Puerto Rican Credit Union CEO Says 'Pray For Us'
By Michael Ogden, Peter Strozniak September 26, 2017
"Pray for us." That was a statement shared with CU Times via email from WOCCU officials who have been in contact with one Puerto Rican credit union CEO.In an email exchange with Victor Miguel Corro, WOCCU's vice president of member services, he shared a correspondence with Luis Lopez, CEO of Abraham Rosa Cooperativa in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico which is roughly 10 miles west of San Juan.Since Hurricane Maria struck the island a week ago, communication has been extremely difficult since the entire electricity grid and communications infrastructure was destroyed. WOCCU, CUNA, NCUA and other credit union organizations have had very little luck getting in touch with credit union officials on the island. Only until now have we started to learn some of the details of the destruction. In the email exchange, Lopez gave many disturbing accounts of the day-to-day operations of the credit union since Hurricane Maria passed over the island. The following are bullet points taken directly from the email shared with CU Times:
- Several Credit Unions have been operating very limited hours, typically 8.30-12.00
- Abraham Rosa CU, for example, is handing $200/per day/member so they can take care of needs.
- Most CUs have no cash now. Hard for staff to get to them and lots of staff had losses in their homes.
- No ATMs are working, so no credit card/debit card transactions are going through
- He may be able to just open through tomorrow as they are running low on diesel fuel. Diesel is used to fire up the electricity generator for his branch, but gas/diesel is in very limited supply.
- There are no armored trucks to carry cash either and physical security is not guaranteed.
- There is no on-line ACH transactions. The only way they are clearing is through Banco Cooperativo, which is linked to the Fed and banking system. Luis’ employees take a USB drive and physically go to Banco Cooperativo for the clearing. It takes 2 hours to do this, so all clearing is behind by at least one day.
- Banks and other financial institutions are going through the same.
- There is a curfew from 9-6, so people basically sleep in the line they may happen to be (water, ice, gas).
- It’s desperate and it feels like it’s never going to get back to normal. He said, pray for us.