HOULTON, Maine — Members of the County Federal Credit Union got a nasty surprise Friday morning when they learned that funds regularly deposited directly into their accounts were not posted.
By midafternoon, the computer-based culprit behind the delay had been tracked down and rectified, and all funds were posted by 1:34 p.m. to the appropriate member accounts.
“It’s been smooth sailing since then,” Kent Hensler, County Federal Credit Union president, said later Friday afternoon.
The bulk of the affected transactions involved funds from the Social Security Administration that normally are deposited on the third of every month or the closest business day if the third falls on a holiday or weekend.
This month, the day of deposit coincided with the Houlton Federal Credit Union officially merging into the County Federal Credit Union.
Officials at the Houlton credit union Friday morning said the problem was a computer error stemming directly from activities related to the merger.
“A computer programming issue is the simplest way to put it,” Hensler said. “The funds come through the Social Security system and are normally posted to the members’ accounts.”
On Friday, however, a computer glitch prevented the funds from “mapping over correctly,” Hensler said Friday morning. “That money is currently in a warehouse situation waiting to be posted to the members’ accounts.”
“Those funds will be available later this afternoon once the programming issue is resolved,” he said at about 11 a.m. “This is our problem, and we are trying to fix it.”
By midafternoon, the computer and technical crews from the institution’s processor in Westbrook had done just that.
“The Maine Credit Union League stepped up to the plate and got a team together at the first sign of trouble this morning,” Hensler said Friday afternoon. “They threw a lot of resources at it, and once they had identified the problem, they got it fixed.”
For members such as Houlton resident William Bishop, the computer error meant some major fiscal difficulties.
“I went in to withdraw money from my account this morning, and the lady [at the credit union] said they had been changing over computers and the money had not shown up in my account,” Bishop said. “It’s upsetting, because I owe people money and now they are waiting to get paid.”
In addition, he said traveling to the credit union for access to the funds could put an extra burden on those least able to afford it.
“It’s irritating to go back and forth,” he said. “For the poor, it’s an added expense to have to drive back.”
Bishop said he could tell he was not alone in the situation, as a cluster of people in the credit union’s lobby were facing the same problems.
Bishop said he called the Social Security Administration office in Baltimore and was told the funds were released to the accounts and should have been available at the start of business hours today.
As a temporary fix before the funds were officially posted into the accounts, the credit union did release money to members affected by the delay.
“I went back in [to the credit union] around 1 p.m., and they had not fixed the problem, but they gave me my money,” Bishop said. “I was really glad they did that.”
Hensler said any member who experienced overdraft or related issues as a result of the delay should contact the credit union.
“We can help,” he said. “We will take care of members in that situation.”
In retrospect, Hensler agreed that completing the merger changeovers on the same day that monthly Social Security funds arrived might not have been the best plan. But he also noted, “In our world of electronic banking, it all moves so fast, [and] you always have to pick the end of the month to complete business like this [merger].”
Bishop said he was “a bit surprised they decided to do all this merger business on this date. Maybe I should go back to getting a check in the mail.”