Financial Institutions Offer Relief During Crisis

YOUNGSTOWN,Ohio – With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across Ohio and the United States, financial institutions are looking to provide some peace of mind to businesses and consumers through deferrals and payment changes.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. … They’re just not sure how long it’ll last. Are these short-term or long-term pains?” said Eric Lanham, vice president of marketing at 717 Credit Union. “There’s a lot of concern, so we’ll do what we can to work with businesses and do all we can to help through the current circumstances.”

For both businesses and individuals alike, Lanham said changes to outstanding loans would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Among possible changes are free skip payments, loan extensions and modifications to the loans. The credit union also offers a wide range of technology, including mobile banking and personal teller machines, that reduce contact and the need to visit brick-and-mortar branches.

“There’s very little that our members can’t do remotely,” Lanham said.

Likewise at Home Savings Bank, bankers are reaching out to their clients to offer help through the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit almost every sector, from restaurants to manufacturing. Frank Hierro, the bank’s Mahoning Valley market president, told The Business Journal Monday payment changes have included deferred payments.

“The impact will go well beyond the food service industry as the general economy slows down,” he said. “We are gearing up to be able to help customers, whether that’s adjustment in payments, extending new credit or whatever it takes.”

In a statement Monday, Hierro encouraged consumer and business clients to reach out to the bank with any questions they have and detailed the changes the bank is making to its branches, including more frequent cleaning and disinfection procedures and providing employees with additional disinfectant materials such as hand sanitizer and gloves. The bank has also restricted travel to conferences and seminars for employees through the end of May and is encouraging digital and phone meetings rather than face-to-face meetings.

For businesses and consumers, Huntington Bank is offering payment deferral of up to 90 days for those affected by the coronavirus and has suspended late fees on loans through the end of the month. It has also suspended foreclosures and repossession of vehicles.

Huntington’s purpose is to look out for people by making their lives better, helping businesses thrive and strengthening the communities we serve, and these extraordinary times demand we take action to support our valued customers,” said Stephen Steinour, Huntington president and CEO, in a statement. “All of Huntington stands with our customers and local communities during this challenging time. We believe these steps can bring some financial relief and peace of mind to those affected by the pandemic.”

Huntington branches will serve only drive-thru customers beginning Thursday and will be limiting withdrawals to $3,000, according to a teller at a local branch. The branch has seen an influx of customers make large withdrawals and ATMs have been running out of cash.

“A lot of people are withdrawing cash. We are assuring people their money is safe,” the teller said.

In the governor’s daily press conference Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said he had spoken with leaders of financial institutions across the state and “they wanted me to provide some assurance,” he said.

“Don’t panic. You’re finances are safe,” Husted continued. “These institutions are not going to be closed.”

Chase Bank announced it temporarily shutter about 1,000 branches nationwide beginning Thursday. The branches that remain open mostly have drive-thru services. Financial advisers, small-business bankers and home-lending advisers will also beginning working remotely starting Thursday.

In a memo sent to staff Wednesday, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking Thashunda Duckett said branches would be cleaned more frequently and will have a specialized cleaning team sent within an hour if staff report a “confirmed or highly likely COVID-19 case” in the branch.

717’s Lanham noted “the situation is very fluid” and the decision could be made to shutter branches or limit in-person services as the coronavirus spreads.

On Thursday morning, Home Savings Bank announced it was closing branches to walk-in services through April 5. Drive-thrus and in-person appointments will be available.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.