Payment holidays for workers in tourism industry from Gateway Credit Union


Payment holidays for workers in tourism industry from Gateway Credit Union

...even as COVID-19 sees some losses in revenue

Observer business reporter

Sunday, August 02, 2020

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With over 30 per cent of its members directly linked to the tourism industry which buckled under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, chief executive officer (CEO) of Gateway Co-operative Credit Union Limited Ornell Bedasse says it has offered COVID-19 relief packages to offset members' financial hits.

“One of the most important thing we did was to work along with all our members, so if they weren't employed, we would see how we could assist. But obviously for people who work in the tourism industry they would have lost their jobs, so they were granted the maximum in terms of payment holidays,” Bedasse told the Jamaica Observer Business Forum on Wednesday last. The Business Forum was held at the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League's headquarters in Kingston.

Gateway waived late fees up to three months, in addition loan deferrals and moratoriums.

“There's nothing you can do but work with your members through this period. The loan holiday granted is kind of like a stock gap to work along with members and to see what is happening in terms of the outcome of COVID-19 because the faster we get through, things will be better for all of us,” he continued.

According to him, due to the members that were directly and indirectly affected, this translated to revenues loss of about $30-$40 million a month.

A recent merger of Montego Bay Co-operative Credit Union and Hanover Credit Union, Gateway — the sixth largest credit union in Jamaica — principally serves the county of Cornwall, and boasts an asset size of approximately $8.1 billion.

“The uncertainty is that no one knows when the pandemic will end and that's the thing because at some point in time you can't continue giving loan holidays, you're going to have to write off loans or do some loan provisions. What we try to do, however, is manage our liquidity and capital as we wanted the credit union to remain viable and relevant to the members, so we continued to lend,” Bedasse stated.

However, he further indicated that members who were better off continued to repay their loans.

From January-February and including the early days of March, the CEO disclosed that Gateway was above its budget and loan disbursement targets.

“Immediately after the outbreak our numbers fell. Monthly disbursement fell by about 65 per cent, the balance sheet went flat and of course there was a decline in services. That is typically for March-May, but since June we have begun to see an uptick in term of the disbursement and we're now heading north and I hope we continue to,” he affirmed.

He added that while staff members did not work remotely, the greatest challenge initially was managing the credit union's members through reduced hours and COVID-19 protocols implemented by the Government.

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