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Fred R. Becker, Jr.

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It's Time to Expand Credit Unions' Member Business Lending: If Not Now, When?

Posted: 03/15/2012 5:34 pm

Today, Congress is still reviewing how to help create jobs and jumpstart the nation's fragile economic recovery.

The nation's credit unions and their nearly 94 million members want to know: If not now, then when will the Congress get serious about real efforts to create jobs and improve access to credit for America's Main Street businesses? The bipartisan Small Business Lending Enhancement Act remains the best untried option to help our nation's main-street businesses create jobs and it's incomprehensible that Congress may act on yet another "jobs" bill without considering this legislation.

Recently, legislation was put forward by Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in the Senate (S. 509) and Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) in the House (H.R. 1418) that would raise the arbitrary member business lending cap credit unions currently face. Restricting credit unions on the amount of business lending they can facilitate is counterproductive to job creation and should be addressed immediately. he Treasury Department and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) have signed-off on this common sense proposal that would create jobs without spending a single dime of taxpayer funds. This legislation could spur over $13 billion in new lending and create over 140,000 new jobs in the first year alone at no cost to taxpayers.

Raising the credit union member business lending cap is a win-win for credit unions, small business and our nation's economy. Throughout our nation's financial crisis, credit unions have continued to be one of Main Street's most reliable financial resources. In fact, 2011 data underscores the value of credit unions in today's financial landscape. Credit union membership growth more than doubled from 2010. Lending also continued to grow, with total loans increasing 1.2 percent to $571.5 billion from $564.7 billion in 2010. Specifically, business lending rose by 5.2 percent over the previous year. Credit unions would like to do more but they are hamstrung by this arbitrary lending cap.

Lifting the member business lending cap should be coupled with any other job creation efforts considered in Congress. Anything less represents another missed opportunity to maximize the availability of credit to American small businesses and help our economy recover. Just as our economy is beginning to show signs of an upswing and the stock market is on a rally, it behooves Congress to consider this no-cost option.

If not now, then when?