Troubled SF credit union fundraises to fix cash crisis

February 9, 2011 8:22:39 PM PST
A financially troubled San Francisco credit union is trying to stay afloat by doing something very unusual -- unheard of really. Mission S.F. has started a fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $200,000 and many in the community believe it is essential that this credit union survive.

Mission San Francisco Credit Union opened its doors in 1971. Roberto Hernandez is a board member who says the credit union approved small loans the big banks would never consider.

"And I'll never forget the elder woman who was 87 years old who came in here asking, in tears, for $93 so she could pay her PG&E bill so her PG&E wouldn't get cut off," said Hernandez.

However, the nation's economic downturn has hurt them and their capital reserves are low.

"What we really need is donations, it's not deposits, but donations that we could put straight into capital that would enable the credit union to continue as an independent financial institution," said Margaret Libby from Mission S.F.

Deposits are seen as liabilities.

The credit union needs to come up with $200,000 by March 15. The National Credit Union Administration oversees Mission S.F. In a statement, NCUA spokesperson John J. McKechnie III said, "The National Credit Union Administration is closely supervising the institution. It is open for business and member accounts are federally insured up to $250,000."

In the past, credit unions offered one or two types of loans, but Steve Buster of Mechanics Bank says credit unions have expanded.

"Since then credit unions have gotten enormous powers of lending for commercial [purposes], real estate, certain retail, they even go into agricultural lending under their new charters," said Buster.

Mission S.F. got into trouble when three real estate loans went bad. This local credit union is only one of two independent credit unions in California still serving the Latino community. The economy has forced a number of them to merge with other institutions.

"It's impacted some of the largest banks in the world, not even the largest banks in the country, and unfortunately, for credit unions of our size and financial institutions of our size we didn't have access to the kinds of bailouts that some of those extremely large financial institutions have had access to," said Libby.

They are hoping this community they have helped so often, will deliver.

Mission San Francisco Credit Union: 1 (415) 206-0846

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