As of 11 a.m. Friday, March 20, 44 Maine residents have been confirmed positive and 12 others are presumed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.
Camden National Bank and Bangor Savings Bank, the two largest Maine-based banks, said Friday they will defer some loan payments and offer other relief to individuals and businesses harmed financially by the coronavirus outbreak.
At least a dozen of the nation’s largest banks are offering special programs, according to Bankrate.com. Among them is Bank of America, which has 16 financial centers and ATMs in Maine. That bank said it has paused foreclosure sales, evictions and repossessions.
The moves come amid business closings and furloughed employees related to the coronavirus and government steps to curtail its spread. Unemployment claims are skyrocketing in Maine and throughout the country.
On Wednesday, the Maine Department of Labor said it received 4,900 new unemployment claims from Sunday through Tuesday. That’s more claims than the previous six full weeks until March 7.
“We recognize that this is a very stressful time for individuals, families and businesses,” said Greg Dufour, president and CEO of Camden National. “In order to provide flexibility and better peace of mind for those in need, we are taking extra steps to alleviate financial burdens and support our customers, community and employees.”
Camden National is offering up to a 90-day loan deferment program to qualifying customers whose work has been interrupted. Interest on a loan still will accrue, but customers won’t be charged any late fees or have their credit rating affected.
The bank said it will be more flexible in giving individuals access to credit products and support. It will waive penalties for early CD withdrawals.
Businesses will have late charges on qualified loan payments waived. There are other options for payment relief on commercial and small business loans based on need.
Bangor Savings is taking similar measures. It is offering deferred or interest-only loan payments and other programs to customers financially harmed by the virus spread.
“We have streamlined our processes so that we can act quickly and be responsive in providing assistance,” bank spokesperson Kate Rush said.
The bank has helped customers and employees through the great depression and the great recession, President and CEO Bob Montgomery-Rice said.
“We also will be here to help our communities, beginning with our $10,000 gift and underwriting of the United Way of Eastern Maine Relief fund,” he said.
Bank of America, which has 66 million customers, said Thursday that it will work on a case-by-case basis with customers as it has during other stressful periods, including the government shutdown and natural disasters.
Customers with consumer and small business deposit accounts will be able to ask for refunds on overdraft fees, insufficient funds fees and monthly maintenance fees.
Credit card customers and those with small business loans can ask for deferred payments and refunds on late fees.
Auto, mortgage and home-equity loan payments can be delayed, with payments added to the end of the loan.
In addition to sending employees home and assuring available bank surface areas are cleaned frequently, banks also are giving employees a break.
Montgomery-Rice said the bank will not change the employment, pay or benefits of bank workers.
Banks and credit unions also have issued public statements to assure customers that their business still is healthy.
“This is an important time to reiterate that Camden National continues to be very well capitalized,” Dufour said.
The Maine Credit Union League said Friday that credit unions are a safe place for customers to keep money.
Maine credit unions use the National Credit Union Administration to insure member deposits. That insurance is backed by the federal government through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which works similarly to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. that insures banks.
“Given the current environment, our credit union network realizes our members have a great deal on their minds, but their credit union accounts should not be a concern,” said Todd Mason, president and CEO of the Maine Credit Union League. “Maine’s financial services industry is strong — even in these unimaginable circumstances.”