In a region where credit unions have a 65% penetration rate, much of Caribbean society is now turning to those institutions for support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overcoming challenges presented by the coronavirus and figuring out ways to provide that support were among the topics discussed during a recent webinar entitled: Credit Unions & COVID-19: The Regional Response.
It featured leaders from several Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions' (CCCU) national member associations. The CCCU is World Council's direct member organization in the Caribbean that represents 212 credit unions with 2.4 million members in 17 countries.
Calling the COVID-19 pandemic a "seismic disruption to our social and economic life," CCCU Board President Winston Fletcher said the league donated more than $100,000 toward the purchase of personal protective equipment for credit union staff across the Caribbean, as well as doctors, nurses and other frontline workers.
"We hope that it will make a difference in the lives of our members and the broader society,” said Fletcher, who also serves as president of the Jamaica Co-operative and Credit Union League.
Leaders of the national associations expressed concern for credit union members made vulnerable by the loss of employment and income.
“As you are aware, credit unions were born out of difficult times. And now more than ever, we have to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are afforded the opportunity to live and provide livelihoods for themselves and their children," said Hally Haynes, president of the Barbados Co-operative and Credit Union League (BCCULT).
Haynes said his league is in the process of setting up criteria to respond to the most vulnerable credit union members on Barbados with cash or in-kind grants.
BCCULT is also advocating for regulatory forbearance and for the inclusion of credit unions in the national payments system.
On Trinidad and Tobago, the government is stepping in to help with funds that credit unions can tap into for member relief.
"Included in that stimulus measure that was announced by the government was a plan to provide a liquidity support program to the credit union movement, for affected credit union members, to the tune of $100 million," said Joseph Remy, president of the Co-operative and Credit Union League of Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr. Andre Vincent Henry, director of the Cipriani Collage of Labour and Co-operative Studies, and Lambert Johnson, 1st vice president of the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League also made presentations.
The webinar, which was presented by the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies (CCLCS) in partnership with the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU) and the Co-operative Credit Union League of Trinidad and Tobago (CCULTT), was the first in a planned series.
You can view the first webinar in its entirety on the CCLCS YouTube Channel.
The second webinar in the series is entitled: "Credit Unions & COVID-19: Operational Responses to Member's Needs." That webinar is scheduled for Thursday, May 7.