The ongoing COVID crisis is chaotic and unpredictable, leaving many feeling stressed, lost, and worried about their futures. But the crisis has also emphasized the role credit unions play in their communities— credit unions are known for their commitment to passionately serve their members during all phases of life, and especially during times of crisis. SESLOC Federal Credit Union has seen its membership safely through historic crises since 1942.
We’re In This Together
Food Bank Fundraiser
For the month of May, SESLOC is partnering with the SLO Food Bank and the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County to host a fundraiser. Even before the crisis, 1 in 6 people in San Luis Obispo County and 1 in 4 in Santa Barbara County struggle with food insecurity—many are children and seniors. With skyrocketing unemployment and schools shifting to online classes, our local food banks are helping more people than ever get access to wholesome nutrition. The Food Banks have partnerships that allow them to turn $1 into 8 meals, which means donations go a long way in feeding the community. In the first two weeks, the donations totaled over $15,000 with two weeks of collecting left. The SESLOC HQ location on Broad and Industrial will serve as a drop-off location for donations to the Food Banks on Hunger Awareness Day on Friday, June 5 between 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Promotion to Support Local Restaurants
As fewer members visit the branches and local events are canceled, SESLOC is leveraging social media to connect with the community. The credit union launched a “Friday Freebie” giveaway to support local restaurants, where a chance to win a $50 gift card is offered weekly on social media. The meal gift cards to help local restaurant owners in the region, give members a break from making dinner and boost the #TakeOutTuesday movement championed by local chambers and business organizations. SESLOC also launched a “Business Spotlight” for #WorkdayWednesday, which is a brief interview with a local business or nonprofit, highlighting why they make the Central Coast the best place to live.
SESLOC partnered with the Children’s Museum during the first week of the shelter-in-place order to be a drop-off location for hundreds of “Busy Boxes,” complete with games, puzzles and activities to entertain and educate children while staying at home. It was a hit! Within the first day, the boxes were completely distributed, with many recipients showing appreciation on social media. The popularity of this program transformed into a partnership of sending fun weekly online activity packages for kids to complete between studies.
In addition, to show appreciation for essential workers, SESLOC donated hundreds of handmade masks to local hospitals, as well as packages of N95 masks that had been in supply for potential disasters. The SESLOC team was happy to use the cloth masks instead and get the more valuable supplies to the medical workers.
Providing Relief For Members
Special Loan Options
SESLOC made special loan assistance programs available, including consumer and mortgage loan payment deferrals and low-rate emergency personal loans. In order to streamline and simplify the deferral request process, SESLOC leveraged DocuSign’s secure forms. This digital enhancement allowed for quicker processing and funding of assistance with less in-person exposure. As of May 15, SESLOC had funded close to 2,200 loan deferrals and funded 135 Paycheck Protection Program loans for local small businesses and non-profits.
Fee Waivers and Access to Funds
Keeping in mind the disruptions members are enduring due to business closures, SESLOC is waiving fees for late payments on loans and for cashier’s checks. Penalties were also removed for share certificate early withdrawals. A nice and much needed outcome has been the Federal Government’s repeal of Regulation D, which limited savings account transfers using automated means to six a month. This regulation had become very outdated in an online world.
While not a designated SBA lender prior to COVID-19, SESLOC was approved to be a lender in record time to provide relief to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program. Overall, as of May 1, $5.4 million in funding from SESLOC was provided to small businesses, averaging $42,032 per loan. This figure is significantly lower than the first round average of $206,000, indicating that SESLOC lived up to the program’s intent and focused on the true small organizations in the region.
Alerts for the Borrower Security Protection Program
Several hundred members received reminders that they had previously opted-in to the Member’s Choice™ Borrower Security Protection Program, a program that provides relief from the financial burden of delinquency, default, or foreclosure if a protected life event occurs, which includes involuntary unemployment and may be of assistance during these current times.
Enhanced Member Services
Health and Safety Measures
SESLOC has continued to provide ongoing service by keeping branches open, even offering curbside service. Member Service Representatives have met members in the branch parking lot to sign a loan documents or help with transaction for seniors who were uncomfortable entering the building. In addition, SESLOC installed germ guards at the teller lines, marked 6’ foot indicators on the floors, encouraged staff and guests to wear masks and adopted cleaning procedures that go above and beyond the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local health departments.
Remote Service Enhancements
To reduce the volume of visits to the branch, SESLOC increased the ATM withdrawal limits, added additional mobile deposit posting times and increased the maximum daily and monthly rolling mobile deposit limits. Members also received numerous digital communications and handouts at the branch with remote banking instructions, including topics such as “how to make a mobile deposit” and “how to find your account/MICR number for direct deposit of your stimulus check.”
Most importantly, SESLOC remains committed to one of their top strategic priorities, which is enhancing the digital member experience. In order to make remote banking more convenient and accessible—especially for those members who only recently adapted to technological solutions in light of COVID—SESLOC forged ahead with previously scheduled digital projects. Enhancements include integrating Live Chat into Online Banking, converting forms to DocuSign to speed up processing and send confidential data securely and rolling out Easy Pay Online. Most recently, SESLOC introduced a new look and feel to their mobile app, which now has the most frequently used features on the landing screen and added an Apple Watch integration.
Remote Learning Tools and Financial Experts
SESLOC converted their popular in-person seminar program into a webinar format with the debut of Money Management in Turbulent Times. Using Zoom’s webinar feature, they are able to reach 300 members at once, whereas in-person seminars are limited to the capacity of each branch, which averages about 50. In addition, the content was available on-demand via YouTube, which further extends the reach of the educational material beyond just the membership. SESLOC is also expanding the library of digital content with the publication of financial wellness articles and resources on a blog, which are available to non-members as well.
Just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, SESLOC launched a Money Coach program, where members get personal support for managing their budgets. The initial conversion with the staff of specially-trained experts was designed to occur over the phone—fortunately, there is no disruption of service with this new offering. If members need more financial support, they can get counseling from SESLOC’s new partner, Greenpath. This complimentary service provides members with access to debt management services, free one-on-one financial counseling and financial education tools.