Main Street Matters Blog

Supporting Financial Choice for Service Members

Oct 01, 2019
amyroberti-150pxBy Amy Forester Roberti

As the House and Senate are busy negotiating final language for defense spending legislation, community banks are working to provide military service men and women access to competitive banking services. Meanwhile, tax-exempt credit unions are fighting to maintain yet another unfair advantage over banks that ultimately puts the consumer at a disadvantage due to lack of access and choice in financial services.

Lawmakers are working out the differences between the two chambers’ versions of the National Defense Authorization Act. A provision in the Senate bill (S. 1790, Sec. 2821) would require the Defense Department to treat banks and credit unions on military installations equally with respect to rent. Credit unions already operate rent-free on military installations, which is why they are protesting so vehemently against this language—they are fighting to keep another one of their taxpayer-funded advantages. Community bankers can use ICBA's Be Heard grassroots action center to support the bipartisan language and its inclusion in the final NDAA legislation.

While credit unions disingenuously claim this provision is a “handout to big banks,” the truth is that 75 percent of banks on military bases are community banks. This provision would help community banks continue to serve military bases and encourage those that have been forced to leave because of rising rents and thin operating margins to return. Why not help ensure needed competition for vital financial services on these bases?

Credit unions have a monopoly on 40 percent of military bases and growing, and they would like this trend to continue. But service members deserve a choice and the benefit of competition, which is why this language is supported by The Military Coalition—a consortium of 34 military and veteran service organizations representing more than 5.5 million members of the uniformed services and their families. With our soldiers and veterans supporting choice in financial services, why are credit unions opposing it?

Credit unions continue to have the unfair advantages of not paying taxes and not complying with the Community Reinvestment Act. Our taxes are actually being appropriated to support our military through the NDAA—so credit unions shouldn’t oppose this slight leveling of the playing field with community banks to help meet the needs of service members.

Let’s give our military service members the competition and choice they deserve. Go to ICBA’s Be Heard grassroots action center and tell your members of Congress that our service members deserve choice!

Amy Forester Roberti is ICBA vice president of congressional relations.