Community Development Credit Unions (CDCUs) and cooperativas play critical roles in building community resiliency, supporting their communities in recovering from and adjusting to adversity or change.1 Though climate change affects us all, increasingly frequent natural disasters have an outsized impact on the people and communities CDCUs serve. CDCUs are uniquely poised to build resilience to climate-related natural disasters locally.
Emergency preparedness and business continuity plans are active in every credit union to protect the integrity of members' accounts. When natural disasters hit, CDCUs can provide emergency financial assistance to their members and financing that helps communities rebuild in the aftermath. CDCUs also offer “green loans” to install clean energy and energy efficiency systems, which can help members lower their energy costs throughout the year & provide emergency power.
In September 2022, Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico. Inclusiv’s Puerto Rico Network Director, René Vargas Martínez, wrote at the time:
Within a day of Hurricane Fiona’s arrival, the power grid started to fail...with an island-wide blackout following soon after. Seventy-five percent of residents lost access to potable water. Communications were disrupted and entire regions have become isolated. Our 92-member cooperativas activated their contingency plans and prepared their operations to ensure business continuity...Most cooperativas have resumed operations, albeit in a limited capacity, again playing their roles as financial first responders providing access to cash and supplies when it is most needed, reminiscent of their life-saving response during Hurricane María.
The cooperativa network in Puerto Rico was integral to disaster response and community resilience, mobilizing to support their members and communities. In partnership with COSSEC, ASEC, and la Liga de Cooperativas de Puerto Rico, Inclusiv worked to secure affected cooperativa employees and volunteers with $250,000 in grant funding from NCUA’s CUAid program. These aid dollars were quickly disbursed to residents of Puerto Rico because of the strong network of cooperativas on the island.
Whether by ensuring members can access their cash during a hurricane; making distributed renewable energy affordable so communities have off-grid power during blackouts; exploring new opportunities for community economic development; or by creating pop-up credit union branches to provide services after a flood, CDCUs are creating a new paradigm for how financial institutions can drive community resilience.
 COSSEC (Public Corporation for the Supervision and Insurance of Cooperatives of Puerto Rico) is the regulatory agency of cooperativas. ASEC (Association of Credit Union Executives of Puerto Rico) promotes professional development and education of cooperativa executives and team members. La Liga Cooperativa is Puerto Rico’s cooperativa league, building and promoting the cooperativa movement.
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