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In 1934, President Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act into law authorizing the formation of federally chartered credit unions in all states. The purpose of the federal law was to make credit available and promote thrift through a national system of nonprofit, cooperative credit unions.

After the Federal Credit Union Act was signed into law, the new Bureau of Federal Credit Unions was first housed at the Farm Credit Administration. Regulatory responsibility shifted over the years as the agency moved from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to the Federal Security Agency, and then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

  • Meanwhile, in the ‘40s and ‘50s credit unions grew steadily and by 1960 credit union membership reached more than 6 million people at over 10,000 federal credit unions.

  • In 1970, the Bureau became an independent federal agency when the National Credit Union Administration was formed to charter and supervise federal credit unions, and the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) was also formed to insure credit union deposits. In the independent credit union spirit, the NCUSIF was created without tax dollars and capitalized solely by credit unions.

The 1970s brought major changes in the products offered by financial institutions and credit unions found they too needed to expand their services. In 1977, legislation expanded services available to credit union members, including share certificates and mortgage lending. In 1979, a three-member Board replaced the NCUA administrator. That same year Congress created the Central Liquidity Facility, the credit union lender of last resort.

The 1970s were years of tremendous growth in credit unions. The number of credit union members more than doubled and assets in credit unions tripled to over $65 billion.

Deregulation, increased flexibility in merger and field of membership criteria, and expanded member services characterized the 1980s. High interest rates and unemployment in the early '80s brought supervisory changes and insurance losses. With the Share Insurance Fund experiencing stress, the credit union community called on Congress to approve a plan to recapitalize the Fund.

In 1985, federally insured credit unions recapitalized the NCUSIF by depositing 1 percent of their shares into the Share Insurance Fund. Backed by the "full faith and credit of the United States Government," the fully-capitalized National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund has "fail safe" features. Since recapitalization, the NCUA Board has only charged credit unions a premium when the Fund dropped to a 1.25 percent equity ratio.

During the 1990s and into the 21st century, credit unions have been healthy and growing. Credit union failures remain low and the Share Insurance Fund maintains a healthy equity level. The original intent of Congress was to create a system of not-for-profit cooperatives that promote thrift and thwart usury.