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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Agencies update CRA Covid-19 FAQs

Federal Issues Covid-19 CRA OCC Federal Reserve FDIC SBA CARES Act

Federal Issues

On March 8, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, and the FDIC released updated Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) FAQs related to Covid-19. The FAQs, first issued last May (covered by InfoBytes here), provide guidance for financial institutions and examiners regarding CRA consideration for activities taken in response to the pandemic. Highlights of the five new FAQs include:

  • Banks cannot receive CRA service test consideration for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)-related activities; however, the agencies recognize that because the PPP loan program responds to community credit needs, PPP activities will be considered under the CRA lending test when evaluating flexible or innovative lending programs offered by a bank.
  • Banks should not report PPP loans that have been rescinded or returned under the SBA’s safe harbor on their CRA loan register. Moreover, examiners will not consider these loans in their CRA evaluations of banks during the applicable time period.
  • PPP loans over $1 million in low- or moderate-income geographies or in distressed or underserved nonmetropolitan middle-income geographies “will be considered an eligible community development activity.”
  • As noted in a joint statement released by the agencies last year (covered by InfoBytes here), favorable CRA consideration will be given to banks providing retail banking services and retail lending activities that respond to the needs of affected low- and moderate-income (LMI) individuals, small businesses, and small farms consistent with safe and sound banking practices. These activities may include waiving ATM fees, overdraft fees, and early withdrawal penalties on certificates of deposit (CDs), or allowing LMI consumers to make draws from a HELOC during the repayment period. The agencies note that allowing LMI consumers “to make a withdrawal from an IRA as allowed under the CARES Act, or to draw on a HELOC during the draw period are routine banking services and, as such, are not eligible for CRA consideration.”
  • The agencies will consider community development services provided virtually by bank representatives on an individual level based on the event and the benefitted assessment area.
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