For the past few weeks, federal administrative, legislative, and regulatory bodies have been pushing financial institutions to offer far-reaching relief programs for consumers impacted by COVID-19 and governmental action taken in response. On March 13, 2020, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), encouraged banks to work with affected communities by waiving various fees, increasing credit limits, and providing for alternative payment arrangements.
Although there are numerous technical compliance and operational concerns related to implementing fee waivers and alternative payment arrangements, the encouragement from the federal government to offer such programs offers a measure of comfort to creditors looking to take such steps.
On March 7, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202 declaring a state of emergency in New York. On March 21, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.9, related to entities regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS). Although this order only affects New York-regulated entities, it is instructive as a benchmark for state regulators’ expectations for consumer relief.
The Governor’s order modifies New York State Banking Law “to provide that it shall be deemed an unsafe and unsound business practice if, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, any bank which is subject to the jurisdiction of the Department shall not grant a forbearance to any person or business who has a financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic for a period of ninety days.”
Additionally, the order empowers the NYDFS “to promulgate emergency regulations to direct that, solely for the period of this emergency, fees for the use of automated teller machines (ATMs), overdraft fees and credit card late fees, may be restricted or modified.”
Many lenders are trying to help consumers during this uniquely challenging crisis. The Governor’s directives are consistent with federal recommendations and may represent what is to come from other state governors and banking regulators.