Community banks, state associations and federal agencies are continuing to offer guidance to consumers and employees as the nation grapples with the current reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MidWestOne Bank in Iowa City, Iowa, announced programs intended to help customers affected by the virus. “We recognize the immediate pain and anxiety our customers are experiencing,” said Charlie Funk, president and CEO. “We are immediately implementing a number of programs to help those in need.”
The $4.6 billion bank will offer the following assistance to its retail and business customers through April 30: individual attention to unique situations of customers; one withdrawal from a certificate of deposit up to $20,000 and no early withdrawal penalty; consumer hardship assistance loans ranging between $1,000 and $5,000 at low rates (subject to credit approval); 30-day payment extensions on most retail loans and lines of credit; consumer home equity lines of credit at low introductory rates (subject to credit approval); consumer credit cards with limited time benefits (subject to credit approval); 90-day deferred principal payments for qualified business customers with identified need, and other business loan accommodations such as increasing borrowing capacity where warranted.
The Iowa City bank is actively urging its community and its employees to shop locally. “We support our restaurant and bar businesses by ordering takeout and using local businesses’ phone and mail order and online capabilities,” the bank said in a statement.
“Our company is taking multiple actions to reduce the risk to our employees,” Funk said. Many MidWestOne employees will be working from home, and the ones who must be in the office each day will practice social distancing. The lobby availability will be limited in order to flatten the COVID-19 spread curve.
“Though the actions we are taking are many, we will continue to assure that we serve our customers and communities in their time of greatest need,” Funk said.
Citizens Bank, Edmond, Okla., mailed out 60-day loan payment deferment options to all its consumer borrowers as part of its COVID-19 relief program to meet cash flow needs, according to a tweet by Jill Castilla, president and CEO.
All 122 member banks of the Indiana Bankers Association are open for business. Many have temporarily closed their lobbies to foot traffic, but retain drive-thru operations and lobby access by appointment.
The Illinois Bankers Association is working with 474 banks in the state and their 105,000 employees to address the unique needs amid the virus pandemic. The state’s financial institutions safeguard $482 billion in customer deposits.
“The industry is strong, well-capitalized and stands ready to help the citizens of Illinois weather the uncertainty of the current pandemic by providing critical and uninterrupted financial services,” the association said in a press release. “The banking industry is highly regulated, and state and federal regulations require that financial institutions are prepared for situations, like pandemics, with proven and tested continuity plans and processes.”
Like banks across the country, many Illinois banks are closing their lobbies and working from home, leaving drive-thrus, online services and ATMs available to customers. To access safe deposit boxes, customers are often asked to set up appointments. Some banks are offering special loan programs and other services to help customers in the new economic conditions.
“The financial industry is strong and stands ready to help their communities in any way they can,” said Linda Koch, president and CEO of the Illinois Bankers Association. “We at the IBA are helping Illinois banks stay informed with important updates from their banking regulators, through timely webinars, regular communications and a Coronavirus resource page that is being updated daily.”
These challenging times also mean that cyber criminals will be active and ready to take advantage of unsuspecting customers, Koch warned. The FDIC warned consumers of potential scams in which imposters pretend to be financial agency representatives.
“During these unprecedented times consumers may receive false information regarding the security of their deposits or their ability to access cash,” the FDIC said in a press release.
On March 17 the federal bank regulatory agencies announced two actions to support the U.S. economy and help banks lend to distressed households and businesses. They encouraged banks to use their resources to support households and businesses and made a technical change to phase in, as intended, the automatic distribution restrictions gradually if a firm’s capital levels decline.
Federal agencies, including the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, continue to support and encourage credit flow to households and businesses. The agencies announced an interim final rule on March 19 to ensure financial institutions will be able to effectively use a liquidity facility recently launched by the Federal Reserve Board.