Irma Recovery: Some Florida CUs Back in Business
At least 35 Florida credit unions reopened on Tuesday and about 10 more plan to be back in business on Wednesday, according to the League of Southeastern Credit Unions.
A list on LSCU’s website shows five credit unions are still closed because of power outages. Most likely, however, there were more credit unions that had to keep their doors shut because of widespread power outages, flooding issues or other damages from Hurricane Irma.
Other credit unions reported some of their branches were open and some would remain closed until assessments could be completed.
Laura Richard, SVP for Space Coast Credit Union in Melbourne, said 31 of the credit union’s 58 branches will reopen on Wednesday under regular business hours and with full staffs. The credit union’s call centers will also reopen Wednesday at 8 a.m.
“We have strategically placed branches in each of our markets with generators but most of those locations have power,” Richard said. “We did have generators running for the past couple of days so that our ATMs would work and we had plenty of fuel.”
The remaining 27 branches are closed primarily because of power outages or water concerns.
“Our primary concern is for the safety or our members and our employees, because there are widespread traffic lights that are out and there is some standing water in some of the locations, so we don’t want people trying to get out on the road and jeopardize their safety,” Richard said.
All of Space Coast’s 835 employees have been accounted for, but some employees who evacuated their homes before the hurricane hit are still trying to make their way back home. The credit union serves more than 371,000 members.
“I feel like we were really prepared and the management team was in contact daily, if not multiple times a day, checking in with people, taking it one step at a time and not getting ahead of ourselves,” she said.
The Jacksonville-based Jax Metro Credit Union reported all branches are open with the exception of its JEA downtown office tower location. Hurricane Irma dumped five feet of water on Jacksonville Monday, breaking the previous record of four feet set by Hurricane Dora in 1964. Jackson County Teachers Credit Union also reported it is open for business, though it has no internet access.
Florida Power & Light said Tuesday all customers on the eastern side of the state will have their power restored by this weekend.
For a few credit unions, however, it is uncertain when they will be able to restore operations.
Three credit unions in Key West – Monroe County Teachers Federal Credit Union, Keys Federal Credit Union and Southernmost Federal Credit Union – closed their shops last Wednesday and could be shut down for quite some time.
Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys on Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 130 mph and surging seawater that flooded streets, leaving behind extensive destruction. On Tuesday, however, emergency management officials opened re-entry into the Keys for residents and business owners in Key Largo. And Key West International Airport, Florida Keys Marathon Airport and Naval Air Station Key West became operational on Tuesday afternoon, but only for emergency response flights. The airports already have begun to receive emergency supplies and other emergency resources for residents, according to emergency management officials.
Monroe County Teachers and Southernmost said they will be closed “until further notice,” while Keys’ Facebook post struck a tone of positive determination to reopen, though it didn’t say when it could.
“Everyone at Keys Federal Credit Union is thankful that our members are safe. Hurricane Irma hit our community hard,” it read. “We are wounded but we will come back stronger and closer than ever. Rest assured that we are working to reopen and begin servicing your accounts. Currently we are waiving fees for ATMs, late loan payments, overdrafts and other services. We will also offer loan skip payments. Once we reopen, we will work with you to find a solution that meets your needs. We love the Keys community and are here to serve you. Please check www.KeysFCU.org for updates on openings and services. Thank you for your patience.”
On Tuesday morning, the LSCU disaster recovery team held a conference call to coordinate next steps in reaching out to our members impacted by Hurricane Irma.
The league is contacting all of the credit unions that were in the path of the storm. Because power and cell service is limited throughout the state, this may take a few days. As status updates are received on credit union openings and closures, the league’s website will be updated.
“As Florida continues to recover, our first priority at the LSCU is to ensure that our staff and credit unions receive the assistance they need at this time,” LSCU President/CEO Patrick La Pine said. “We want to help provide relief for immediate needs as we learn more about how each of our credit unions was affected.”
The League is ready to provide resources, and the credit union community has already begun reaching out to the Southeastern Credit Union Foundation with monetary donations to help those who were affected by the hurricane.