ABA Urges Bankers to Support Harvey Relief Effort

American Bankers Association President and CEO Rob Nichols today called on bankers to join ABA in supporting the response to Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast and invited them to contribute to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund set up by the Texas Bankers Association and the Independent Bankers Association of Texas.

ABA and its subsidiaries will contribute $100,000 to the fund, which will provide relief for people displaced by the storm, including bank employees and their families. Contributions to the fund are tax-exempt, and TBA and IBAT are absorbing all credit card processing fees to ensure 100 percent of funds reach those in need. ABA will also match its own employees’ contributions to Harvey relief efforts.

“It will come as no surprise to you that the industry’s response to date has been caring, generous and committed,” wrote Nichols in an email to bank CEOs nationwide. “I have no doubt all banks whose customers have been harmed by Hurricane Harvey will make a priority of helping them through this difficult time.” He cited a wide range of responses, from community banks that have opened mobile branches to institutions waiving service fees to million-dollar relief pledges from large nationwide banks.

Nichols also pointed to several ABA resources for banks dealing with the storm, including constant coordination with federal, state and local authorities through the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center to ensure the banking system continues to function, as well as communications resources for banks on the front lines of disaster.

In related news, federal banking agencies issued additional guidance and resources to institutions today. In a bulletin, the OCC urged banks serving Harvey-affected customers to consider waiving or reducing ATM fees; temporarily waiving late payment fees or early withdrawal penalties; restructuring debt obligations when appropriate, although generally not for periods longer than 90 days; expediting lending decisions when possible; and originating or participating in sound reconstruction loans. “Examiners will not criticize these types of responses as long as the actions are taken in a manner consistent with sound banking practices,” the agency said.

The FDIC issued similar guidance that also referenced practices such as increasing ATM withdrawal limits, easing credit card limits and delaying the submission of delinquency notices to credit bureaus. “The FDIC encourages depository institutions to use non-documentary verification methods permitted by the . . . Bank Secrecy Act for affected customers who cannot provide standard identification documents,” the agency said. “Prudent efforts by depository institutions to meet customers’ cash and financial needs generally will not be subject to examiner criticism.” The FDIC also issued an FAQ for bank customers, as well as resources on lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.