Week ahead: Pandemic pushes GAC online

The credit union industry’s biggest annual gathering kicks off this week but the event will be far from normal.

The Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference will get underway Tuesday in a virtual format, with more than 3,500 attendees expected. The online setting, necessitated by the ongoing pandemic, is a shift from previous years, which normally see thousands of attendees converge on Washington for several days of presentations, networking and meetings with lawmakers.

The 2020 edition of GAC took place just weeks before COVID-19 broke wide across the country, and while the coronavirus was rarely mentioned last year, it is likely to be front and center for the virtual event as credit unions and policymakers discuss how the industry can be part of the ongoing recovery effort.

The conference will include remarks from CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, journalist Soledad O’Brien and more. Over a dozen lawmakers are also expected to address the meeting, and all three members of the National Credit Union Administration board are scheduled to speak this year.

One other tweak is a pause for the annual Herb Wegner Memorial Awards from the National Credit Union Foundation, generally considered to be the credit union industry’s highest honor. In place of the traditional black tie gala, a virtual event will be held Tuesday night celebrating previous winners and some of the industry’s philanthropic efforts.

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It’s shaping up to be a busy week in Washington outside of GAC, as well. The Senate is expected to vote in the coming days on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. Among other things, that package would send a third round of economic impact payments to consumers across the country, which would likely add to the deposit glut credit unions already face.

The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday will consider a pair of nominations, including the selection of Rohit Chopra to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That hearing is expected to be feisty, and the credit union industry will be watching closely since even though only a few credit unions are directly overseen by the bureau, its rulemaking impacts the entire industry.

On Thursday the panel will convene for a hearing on Wall Street and the widening of the racial wealth gap.

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