A Message from Todd Mason About the Importance of Being at the Table

Together in our People Helping People industry, we celebrate accomplishments as members of the collective credit union community. We also work together to overcome challenges when they are presented. But all of our actions start by being present, working hard to make a difference, and having a seat at the table.

In that light, I offer congratulations to Community Credit Union’s Kayleigh Ogden for winning this year’s Diane Oceretko People Helping People Award. Kayleigh’s work with her community and immigrants specifically is inspiring. Her efforts exemplify the social mission of credit unions and we thank her for them.

Also, thank you all for your help in raising over $227,000 for the Maine Credit Unions’ Ending Hunger $100,000 Challenge. With contributions coming from 317 individuals, 33 credit unions, and 24 partners/businesses, the Campaign shows the strength of our collective superpowers. Importantly, it also bolsters our ability to help Mainers facing food insecurity in all areas of the state.

What these two moments of celebration have in common is they are both examples of credit unions rising to the challenge to meet the needs of our members, our communities, and our state. As current economic trends and the recent report from Governor Mills’ Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) reflect, even more challenges are looming and we have to be on the ready to address them.

One of the more interesting data points I have seen recently is from Opportunity Insights, which has near daily updates down to the state and local levels. It indicates that spending as of July 8 compared to January 2020 has reduced by 8.1% among high-income earners versus low-income earners with an uptick of 8.3%. Among high earners, those reductions come mostly from less spending at local businesses that require in-person interactions. While their spending has improved since the stay-at-home order was lifted at the end of May, it remains down and likely will continue out of COVID-19 health concerns. As a result, Maine’s small businesses and their employees will continue to be disproportionally negatively impacted. As stimulus and unemployment runs out for low-income earners, their spending can be expected to drop again.

Pair that with the ERC report mentioned above. One of the recommendations (see page 17) calls for $300M in grants and other relief programs to be “administered largely through Maine’s Banks, Credit Unions, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) for businesses.” As an aside, credit unions being named as a potential resource in the report versus just banks is a big advocacy win. Picking up on a past saying, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the table—and we are definitely at the table as the leaders in the state. Assuming even just a portion of the recommendation is approved, we will have the opportunity to be part of recovery efforts and help meet the challenges of Mainers.

Over the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor the efforts of the ERC and further review its report. It is far reaching, covering issues ranging from broadband internet access to childcare. Not all of it is relevant to credit unions, but much is with the impact you make on the communities you serve. As more of it solidifies and portions are approved, we will seek your input on where credit unions could get involved and on implementation specifics. In the meantime, I encourage you to read the report and share any insights or ideas you glean from it with me. Also, as we monitor the impact of COVID-19 and try to read the tea leaves together, please share any resources you find of interest.