(September 15, 2005, New York, NY) In response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions has established the Community Development Relief and Rebuilding Fund. Donations will be used to help community development credit unions (CDCUs) in desperate need to keep operating so they can continue to serve their members and rebuild their communities.
Nearly two weeks after the disaster, several Federation member credit unions are still unaccounted for. One of the Federation’s largest CDCUs, ASI Federal Credit Union, which serves more than 75,000 members, evacuated all if its branches in New Orleans and set up operations in Baton Rouge.
In a letter to NCUA Board Members Joanne Johnson and Deborah Matz, Audrey Cerise, President and CEO of ASI FCU, described the impact that Katrina has had on her credit union.
“All but twelve of our 250 employees have been displaced by the hurricane,” Cerise said. “We have not yet heard from all of our staff members and we fear for their safety. Even for those employees that are safe, it is virtually impossible to find housing.”
In the aftermath of Katrina, the heaviest price has been paid by those who could least afford it. Most of the people served by community development credit unions are poor and many have disabilities.
“Half of our members do not qualify for checking accounts [and] at least one in four lives below the Federal Level of Poverty,” said Cerise. “Our members are the ones left behind when the city was evacuated.”
She closed with an urgent appeal. “Please continue to keep the credit unions affected by this terrible national tragedy in your thoughts,” said Cerise. “We need your help.”
The Federation believes a sustained effort will be needed to help CDCUs affected by Katrina, so as part of the Community Development Relief & Rebuilding Fund the Federation has also committed to waive any interest fees on its investments in the affected credit unions.
“We cannot calculate the scope of the tragedy yet, but we do know that the devastation of people’s lives will be long-term, lasting far beyond the immediate needs of food, water, and temporary shelter,” said Federation Board Chair Rita L. Haynes. “What we do know, is that many credit union members will be without homes, without jobs, and without financial means of any sort.”
None of the contributions to the Community Development Relief and Rebuilding Fund will be used for administrative or other expenses of the Federation.