Virtual Town Hall Panel Includes Senator Van Hollen, State & Federal Regulators

As credit unions continue to face unprecedented regulatory, legal and workplace challenges, the MD|DC Credit Union Association and the Suburban Chapter, hosted a virtual town hall Tuesday to provide support and solutions.

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Over 200 credit union executives participated. Association President and CEO John Bratsakis said, “Working together we convened the virtual town hall to help credit unions develop solutions and to provide a sense of community as they navigate the uncertainty and rapidly reshaping pandemic response.”

Federal Update
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen led off with an update from Capitol Hill. Senator Van Hollen expressed his gratitude for the work credit unions are doing to help members experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

With the Senate set to vote today on phase three of the federal economic stimulus package, Senator Van Hollen said the bill includes key provisions giving credit unions parity with banks – a move heavily advocated for by the Association in a letter sent to Maryland's senators earlier this week. The bill delays compliance with CECL accounting standards through the end of the year or the end of the crisis; grants the NCUA temporary authority to guarantee business accounts; and provides temporary relief from troubled debt restructurings.

Senator Van Hollen described the approach Congress is taking on the $2 trillion economic stimulus package as helping businesses to “weather the storm” by deferring debt and providing forgivable small business loans to be spent on payroll and to cover fixed costs.

Regulatory Update
NCUA Eastern Region, Regional Director John Kutchey said the agency is giving credit unions significant latitude to determine how to help members through assistance programs that may include waiving fees, eliminating interest and deferring payments. He referred credit unions to recently released interagency guidance stating that short-term loan modifications, made in response to COVID-19 for members who were in good standing prior to the pandemic, will not be classified as troubled debt restructuring.

Operationally, NCUA examiners will be working off site through at least mid-April, with virtual examinations kicking off soon. The agency recognizes that credit unions are dealing with a lot of unknowns and will continue to remain flexible. For the latest guidance from the NCUA, visit the agency’s COVID-19 resource page.

HR & Workplace Guidance
Kaufman & Canoles attorney John Bredehoft has been working with credit unions to provide guidance on increasingly complex human resources issues, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law last week, takes effect next week and has two employment-related provisions.

The first is an entirely new law, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act that guarantees up to two weeks of paid sick leave for certain U.S. workers affected by COVID-19. The second provision amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and permits 12 weeks of leave to care for a minor child whose school or daycare is unavailable due to a health emergency. For more in-depth details click here.

While Bredehoft has been responding to a variety of questions about what employers can and cannot say to employees, he says the guiding principle for credit unions is compliance with OSHA’s General Duty Clause Guidance on COVID-19 which states: “Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, customers, visitors, and others at a worksite.” Meaning, Bredehoft says, employers are allowed to take an employee’s temperature, send a sick employee home or ask returning travelers to stay home --but employers should not ask an employee about underlying health conditions.

Credit unions have been deemed "essential services." As such employees may need a letter to certify that they are employed by a credit union when traveling to work. Kaufman & Canoles drafted a Certification of Essential Services template that is customizable for credit unions in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and Maryland. You can download the document here

Risk Management
With so many employees transitioning to working remotely in the past week, CUNA Mutual Group shared best practices on managing risk while maintaining workflow and productivity. Among the recommendations: identify minimum standards of security to ensure member and credit union information is secure; avoid Fair Labor Standards Act violations by monitoring and tracking employee hours worked, particularly non-exempt and hourly workers; and provide clear and consistent communication to ensure employees can and do stay on task remotely. CUNA Mutual Group's coronavirus resource page can be viewed here.

Slides from the virtual town hall are posted on the MD|DC Credit Union Association's COVID-19 resource page which is updated daily, as is its guide for consumers with information on all credit unions serving members in Maryland and the Washington Metro area.