I like to think of a new year as another chance for success, a chance to build on what we have achieved, but also to lay the foundation for what we hope to achieve in the future.
The start of 2022 has seen an economy still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and its effects, but gradually returning to something resembling normal.
Thousands of credit union leaders planned to come to Washington, DC in 2022 CUNA Government Affairs Conference (GAC) to capitalize on the power of our people together.
CUNA GAC is when we can meet our legislators face to face and tell them what we have done – and what we can do – for their constituents, our members.
Look at our biggest advocacy issue last year. We removed expanded IRS reporting requirements from the Build Back Better legislation.
Hundreds of thousands of credit union voices told policymakers exactly why this proposal would hurt financial inclusion, and it made a difference.
Congressional leaders heard of credit union members who would close their accounts because of the proposal. Opinion pieces and letters have been published in community publications about the harm this proposal would have.
These stories are hard to ignore, and that’s why we can make a difference. No lawmaker wants to vote for their constituents to close their bank accounts and start stuffing money under their mattresses.
These stories painted a startling picture, which has become impossible for the majority of Congress to ignore.
This year we have refined our focus to ensure that our advocacy program gets to the heart of what members need most.
Like everything we do, it’s a collaboration. We are spending months engaging with leagues, credit unions and policy makers to establish a program that reflects the spirit of the moment we find ourselves in, but also has a chance to move forward:
Expand and protect the powers and capabilities of credit unions to ensure that consumers and small businesses can more easily access credit union services.
A year of midterm elections means we will be competing for every moment and attention of members of Congress.
Reduce regulatory burden so credit unions can devote time and resources to efficient service delivery.
Protect our relevance for those who rely on our experience and trust the credit union difference.
These priorities aren’t about improving the bottom line or the price of a stock, they’re about improving people’s lives.
There are already far too many barriers in place for consumers. This is evident with the financial deserts and underbanked communities we see today. It is a status quo that will not suffice.
Imagine if, instead of a financial wasteland, the community had a credit union acting in the best interest of its members, only interested in making sure consumers get the services they need.
Imagine telling your elected officials the exact neighborhoods that would receive safe and affordable services under a modernized federal credit union law.
Again, this becomes a vivid image that is hard to ignore and even harder to vote against.
This is how we will make our voices heard in 2022. A year of midterm elections means we will be competing for every moment and every attention of members of Congress.
We also have our work cut out for us in the regulatory area. President Joe Biden set up his NCUA, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Housing Finance Agency and Ginnie Mae leaders, among others.
These regulators now have their bearings and will seek to put their mark on the policies emanating from their agencies.
It is up to us not only to find, but to highlight the many ways in which their mission intersects with ours.
We share a goal of financial inclusion. It’s our job to show them that credit unions are a crucial part of their goals, and their policies should reflect that.
JIM NUSSLE is Chairman and CEO of National Association of Credit Unions.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.