertain, the League of Southeastern CUs reported.
LSCU said it continues to reach out daily to impacted credit unions, updating current conditions online and assessing needs. To provide status updates to the LSCU, click here and email to CUStatus@lscu.coop. The Southeastern Credit Union Foundation and the LSCU are coordinating efforts with multiple partners to provide communication and relief efforts to Florida credit unions. Donations may be made through the SECUF (http://www.lscu.coop/foundation/disaster-relief/), CUAid (http://www.cuaid.coop/site/PageServer) or email Jared.Ross@lscu.coop.
The greatest challenge for the majority of Florida’s credit unions has been power outages at both branches and employees’ homes, the league stated.
“We have been helping our employees nightly with bringing hot meals for them as many don't have power still,” said GTE Financial Credit Union President/CEO Brian Best. “Today, 162 employees do not have power. We continue to feed them and provide resources to make sure that they feel safe and respected at GTE.”
Best said his home is currently without power and water, as are many credit union leaders throughout the state. To boost morale for credit union employees working to serve members despite adverse conditions, many leaders are also providing such amenities as hotel rooms for staff to take hot showers, LSCU said.
Credit unions that are open for business with power, Internet service, and other resources have reached out to the credit union community to help with recovery efforts.
“We see the true cooperative spirit and resiliency of credit unions at work during this time,” said LSCU’s President/CEO Patrick La Pine. “Despite still having some challenges themselves, the leaders and staff of the credit unions that are operational are extending offers of assistance to their members and their fellow credit unions. Seeing this generosity in action reinforces our sense of pride in being part of the credit union movement.”
The tremendous amount of traffic throughout the state has caused shortages of cash in some areas and employees at some branches are using their personal cell phones as hot spots to help with transactions in areas with no internet service, LSCU said. Generators have kept many branches open, focusing on the most necessary services for members. Other issues reported include roof leaks, burned out ATMs, computer problems, structural damage to branches, and flooding causing road closures in some areas. Some credit unions have been unable to reach staff and are making trips to check on their status.
Shared branching locations offered some relief to credit unions, allowing those affected by the storms to continue delivering services to members.
“While shared branching is extremely convenient to members for routine access to their credit union, members in hard hit areas of Florida are realizing the benefit shared branching offers during times of disaster,” said La Pine. “The network also benefits members who are displaced or needing to travel during this difficult time. We were pleased to see so many credit unions alerting their members to shared branching locations to enable them to access their funds.”
In Ocala, Fla., Ocala Community CU reported that it is offering a special Skip-A-Payment program for all of its members, and is waiving the fee associated with the program.
Turning to issues in Houston from Hurricane Harvey, the Houston Chapter of Credit Unions board of directors approved a donation to the Cornerstone Foundation in the amount of $25,000 to support those in the credit union community affected by Harvey. Craig Atkinson, President of the Houston Chapter and CEO of Houston Highway Credit Union said, “Our hearts go out to those within our credit union community, their staff, family members, and credit union members who have suffered so much from the recent storm. Helping our credit union brothers and sisters during this time is truly people helping people”.