Week ahead: Credit unions on watch as lawmakers wrap more COVID relief

The House and Senate this week could put the finishing touches on new COVID-relief legislation that may have a big impact on credit unions.

The bill, which has largely advanced along party lines, will provide many Americans with checks worth up to $1,400. With most consumers holding on to previous economic impact payments from the government, there is little reason to expect behaviors this time around would be different, and that’s likely to further increase deposit volumes at credit unions.

New data from the National Credit Union Administration shows deposits at federally insured credit unions were up nearly 20% in 2020 amid slowdowns in lending and membership growth and reduced earnings. With a slowdown in mortgage refinancing likely sometime in the coming months, the industry will likely be under even more pressure to channel those deposits into growth opportunities.

Credit unions are also beginning to have a clearer picture of what work might be like once the pandemic ends. Many in the industry expect to move to a hybrid work model once COVID wanes, with employees alternating between the office and remote work. That was one of the major takeaways form last week’s online Governmental Affairs Conference from the Credit Union National Association, which also included remarks from all three NCUA board members. While NCUA Chairman Todd Harper called for new programs at the agency related to consumer protection, Vice Chairman Kyle Hauptman and others in the industry pushed back against that in remarks of their own during the conference. Hauptman and board member Rodney Hood also both called for the agency to improve the chartering process to find ways to make it easier to start new credit unions.

This week is also the deadline for credit unions to submit comments to the NCUA regarding a request for information on how the agency can increase transparency and improve communication.

Outside of COVID-relief legislation, lawmakers this week will consider a variety of issues important to credit unions. Among them, he House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing on the next steps for the Paycheck Protection Program, the House Financial Services Committee will examine racial equity through the lens of fair access to housing and financial services, and the Senate will continue its consideration of Rohit Chopra’s nomination to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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