BETHPAGE, N.Y. – In what is probably the biggest initiative of its kind by a credit union, Bethpage FCU is deferring loan payments, cutting rates and offering the same benefits to members and non-members alike as a part of a comprehensive relief program for one of Hurricane Sandy’s hardest-hit areas.

“We’re reaching out to the entire community,” Michele Dean, senior vice president for lending at the $4.5-billion credit union, told Credit Union Journal yesterday. She pointed out that last year’s Hurricane Irene and its broad destruction helped Bethpage FCU develop the response to this year’s disaster.

Thousands of homes were damaged last week and many more residents were displaced throughout the peninsula that juts off the mainland into the Atlantic Ocean. Flooding and wind damage was rampant, and thousands of cars were destroyed by last week’s massive storm.

Among the assistance announced yesterday by the credit union:
• Storm Emergency Cash Advance Loan, a 6% unsecured loan (400 bps lower than the regular rate) up to $25,000 with fixed rates, and three-month payment deferrals;
• Storm Emergency REHAB HELOC for repairs to primary residence located in federally declared disaster area with three-month payment deferral;
• Storm Emergency HELOC,  a conventional 3.99% home equity line of credit that is interest free for six months, with an adjustable rate thereafter, for new applications only;
• 1.99% Storm Emergency Auto Loan for new and used autos, with three-month payment deferral.

The loans are geared for residents who need immediate funding to repair their homes, while they wait for insurance payments, to buy or repair vehicles, or to pay for short-term relief such as food, hotels or heating, according to Dean.

The special loans are available to non-member residents of Long Island, all of whom are eligible for Bethpage membership, which covers all of Long Island. “This is all to help our members and our community,” she said.

The credit union giant has pledged $75,000 in contributions to the local United Way and Red Cross and has been paying for two weeks of hotel stays for 20 of its 500 employees displaced by the storm.


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