The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting more than just the physical health of Americans and people around the world. As governments shut down nonessential businesses, the economy is taking an unprecedented blow. Individuals and small businesses are bearing much of the brunt. However, many large banking corporations, including Key Bank (No. 36 on DiversityInc’s 2019 Top Companies for Diversity), U.S. Bank (No. 46), TD Bank (No. 19) and Wells Fargo (No. 13) have announced plans to mitigate the financial hardship their clients and communities are facing.
The coronavirus is causing business disruptions across nearly all sectors. The average estimate predicts the U.S. GDP will drop by just over 12% this second quarter, but some estimates include a drop as dire as 40% . Already, a record 6.6 million people have filed for unemployment. Earlier this month, the government announced it would be pushing back the tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 because of COVID-19’s financial impact.
Some of the country’s largest banking corporations have acknowledged their responsibilities in helping their customers, communities and employees stay afloat.
Stopping the Spread
Banks — like grocery stores and healthcare facilities — are considered essential businesses. KeyBank announced it would only be serving clients through drive throughs or in its lobbies by appointment only.
“This move will allow KeyBank to continue to offer full-service to its clients while also instituting appropriate social-distancing guidelines as recommended by local, state, and federal health authorities,” the bank said in a press release.
U.S. Bank also said is also adjusting its operating hours, decreasing lobby usage, consolidating operations and encouraging drive-through banking.
Teri Currie, the group head of Canadian personal banking at TD wrote a blog post on LinkedIn to remind customers of the bank’s remote web banking capabilities and call centers. She said the bank’s branches are also open and have been undergoing thorough cleanings.
Aiding Communities and Small Business Customers
KeyBank’s Wellness Advisors — financial consultants for small businesses — are available to offer advice on government programs and other solutions to help struggling businesses. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers assistance and guidance to business owners at disasterloan.SBA.gov.
U.S. Bank’s social responsibility officer Reba Dominski announced March 23 that the bank would be committing $30 million to COVID-19 relief efforts. Within two weeks, $4 million of that total will go to three key partners: LISC, an organization that supports community development initiatives; United Way, a coalition of charities; and Operation Hope, an organization that provides financial literacy and other economic empowerment to communities.
In her statement, Dominski said the money going toward LISC will help small businesses through flexible loans and other possible solutions. Grants to United Way will add more capacity to its network and other health and human service programs. U.S. Bank’s donations to Operation HOPE will focus on low- and middle-income communities to provide financial counseling to families, individuals and small businesses.
Dominski said that by the end of the year, U.S. Bank will have provided $25 million toward long-term financial solutions to COVID-19.
“We know how many nonprofits are struggling and we want to make sure that our partners know that we trust them to use our grant dollars in whatever way is needed to sustain the life-changing work they do in our communities every day,” Dominski wrote.
U.S. Bank also has a program that matches employees’ gifts to charitable organizations. It will now be doubling matches, in addition to launching a “Virtual Volunteers” program, for which employees will lend their expertise to charitable organizations.
TD said small business customers should email their account managers if they are experiencing hardship.
Wells Fargo is advising its small business term loan customers to continue making payments if possible. However, if not, small business customers can request assistance and can receive a 90-day payment suspension. They will not be charged late fees, and Wells Fargo will not report past-due payment statuses to consumer reporting agencies.
On March 20, Wells Fargo also announced The Wells Fargo Foundation would be donating $175 million toward community economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19. The areas of aid include food, shelter, small business and housing stability, and public health.
“We are shifting resources to provide highly-flexible, accelerated funding to nonprofits addressing short and longer-term community recovery, particularly those serving vulnerable populations,” Wells Fargo representative Manny Venegas told DiversityInc.
Helping Consumer Customers
Because the coronavirus is leading to an unprecedented number of people being out of employment, many are finding themselves unable to pay rent or other bills. For clients who are experiencing hardship, the bank announced it would be offering forbearance or extensions, waived fees and waived penalties for certificates of deposit (CD) withdrawals. KeyBank’s Borrower Assistance Program is also available for clients who have taken out certain KeyBank loans.
The bank has urged anyone affected financially by COVID-19 to contact a representative.
For both its consumer and business customers, U.S. Bank said it is offering temporary adjustments to lending products and services to make them more accessible, as well as relief and forbearance programs to those financially struggling due to the pandemic.
TD’s Currie invited customers who are impacted to reach out to the bank’s advisors for help finding solutions.
“We are prepared to help you find a solution to meet your needs. You’ll have a lot on your mind, and we want to be there for you,” Currie said.
TD is also helping its customers through mortgage deferrals. Those experiencing financial hardship can defer up to six months’ worth of mortgage payments, however, customers will still have the interest added to the total. Wells Fargo is putting a temporary freeze on foreclosures and evictions with those who have loans in its portfolio. For both consumers and businesses, Wells Fargo is offering fee waivers and payment deferrals and advises customers to contact its support team.
Rewarding and Protecting Workers
In its coronavirus update, KeyBank also announced how it is helping its own employees. It has begun implementing flexible work arrangements, additional paid leave for those who or ill or are caregiving and the possibilities for additional pay and childcare reimbursement for those who need to work on-site. KeyBank also said it covers the full cost of coronavirus testing and waives all deductibles and copays associated with virtual and Telehealth doctors’ consultations.
TD Bank also announced March 31 that it will not be laying off any employees in 2020 due to COVID-19.
U.S. Bank will be investing in a Premium Pay Program. During the four-week program, more than 30,000 critical frontline employees will receive a 20% wage premium. The bank may extend the program past four weeks, depending on how the COVID-19 situation progresses. The bank has already been granting paid time off to those affected by COVID-19.
Wells Fargo also announced it has made enhancements to employee benefits around the U.S., especially for those facing illness or impacted by school closures. The Wells Fargo Foundation will be donating $10 million to its WE Care Fund, which aids employees who have been affected by a disaster or other event beyond their control.
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