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On March 24, the Indiana secretary of state, Securities Division, issued a Compliance Alert to all licensed loan brokers and collection agencies. The Division encouraged licensees to instruct their employees to work from home and refrain from any in-person meetings whenever possible, and noted that relevant state laws do not prevent individuals of licensed entities from working from their personal residences. The alert also noted that the commissioner would not consider a temporary arrangement where an employee works from home during the COVID-19 outbreak to require licensure as a branch office—provided certain conditions were met—including for proper handling of personal information.
On March 23, Georgia’s governor issued an Executive Order ordering specific populations to shelter in place and limiting the number of persons gathered in a single location. The order does not address financial institutions or otherwise identify categories of essential business, and expires on April 6.
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 24, The Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) provided guidance to non-depository institutions to take steps to comply with CDC directives and Governor Andy Beshear’s guidance and executive orders. Entities are ordered to reduce face-to-face transactions; work with customers affected by the coronavirus to meet their financial needs; implement policies and procedures to work constructively with customers (including by restructuring existing loans, extending repayment terms, and waiving fees); manage COVID-19 related staffing issues; and ensure that business continuity plans include pandemic planning.
On March 16, the Kansas Office of the State Bank Commissioner (OSBC) announced it would be closed until March 23 with staff working remotely. In addition, all OSBC on-site exams have been suspended at least until the end of March. The OSBC suggested visiting their website (www.osbckansas.org) for additional information regarding temporary bank closures and relocations.
On March 23, the Massachusetts governor ordered all businesses providing non-essential services to close their brick and mortar premises as of noon on March 24 and not to re-open until April 7. The order was accompanied by a list of essential services that included financial services. The Massachusetts Division of Banks confirmed via a notice that all entities chartered and licensed by the Division are considered essential services exempt from the governor’s emergency order.
Massachusetts temporarily waives requirements for certain residential property inspections prior to sale
On March 20, the Massachusetts governor ordered that the inspections for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors required by state law in connection with residential property sales may be deferred, provided that (1) the buyer agrees to take responsibility for equipping the property with the requisite alarms and detectors; and (2) the inspection is conducted within 90 days after the state of emergency for the Covid-19 outbreak is lifted.
On March 19, the Massachusetts Division of Banks issued guidance to licensees for temporary closures necessitated by Covid-19. Licensees are encouraged to provide alternative service options to customers when feasible and notify customers about closures and alternatives as soon as practicable. In addition, licensees should notify the Division of any closures, business disruptions or other significant Covid-19-related developments, including significant staff or liquidity shortages or issues with funding closed loans to consumers.
On March 15, the Massachusetts Division of Banks issued guidance for financial institutions on working with consumers affected by Covid-19 and regulatory assistance available from the Division. The Division encourages financial institutions to work with affected customers and communities, including by: (i) waiving fees; (ii) increasing ATM cash withdrawal limits; (iii) easing restrictions on cashing checks; (iv) increasing credit card limits; and (v) offering payment accommodations to assist members having payment difficulty. The guidance notes that “prudent efforts” to modify loan terms would not be subject to examiner criticism, and institutions can ease their terms for new loans consistent with prudential banking practices. In the guidance, the Division also committed to work with affected institutions to reduce the burden when scheduling examinations and inspections, utilize off-site reviews, and work with institutions experiencing difficulties fulfilling reporting requirements. It further acknowledged that institutions may need to temporarily close facilities and encouraged them to offer alternative service options where practical and notify the Division regarding business disruptions or other significant developments, such as staff shortages, rapid withdrawal of deposits or other signs of erosion in consumer confidence.
On March 11, the Massachusetts Division of Banks issued a reminder to licensees to have business continuity plans that address the circumstances of a pandemic outbreak. The Division further advised licensees that it does not require an MLO’s home to be licensed as a branch so long as they do not advertise it as an office or meet consumers there and that it would permit other licensees to work from home, if feasible, subject to the same requirements.
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