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Amid historic flooding, Nebraska CUs brace for more bad news

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Credit unions in Nebraska are bracing for the fallout from flooding described by Governor Pete Rickets as “the most widespread natural disaster we’ve ever had in our state’s history.”

According to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, 95 cities, 79 counties and four tribal areas had declared states of emergency as of Thursday. President Trump on Thursday also approved federal disaster assistance for the state.

The flooding is believed to have caused well over $1 billion in damages, including $439 million in infrastructure damage, $400 million in cow and calf losses, and $440 million in crop losses. In addition, according to state estimates, more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed and 200 miles of state roads have been damaged. In neighboring Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds has also issued disaster proclamations for 43 counties impacted by the flooding.

Among the credit unions weighing damages are Archer Cooperative CU in Central City Nebraska, which has closed its branch in Dannebrog for the time being.

“As soon as the waters recede, we will assess the damage and begin the clean-up efforts,” Archer CU said on its website.

According to Tyson Benner, a branch manager at the $69 million-asset institution, as much as 90 percent of the city has been damaged. In Archer, about 30 miles away, “about one-quarter to one-third of the town’s residences have been affected by the flood,” he said.

The credit union, which serves a rural area and issued nearly $18 million in agricultural loans last year – a 4 percent increase over 2017 – is bracing for more bad news.

Benner said that while it’s too early to assess how the flooding may impact members – particularly those who own and operate local farms – he expects to see financial losses arising from the death of livestock, delays in planting and structural damages. In addition, there will be a delay in farmers receiving income “from not being able to deliver grains to market due to the rail transportation being shut down, in addition to damage to highways and bridge systems.”

While $61 million-asset Columbus United FCU of Columbus, Neb. wasn’t impacted directly, many members and staff have been, said SVP Peg Niedbalski. And the flooding has raised concerns regarding disaster preparedness.

According to Niedbalski, the floods were “historic weather/flood event” that no one anticipated the magnitude of. The area “routinely deals with the spring thaw and has experienced flooding, but nothing to this extent,” she said in an email. Residents with homes in low-lying areas had some warning, she said, but “nothing to indicate the ‘perfect storm’ that hit our state.”

The Columbus area hasn’t been hit with a major flood since 1993, she said.

“No one expected the flooding to get as bad as it did, and as a result, people were ill-prepared,” Niedbalski added.

Among other credit unions in the area to be impacted by damage is Council Bluffs, Iowa-based Cobalt CU, which has a branch on Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. According to the Nebraska Credit Union League, the base has sustained some flood damages.

Waterloo, Iowa-based Veridian CU, a $4.1 billion-asset institution with branches in both states, has not experienced any damages to its facilities yet, but nevertheless is making disaster assistance loans available to members impacted by the flooding.

Robin Caddel, director of communications at the Iowa Credit Union League, told CU Journal that she had not heard of any credit unions in the state incurring damage at their branches.

The National Credit Union Foundation has partnered with the Nebraska league to offer assistance through CUAid for credit union employees affected by the floods. In addition, the National Credit Union Administration said it is “monitoring the situation in the flooded states closely and stands ready to assist credit unions with maintaining or restoring operations, if necessary.”

Dan Poppe, president and CEO of Archer CU, offered this assessment of the situation: “I know the location will pull through,” he said in an email to CU Journal, “but recovery will take a long time.”

This story was updated at 9:33 a.m. on March 22.

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