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Advocacy
ICBA Strongly Opposing Proposal to Allow Postal Service to Offer Financial Services
ICBA is meeting with members of Congress to strongly oppose a proposal to allow the U.S. Postal Service to offer financial services.

The agency’s Office of the Inspector General this week released a report recommending that the Postal Service partner with banks to offer financial services such as prepaid debit cards, small-dollar loans and remittance services to under-banked households. Under the proposal, consumers could load cash or their paychecks onto a Postal Service–branded reloadable prepaid card that could be covered by the FDIC deposit insurance of a partner bank.

The Office of the Inspector General said the plan may appeal to under-banked consumers and could lead to approximately $8.9 billion in annual revenues for the Postal Service. The report said the IG is not suggesting that the Postal Service become a bank or compete with banks.

ICBA strongly opposes the plan to establish the struggling government agency in the financial services sector in an attempt to raise revenue. ICBA President and CEO Cam Fine told American Banker that involving the Postal Service in financial services is a recipe for disaster.

“You wouldn't have a FedEx and UPS had the Postal Service been a model of efficiency and service, so you want to unleash that failed model on the financial system?” Fine told the newspaper. “It’s the worst idea since the Ford Edsel.”

ICBA is working with Congress to oppose the idea and ensure it does not advance on Capitol Hill. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. (Eastern time) today to mark up legislation to reform the Postal Service, and ICBA is working to ensure the inspector general proposal does not advance as part of the reforms.

ICBA will continue its efforts against the proposal and will keep its members informed of the issue.


Security
ICBA, NAFCU Call for Effective Data-Security Laws
ICBA and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions called on Congress to pass legislation to secure consumer financial data following recent data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers. Community banks and credit unions agree that renewed focus has to be placed on properly addressing retail store breaches and increased standards for retailers.

In a joint letter to members of Congress, ICBA and NAFCU advocated legislation to:
  • apply Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act–like standards to all entities that store consumer financial data,
  • ensure that the party at fault for a breach is liable for all losses, and
  • create a single national standard to replace the patchwork of state data-security laws.
Separately, ICBA this week thanked senators for reintroducing ICBA-advocated legislation that recognizes the rigorous data security protocols that already apply to community banks. The Data Security Act of 2014 (S. 1927), sponsored by Sens. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), allows Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act consumer protections to serve as a safe harbor from additional regulation.

In addition to its Capitol Hill advocacy, ICBA continues offering data-security resources for community banks and their customers. In recognition of Data Privacy Day, ICBA released a national news release with tips on how consumers can protect their sensitive financial information.

Additional resources, including a recording of ICBA’s recent audio call on the data breaches and a best practices guide, are available on ICBA’s security breach toolkit. Community bankers can continue to ask questions and share their experiences on the security breaches at Target and other retailers by emailing SecurityBreach@icba.org. Visit the ICBA Security Breach Toolkit.


Flood Insurance
ICBA Urges Senate to Approve Delay to Flood Insurance Rate Hikes
ICBA called on the Senate to pass bipartisan legislation to delay significant increases in flood insurance premiums, which began being phased in on Oct. 1. S. 1926, introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), would delay rate increases for up to four years by giving the Federal Emergency Management Agency time to develop a plan to help property owners who cannot afford higher premiums.

The Senate is expected to take up S. 1926 as soon as today. ICBA continues encouraging community bankers to urge their lawmakers to approve the legislation and reject any substitute bills.

Unless Congress acts, flood insurance rate increases under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 would make flood insurance unaffordable for many policyholders who built to code and followed the law every step of the way. These increases would negatively affect home values and destabilize the still-recovering housing market in affected areas.

ICBA is working closely with Congress to stem these dramatic rate increases and develop a comprehensive solution, but continued grassroots outreach is essential to getting S. 1926 through the Senate. Contact Your Senators Today!



Farm Bill
ICBA Urges Congress to Adopt New Farm Bill
ICBA called on Congress to complete final action on a new farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014 (H.R. 2642). In a statement, ICBA Chairman Bill Loving said adopting a new farm bill is a significant step toward the continued success of many farmers and ranchers and the community banks that serve them.

Loving said that while the farm bill is not perfect, it will allow community banks to extend loans and financial products to farmers and ranchers. “ICBA appreciates the strong focus on crop and revenue insurance programs and that the bill removes term limits on guaranteed farm operating loans, among other enhancements to federal farm policy,” Loving said.

Lawmakers this week revealed a new farm bill compromise and sent it to the House Rules Committee. The Agricultural Act of 2014 is expected to be voted on by the full House as early as today and, if passed, taken up by the Senate this week or next. President Obama is expected to sign the bill once Congress passes it. 

Key components of the bill would enhance crop and revenue insurance programs, increase price support levels and enhance USDA guaranteed farm loan programs, including removing term limits on guaranteed farm operating loans, as advocated by ICBA. Read ICBA Release. Read Conference Report. Read Managers’ Statements.



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Social Media
ICBA Financial Literacy Twitter Chat Slated for Friday
ICBA is hosting a Twitter chat on Friday, Jan. 31, that will focus on best practices to help consumers accomplish their personal finance resolutions. ICBA encourages community bankers to join the public social media forum and tweet their financial literacy advice as relationship bankers.

To participate, get on Twitter at 2 p.m. (Eastern time) Friday, Jan. 31, and follow the #NewYearFinLit hashtag. More information is on ICBA’s Twitter Chat webpage and in the association’s Twitter Chats 101 and Tweeting for Community Bankers resources.



Economy
Home Prices Dip in November but Up on Annual Basis
Home prices declined slightly in November but were up from a year ago, according to the latest Case-Shiller home-price indexes. The 10-city and 20-city composites increased year-over-year by 13.8 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively, though they declined 0.1 percent in November. It was the first monthly decrease following nine consecutive months of gains, but the strongest November performance since 2005.


Economy
Consumer Confidence Advances in January
Consumer confidence improved in January on more favorable assessments of business conditions and the job market, according to the Conference Board. The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 80.7 from 77.5 in December. The indexes for the present situation and for consumer expectations both increased, the jobs outlook was mixed.


Poll
Take This Week’s Quick Poll
Take this week’s Quick Poll on ICBA’s mobile apps, and view results from the previous poll on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage rules. View the Archive.


Education
ICBA Offers Comprehensive Compliance Deskbook
ICBA’s Compliance Deskbook offers a comprehensive compliance resource for community banks. Access information on community banking regulations with detailed explanations of what has changed and when, issuances and guidance for the regulators, the latest industry news and more. Learn More.


Products and Services
White Paper Clarifies Myths and Benefits of Depot Services
Depot services provide community banks a cost-effective way of maintaining, replacing or upgrading their IT hardware, software or point-of-sale peripherals. A white paper from BLM Technology, an ICBA Preferred Service Provider, highlights significant considerations for the necessity of depot services by identifying top reasons for partnerships, common myths and a review of the overall benefits. Read the White Paper.











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