The Credit Union Membership Access Act, which would restore access to credit unions for millions of Americans, is now on the Senate's official list for consideration in July. No date is set, but notes Daniel A. Mica, president and chief executive officer of the Credit Union National Association: "Now that H.R. 1151 is officially on the Senate calendar, the bill can be called to the floor at any time." The House overwhelmingly passed its version of the bill in April.

However, one major change anticipated in the Senate version of the bill would limit credit union member business loans. Members--many denied loans by banks--have written their senators asking them not to place further restrictions on credit union business lending. Here's why:

Flower shop--An Iowa man lost his job in a corporate downsizing. His credit union helped him purchase a flower shop and a home above the shop. Without the loan, he would have lost his home.

Motel--Trying to work with financing from banks frustrated an Indiana motel operator: "The rate of interest was so high, and the restrictions so tight, that I was struggling to stay competitive and make ends meet." His credit union came to the rescue, offering a loan package that, as he put it, "dramatically improved my situation."

Cattle farm--A Minnesota family needed $8,000 to buy 100 acres of land near its farm. The bank turned down its loan request. The credit union loaned the family the money.

Taxi service--A New York City taxi driver worked 18 hours a day to save $5,000 for a down payment on a taxi cab medallion. With a $20,000 loan from his credit union, he was able to start his own taxi service.

Trucking business--After being turned down by a bank, small Minnesota truck operators turned to a credit union when their semitractor blew its engine. Fortunately, "the people at our credit union reached out their hands and gave us the chance of our lives."

Grocery store--Minnesota State Representative Steven Dehler wrote a letter to fellow Republican and U.S. Senator Rod Gramms, of Minnesota, urging Senate support of H.R. 1151. "Back in 1985, I was doing some remodeling in my grocery store and was about $20,000 short in what the bank was willing to lend. I had nowhere to turn. Every bank I went to said no. Probably they were unwilling to take a risk with a business that was only in existence since 1855. Yes, 1855. My only salvation was the willingness of the Melrose Credit Union to approve a loan for the additional $20,000. Thank God and the wisdom of Congress back in the '30s that credit unions are able to offer an alternative form of competition with banks."

So, if you haven't already, send your senator a message now. Ask him or her to support consumer choice to join a credit union and preserve Americans' right to affordable financial services.

©1998 Credit Union National Association, Inc.