It’s Summertime: Baseball, Fireworks and the Fight Over Military Banks

If it’s summertime, it’s time for the annual brawl between credit unions and banks over free access to military bases.

Each year, the two sides renew their feud, with credit unions intent on defending their turf and banks arguing that Congress has given credit unions another unfair advantage.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to mark up the annual defense authorization bill this week, and so the annual fight has begun—at least from the credit union side.

Credit union trade groups once again are presenting a unified front, with Jim Nussle, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association; B. Dan Berger, president/CEO of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions and Anthony Hernandez, president/CEO of the Defense Credit Union Council sending a joint letter to leaders of the Senate committee.

“Unfortunately, we expect for-profit banks to once again to ask Congress for a handout by seeking a provision in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that would require DoD to treat them the same as credit unions when it comes to leases,” the three wrote in a Monday letter. “It is alarming those large banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America, who regularly earn billions in profits, would be equal to not-for profit credit unions if such a provision were to become law.”

If the argument sounds familiar, it is because the groups made the same argument last year. And the year before that.

Current law provides credit unions with free rent on military bases as long as 95% of the membership serviced by the branch are military members. Banks are not provided with the same benefit.

The banks argue that providing free rent on the same basis that credit unions receive it, is simply an issue of parity. “As rents continue to rise with no relief in sight, more banks will leave military installations,” the Association of Military Banks of America said last year. “What that means is that more military families, who can’t get the banking services they need on base, will seek financial services off-base.”

Last year, the bill produced by the Senate Armed Services Committee would have required the Defense Department to treat credit unions and banks the same way. However, the House version of the measure did not include the provision and the eventual House-Senate conference report did not include it either.

And so, the fight begins once again.

Related:

Letter from CUNA, NAFCU and DCUC to Senate Armed Services Committee

CFPB to Resume Military Lending Act Enforcement

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