Town Hall: Federal Update and Why Financial Well-Being Along with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Should Remain Priorities for CUs

The MD|DC Credit Union Association on Tuesday hosted the fifth in an ongoing series of Virtual Town Halls to support credit unions and help find solutions to COVID-19 related issues.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8) joined the discussion and provided an update on the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) which was passed by the House but is unlikely to be approved by the Senate. Raskin said he is hopeful that states and local governments, along with first responders and essential workers, will receive the support they need. He said he does not foresee large scale layoffs or furloughs of federal workers and would like to see the Americans now out of work employed as contact tracers as part of a national public health corps. Raskin thanked credit unions for helping people get through what he described as a “really extraordinary moment.”

Building on that sentiment, Gigi Hyland, Executive Director of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), stressed that as credit unions move forward, members’ financial well-being should drive decision-making. She said that means credit unions should be prepared to make adjustments and be responsive to where members are in their lives, which may be a very different place than they were just a few months ago.

Hyland said a national poll conducted last month by Morning Consult revealed the staggering impact of COVID-19. The results showed that 20 percent of adults in the United States have been fired or furloughed and 52 percent of adults reported that their gross income had been impacted somehow by the pandemic.

While the economy was experiencing a boom prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Hyland said many households were already financially vulnerable. In 2017, the NCUF granted funds to six diverse credit unions for financial health check-ups. 28,000 members participated with the results revealing that 58 percent of members were struggling financially and only about a quarter of members were highly satisfied with their financial situation.

Moving forward, Hyland suggested that credit unions consider these key principles in responding to members:
• Leveraging Empathy to help employees and members get through this crisis and beyond.
• Really know and understand your members’ financial pain points and meet them where they are in their lives.
• Double down on placing your members and employees financial well-being at the center of your strategies.

Hyland encouraged credit unions to meet the moment, “You are the place where they have access to the products and services and counseling that they need to achieve whatever financial dream they have for their lives.”

During this time of crisis, Angela Russell, Vice President Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, CUNA Mutual Group urged credit unions to fully lean into diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Russell said COVID-19 is impacting populations differently, highlighting economic and health disparities and that understanding this is key to determining what the credit union workforce, members and communities need right now.

Russell said that while it may be tempting to let DEI efforts fall by the wayside during a time of crisis, it is exactly when it’s needed most. She encouraged leaders to offer employees the opportunity to share their stories about how the coronavirus is impacting them, their families and their communities. Russell said it is crucial for leaders to be empathetic, to connect at a human level and to be intentional about sharing their own experiences. Collectively, these stories Russell said, should influence credit union policies and practices moving forward.

According to Russell, these are the important questions to consider:

• What are you doing to keep DEI going at your organization?
• What are you doing to continue to understand and embrace difference?
• How is COVID-19 impacting your members, workforce and community?
• How are you telling your story, and what are you learning from your members’ stories?

Russell said by embracing the core values of the movement and with a continued commitment to DEI, credit unions will come out of this crisis stronger.

You can view the town hall recording here or download the slide deck here

The next town hall is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2. Registration will be available soon.