Times of financial concern – Part 2 Northeast Community Credit Union addresses COVID-19 pandemic

Published 11:44 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2020

In Tuesday’s Elizabethton Star, Dale Fair, President, and CEO of Bank of Tennessee and divisions including Carter County Bank and Mountain Community Bank, responded to questions presented by the Elizabethton Star in regard to financial concerns around COVID-19.
In today’s Star, Teresa Arnold, President, and CEO of Northeast Community Credit Union, also responds to the questions as the Star seeks to help answer financial questions many have surrounding how local financial institutions are handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of Arnold’s responses is included in this article.
As a local financial institution, how are you making sure it is business as usual for your customers?
Communication has been our #1 priority to help keep things running smoothly – we’re trying to stay in constant contact with our members (our customers are referred to as ‘members’ since we’re a government-insured cooperative non-profit institution).
We already had all the convenience services in place to allow Northeast Community Credit Union members to do their transactions remotely and free of charge – either from home or on the go with our free mobile app.
What we’ve been focusing on is making sure everyone is aware of this. We’ve found many folks didn’t realize they could do literally all of their transactions and inquiries from the comfort of their homes.
The services we offer have become necessities rather than simply conveniences, and people are realizing how valuable our remote services truly are.
How is Northeast Community Credit Union protecting employees and administration against the COVID-19?   
Handling money isn’t a clean job but it’s a necessary one for us – having disposable gloves helps tremendously, as do many other safety measures we have in place.  
We have safety protocols for handling cash, and the bulk of our business is being done now through the drive-up windows. We’re sanitizing those drawer/tube canisters that transport cash and checks or paperwork through the windows before every transaction so that both our members and our staff are protected.
It’s turning into being a tough economic time with many losing their jobs. How is your institution handling customers who are having a hard time with mortgage and loan payments? 
We’ve already helped a lot of borrowers in this situation, and our credit union’s mission includes helping those who need it most.  
Allowing interest-only payments, making rate adjustments, skipping payments, financial counseling, budgeting assistance, financial education – these are all things we have in place to help those who are struggling. 
It’s very important for our borrowers to call on us before they miss their first payment – we have MANY more options for them now, as opposed to when someone has already gotten behind and is trying to catch up. 
We offer to do a completely free credit analysis so that we can help them manage the big picture, not just a single loan payment.
Is Northeast Community Credit Union doing any type of loans at this time or opening new accounts or is your institution just trying to take care of your current customer base? 
We’re doing both. We’re making loans by phone, through our website, and by email, and we’re opening accounts online, too.
We’ve maintained a full staff so far, which lets us take care of everyone’s needs without delay.  During business hours our phones are answered by actual employees, not machines, so we always have an answer available for our callers.
With business being conducted mainly through the drive-through tellers, lines are getting longer for customers at various times. Are you looking at potentially extending hours to accommodate those who are having a long wait time? 
We’ve already extended our window service some and our staff is actively out there among the cars helping to keep things moving smoothly at various times during the day. 
We meet people out at their vehicles upon request to process things and we often manage to handle a matter by acting as go-betweens for staff inside who are helping someone in line. 
Our drive-thru workers are working as quickly as they can and they’re processing a lot of transactions for a lot of people who perhaps haven’t discovered yet how fast and easy it is to do everything from home. 
These credit union workers are coming in to work every day to take care of you with a smile so we ask that you please remember to treat them kindly and with patience.
Are customers showing a lot of concern about the COVID-19 and how their money is going to be impacted? 
We’re not seeing too much of that. NCCU is highly ranked as one of the strongest and healthiest financial institutions in the entire United States. 
Deposits here are federally insured to at least $250,000 per depositor, so I’m sure folks know their deposits are safer here. We’ve had a few questions concerning interest rates, but so far we’ve managed to keep our loan rates low and our savings rates higher than most.  
With such strong capital and reserves, we’re in a great position to safely weather the economic uncertainty, and we’re anxious to help our members and the community do the same.
What would be your reassuring words to your customers during this pandemic? 
We want to encourage everyone to be grateful for what is good and focus on positive things. 
We are here with resources for our members and for the community. Our motto is “Always Here When You Need Us,” and we talk a lot about being here for one another in both challenging times and in good times.  
Our faith, hope, and love will serve us very well during this time of challenges and opportunities.
We have a compassionate and caring Volunteer Board of Directors that has served this community for more than 200 combined years and our credit union is totally devoted to helping everyone we can – call us at 547-1200 or go to BeMyCU.org to send us a message.
“Do not fear or be in dread…for He goes with you…” — we are confident that better days WILL soon return.
If the pandemic was to be an extended one, what are some concerns that you might have from the banking industry?
The nation’s credit unions are federally insured for the same amounts as FDIC banks and other insured financial institutions. Our government regulators hold us to the highest possible standards, and no credit union member has ever lost a cent as a result of a credit union “failing.”   
I’m truly not “concerned” about the industry as a whole. People used to talk about banks that were “too big to fail,” but we’ve seen some of the largest banks of all time fail in the last decade.  
Despite those failings, the industry itself has survived, and the government’s insurance funds remain healthy and strong today. With most credit unions, and particularly ours, having the strongest capital and reserve levels ever, we are prepared, ready, and able to work with folks and supply assistance to this community. 
It’s heartwarming to see so many in our area and in our country – credit unions and banks, big retailers and small businesses, healthcare workers and hospitals, non-profits and profit managers – coming together to help those in need.  
If the pandemic was to be an extended one, I feel our industry has the resources and the firm foundation to weather it.  That’s really good news for the people around us who need our help, and even better news for the people of Carter, Washington, Sullivan, Johnson, and Unicoi counties who we’re privileged to be serving.  
We’re here and we’re ready, so call us at (423) 547-1200, or learn more about what we can do for you online at www.BeMyCU.org. With this credit union’s primary focus on serving the underserved and providing low-cost options for everyone, strong institutions such as ours have opportunities to shine even brighter during challenging times.
I’m optimistic about what lies ahead, not just for our industry, but for our nation.  A shift in our country’s priorities could be a positive thing if it’s a shift to thoughts and deeds that are compassionate, kind, generous. loving, and righteous. 
At Northeast Community Credit Union, we’re strong, we’re able, and most of all, we sincerely care most about people and small businesses in the communities we serve.  We’re helping so many – we want to help you, too.

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