The UK’s family of consumer co-ops – including the Co-op Group and many independent retailers – have been leading a huge number of initiatives in response to Covid-19 crisis. These have been developing quickly in response to a fast-changing situation. Co-op News is now working on its coverage of this sector which will come in a different online report. Watch this space!
Co-operative and Community Finance, which offers financing to UK co-op sector, has produced a list of links to various online pages offering support and guidance.
Stir To Action is stepping up its online activities during the lockdown. Here’s an upcoming event:
For a look at how the crisis is affecting the co-op housing sector, here’s an update from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. It has closed its customer centre, Strand Hub, communal areas at its Independent Living Schemes and its play areas.
On its website, it adds: “We have suspended all new lettings, except in exceptional circumstances. For the time being, as per the guidance received from central government, we will continue to carry out works to empty homes to get these ready for new tenants or homeless families and individuals requiring urgent accommodation. We will also continue to allocate homes for when the current restrictions are lifted.
“As the need to support social distancing increases, we have taken the difficult decision to deal with emergency repairs and gas safety checks only. This is a temporary measure.”
The community energy sector is also affected and sector body Community Energy England is asking its members to supply information so it can provide a response.
On its webiste, it says: “We are paying close attention to how the sector is being affected by the current circumstances and working hard to gather evidence, make representations to the government and regulators and speak up about the sector’s challenges, for example over installations halted due to the lockdown. We also have an eye on the future and will be thinking hard about how community energy can regroup and forge a new path once the extent of the crisis is known and the country begins to move out of the peak of the crisis.”
The US credit union sector, which has been working on several fronts to tackle the Covid-19 crisis – from maintaining colleague safety to dealing with the financial impact of members and its own bottom line – is contining its efforts.
Massachusetts credit unions are offering financial hardship programmes for members, including low-interest loans of up to two years, 60-90-day deferments on loan payments, refinancing options on mortgages, waived fees for early withdrawal on certificates, waivers on checking account overdraft fees, emergency hardship loans, increased credit limits and greater flexibilty over repayments.
And in Alabama, credit unions have taken steps to reassure members that their money is safe, with the backing of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
More credit union activity, with Vancity announcing a new investment product that will allow members to invest money in the local community, enabling them to support those affected by Covid-19.
The Unity Term Deposit is offered for a non-redeemable 12-month term at an annual interest rate of 3.0% and is available to any individual or business who is a member of Vancity.
Members invest in Vancity’s Unity Term Deposit, either through a registered retirement savings plan or non-registered account and Vancity and Vancity then to support communities most impacted by Covid-19 and help them re-build for the future.
The product is part of a series of measures by Vancity in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. These included extending its loan deferral programme from three months to a term of up to six months to support members facing financial uncertainty and vulnerability from the fallout of Coronavirus. Vancity has also temporarily waived some fees to help people access our services remotely.
In addition, on 20 March Vancity joined other British Columbia organisations to create a Community Response Fund to support charities that provide frontline services to populations disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and its economic consequences. The credit union contributed CA$1m to the fund, which will flexible operating grants.
National sector body the Business Council for Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) has welcomed the federal government announcement of a $130bn wage subsidy package to help businesses retain staff. Up to 6 million workers could be eligible for wage subsidies of $1,500 a fortnight, which the Australian Taxation Office will pay directly to businesses that have suffered sharp drops in turnover.
BCCM has also shared more examples of co-ops stepping up to the crisis, including health insurance mutual HCF, which is extending all its hospital policies to cover Covid-19; Bank Australia, Heritage Bank and Greater Bank offering financial assistance in the form of waived fees and reduced rates to affected customers; and Australian Unity boosting infection control measures at its home care services and residential communities.
International Co-operative Alliance
Here’s a tweet of movement solidarity, and call to help create a global co-op narrative, from the Asia-Pacific office of the ICA.
The Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union reports that the country’s co-ops are working to promote the sale of milk to help dairy farmers and makers who are struggling with the impact of the crisis.