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The State of Texas Joint Financial Regulatory Agencies issued guidance pertaining to HELOCs as part of the state’s broader Covid-19 emergency measures pursuant to the governor’s declaration of a state of disaster for Texas on March 13. The agencies’ statement anticipates that lenders may adjust or extend terms on HELOCs and offer new loans during the crisis period, but also clarified that all such modifications and newly-issued loans must comply with Article XVI, Section 50 of the Texas Constitution. The guidance confirmed that modifications that lower the interest rate or amount of installment payments, but that do not satisfy or replace the original note, advance new funds, or increase obligations created by the original note, would not be a new extension of credit under Section 50(a)(6) of the constitution. The State of Texas Joint Financial Regulatory Agencies is comprised of the Texas Department of Banking, Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending, Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner, and Texas Credit Union Department.
In March, the NCUA issued a release expanding its March 16 off-site policy by extending off-site examinations through May 1. In the release, the NCUA outlined its top three priorities during the Covid-19 pandemic, which include: (i) “credit unions experiencing significant financial or operational problems”; (ii) outreach by examiners to all credit unions regarding “the institution’s operational and financial status” during the pandemic; and (iii) the continuation of off-site examinations. The NCUA added that “[i]f credit unions are occupied with addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations, employees, and members, they should not be required to address an offsite examination request unless it is a serious or time-sensitive matter.”
On March 30, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (Department) issued a notice to credit unions providing that credit unions may submit a request to postpone the credit union’s 2020 annual meeting to the Department’s Credit Union Section. In addition, the guidance requires credit unions to submit a waiver request to hold annual membership meetings in a month other than January, February, and March.
Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation issues questions and answers to credit unions regarding Covid-19
On March 30, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (Department) issued questions and answers to credit unions related to Covid-19 safety concerns. The guidance provides responses to questions regarding, among other things, receiving extensions for annual meetings, holding annual meetings by teleconference or other communications equipment, whether prior approval from the Department is required to close branches or lobbies, and whether the Department needs to approve any concessions, such as payroll interruption loans, extension, or deferments.
On March 30, the Illinois Department of Financial Regulation, Division of Banking and Division of Financial Institutions, issued guidance to Illinois banks and credit unions regarding support for consumers and businesses impacted by Covid-19. Illinois banks and credit unions are encouraged to use their capital and liquidity buffers as they respond to financial challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, such as to lend and undertake other supportive actions in a safe and sound manner. Illinois banks and credit unions also are encouraged to: (i) provide affected borrowers with payment accommodations to work through short-term setbacks; (ii) respond to borrowers from industry sectors particularly vulnerable to the volatility of the current economic environment; and (iii) work with small businesses, hourly workers, and independent contractors that have less financial flexibility to weather the economic decline.
The guidance further encourages Illinois banks and credit unions to assist affected borrowers by, among other things, waiving certain fees (e.g., ATM fees, overdraft fees, late fees), increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits, increasing credit card limits for creditworthy borrowers, and providing new loans on favorable terms. Prudent efforts to help consumers and businesses will not be subject to examiner criticism.
On March 28, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance announced that it is working with more than 40 banks, credit unions and servicers to provide relief to New Jersey homeowners. Under the new initiative, residents of New Jersey impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic may be eligible for a 90-day forbearance from mortgage payments and relief from fees and charges upon contacting their financial institutions. Cooperating institutions have also agreed not to start any foreclosure sales or evictions for 60 days.
On March 26, the Minnesota Department of Commerce clarified that banks, credit unions, and other financial services entities within the state are designated as critical sectors and will remain open during the Covid-19 crisis. Kelly’s remarks followed an executive order from Governor Tim Walz, which officially labeled financial services entities as critical sectors.
On March 25, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare issued an Order to Self-Isolate for all individuals living in Idaho except for those providing or receiving certain services or activities or engaged in essential businesses. Banks, credit unions, and financial institutions, including processing and maintaining systems for processing financial transactions and services are deemed essential business. Idaho also has published a List of Essential Services.
On March 25, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order mandating that only “life-sustaining businesses” may remain open and encouraged citizens to remain “healthy at home.” The list of life-sustaining businesses includes banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, payday lenders, check cashers, money transmitters, and securities institutions.
On March 25, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) issued FAQs regarding the impact of Covid-19 on the NCUA and credit union operations. The FAQs answer questions regarding, among other things, flexibility for federal credit unions in planning annual meetings and monthly board of director meetings, restrictions on access to or closure of facilities, the impact of Covid-19 on the NCUA’s examination and supervision program, and deadlines for submission of certain filings (e.g., Call Reports, annual capital plan and/or stress testing, Bank Secrecy Act reports).