A growing number of local banks and other financial institutions have closed their lobbies to most in-person visits in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday announced steps he plans to take to alleviate some financial concerns for consumers related to banks by delaying mortgage payments and suspending fees.
The banks do remain open for business. According to Empire State Development they are considered an essential business and therefore exempt from the governor’s order earlier this week to reduce workforce by 75 percent.
Customers who need an in-person service or to access their safe deposit boxes can still do so by making an appointment. Some local institutions have set up their web pages to allow an appointment to be scheduled through the website. Websites also contain branch phone numbers.
The financial institutions are encouraging customers to access their accounts through mobile apps or online when possible.
“We are committed to implementing every measure possible to take great care of our employees and our customers, while providing uninterrupted access to your funds and other important banking services,” said Greg Hartz, president and CEO of Tompkins Trust Company, which closed its lobbies on Thursday.
Branches largely will be accessible through drive-thru windows and ATMs where available.
Some branches that lack a drive-thru window are being closed entirely, such as the Fairport village office of Fairport Savings Bank.
Summit Federal Credit Union has temporarily closed its Excellus branch and is offering only ATM and night deposit access at its Hilton branch. Family First Federal Credit Union closed its branches in Greece and Henrietta; East Rochester, Penfield and Webster remain open for drive-thru transactions.
Some bank and credit union branches without drive-thru windows may still be available for in-person appointments even though their lobbies are closed.
Cuomo said during a daily update on the pandemic Thursday that he will take action to suspend mortgage payments for 90 days for those experiencing hardship such as loss of work.
“Waiving these payments will not have a negative effect on your credit report; there will be a grace period for loan modification. We’re not exempting people from the mortgage payment, we are just adjusting the mortgage to include those payments on the back end, no late fees or online payment fees,” Cuomo said. In addition, he will postpone or suspend foreclosures and waive fees for overdrafts and ATM credit cards, he said.
M&T Bank has already offered $5,000 personal loans for people facing difficulty paying bills due to the pandemic, and has already suspended ATM fees.
And Tompkins Financial Corp. announced earlier this week that it will offer up to 60-day deferments on commercial loans for eligible clients and assistance for retail borrowers.
“We understand that companies, including our small business customers, are the backbone of the US economy and that they need our support during this critical time more than ever,” said Stephen Romaine, president and CEO of Tompkins Financial.
Bank of America branches were remaining open, and the bank announced earlier this week its pledge to donate $100 million to aid “medical response capacity, address food insecurity, increase access to learning as a result of school closures, and provide support to the world’s most vulnerable populations.”
Local banks and credit unions that have closed lobbies include:
Advantage Federal Credit Union
ESL Federal Credit Union
Fairport Savings Bank
Family First Federal Credit Union
Five Star Bank
Genesee Regional Bank
Reliant Community Federal Credit Union
Summit Federal Credit Union
Tompkins Bank of Castile
Tompkins Trust Company.
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