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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Bankers seek guidance from regulators as they develop ways to help their customers

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Bankers across the city and state are seeking guidance as they develop plans to assist their customers. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Bankers across the city and state are seeking guidance as they develop plans to assist their customers. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

The Oklahoma Banking Department issued guidelines Monday to help bankers provide for customers affected by the new coronavirus.

Officials encouraged banks to document credit actions as much as possible and make appointments with customers.

Some bankers are already offering relief programs to customers, while others likely will be adding them as the new coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve.

“The most important thing at this point is to document the credit file as much as possible, outlining the situation with the borrower and the action taken by the institution,” officials stated in a frequently-asked-questions bulletin it issued to state financial institutions.

Bankers were told regulatory approval is needed to close a bank’s lobby if the bank didn’t operate a drive thru as part of its business. Approval is also necessary for banks handling lobby customers “by appointment only.”

As for access to safe deposit boxes, a bank's relationship with safe deposit customers is largely defined by a lease agreement between the parties.

“We suggest that if you are serving lobby customers ‘by appointment only,’ that you include the safe deposit customers and perhaps include a specific contact person and number for that service.”

Board meetings can be conducted remotely, and scheduled bank examinations will continue to be conducted for now, but off-site.

Customers are encouraged to check with their banks to see what relief is available or how provided services are being impacted by the ongoing situation.

“Bankers across the country are talking about this right now,” said Mick Thompson, Oklahoma’s Banking Commissioner.

Thompson said a troubled debt restructuring program previously created by federal regulators is available for bankers to use to give their borrowing customers some relief.

“The problem is: It doesn’t really specify what happens when you get out of this troubled condition for those loans you have adjusted,” Thompson said.

He said ongoing discussions on the topic continue involving Gov. Kevin Stitt, the state’s U.S. Senators, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC and others.

“We will work with our banks any way we can to help them aid their consumers,” Thompson said.

Other steps

On Friday, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced that homeowners affected by the coronavirus emergency are being offered a “forbearance plan” that could reduce or suspend mortgage payments for up to 12 months without late fees or a hit on their credit reports.

Once either of the government-sponsored enterprises, which buy mortgages and package them into mortgage-backed securities, make a forbearance determination for an individual homeowner, the loan servicer must work with the borrower to develop a permanent workout option to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including loan modifications.

Both also stated they suspended foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers for 60 days, through mid-May.

For those without bank resources

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering up to $2 million in low-interest loans to qualifying business owners who can’t get financing from other lenders.

To qualify, businesses must have a physical presence in Oklahoma, must have suffered or are likely to suffer substantial economic injury as a result of the pandemic, must be independently owned and operated, must not have credit available elsewhere and must meet size standards required by the SBA.

The loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.

Nonprofits also are eligible for relief under the SBA program.

Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›