2024 Governmental Affairs Conference- Washington, D.C. Testimonial

Attending the 2024 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, DC was the professional highlight of my year, thus far. As employees of local credit unions, we are the cornerstone of a strong economy – one that is accessible to everyone. We help make our members’ financial dreams possible, and we continue to champion for our members through local & national advocacy on an ongoing basis. Having the chance to listen to this year’s keynote speakers and network with other credit union professionals & government officials allowed me the opportunity to learn so much more about the work that credit unions do behind the scenes. We elevate credit union priorities, all while advocating for our members and communities every single day. One of the biggest takeaways from my involvement in the 2024 GAC was learning about the CFPB’s final rule on “junk fees.” The CFPB has recently imposed a final role for financial institutions that would cap overdraft and credit card late payment fees to a maximum of $8.00. What I learned is that the CFPB’s definition of these “junk fees” is quite misleading – and it is an overall rule or “advisory” that would affect both commercial banks and community credit unions. The fact of the matter is – when it comes to overdraft fees especially – there are always unintended consequences for every action. Let’s say a member writes a check for their mortgage or auto loan – and in the meantime before that check clears through their account, multiple other authorizations clear their account. Now they have an insufficient balance to cover the initial check written. Which scenario makes more sense? A) that check bounces, which would most likely cause a slew of fees including a returned item fee, an NSF fee in the account holder’s name, and then potentially a late fee and or returned item fee on the lender’s side. Or B) that item is covered, a one-time fee of an overdraft fee is charged – and it avoids the other unintended consequences of that action. During our Hill Hikes in Washington this year, we spoke with several government officials from Connecticut, and advocated for the CFPB to establish right-sized rules, and to differentiate the safe & affordable fees charged by depository institutions. The other side of this same initiative is the fact that credit unions are owned by their members – there are no shareholders and “investors” – so if the fees are lessened so drastically, that revenue would have to be made up elsewhere. Most likely, this loss of revenue would have to be made up through higher interest rates available to our members. A bill passed affecting all depository institutions does not seem to be uniform and fair – credit unions operate much differently than commercial and retail depository institutions. Speaking with other credit union professionals and hearing the opinions of others on this final “blanket” rule proposed by the CFPB, I began to understand how important it is that we advocate for our members’ and our credit unions’ best interests.

Listening to keynote speakers and individuals like actor and humanitarian, Gary Sinise, was riveting from day to day. Aligning with the credit union difference and promise of “people helping people,” Gary Sinise is absolutely someone who embodied that spirit and those very principles in his everyday life. Through his non-profit foundation, Sinise is very involved and

committed to improving the lives of wounded veterans and supporting their families. It was incredibly inspiring to hear Gary Sinise speak about his involvement in the lives of these veterans, and how much it meant to him to be on the frontlines giving back to the communities that he cares about so deeply.

Another profound general session that I had the pleasure of attending was the conversation between Jim Nussle – the CEO of America’s Credit Unions – and the President & CEO of TruStage, Terrence Williams. The two gentlemen were discussing the major importance of advocacy within the credit union world, and how we might see things evolve over the next several years. When Terrence was asked to voice his opinions on why advocacy is critical to an industry such as ours, he responded by saying “It’s about access. It’s about assuring elected officials recognize that there can be unintended consequences when legislation is passed.” He was stating that without proper education and understanding of the industry as a whole, legislation can be passed that has a larger impact than realized, especially on those people that we focus on assisting day in and day out: our members! This loops into another huge topic of advocacy that we were discussing with legislators during our Hill Hikes: maintaining tax exempt status for credit unions. Credit Unions are integral for our communities, and we put our members first always. Preserving the credit union tax status is paramount to ensuring we can continue to focus helping our communities, improving financial futures, and propping up the economy as much as possible.

By: Jackson O. Stonier

Dutch Point Credit Union