MURRAY — The ongoing crisis created by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has found its way into nearly every area of life imaginable.
This includes people’s pocket books, particularly when it comes to their ability to satisfy required payments, such as vehicle and home loans with their lenders, namely banks. After all, with many businesses not even operating right now, getting paid may not be happening.
Needless to say, customers are worried. That is why local bank officials say they are doing what they can to calm fears.
“There are a few things people need to know, and No. 1 is that we are a local bank in a local community, and I feel that goes for all banks in this community right now,” said FNB Bank Murray-Calloway County Market President Amy Futrell of how she believes the local theme can provide a feeling of calm for customers. “We care about our customers and we also know that nobody can help what’s going on right now.
“Nobody had been planning for a pandemic like this and people are scared.”
Futrell said FNB has instituted what she described as a hardship assistance program, which basically means for customers either temporarily unable to earn income, or who may be losing their jobs altogether, that they will not have to make payments on loans until a later date.
“Businesses are hurting right now because of this shutdown, but they still have payments to make, but they also have people to try and take care of, so one thing we’re doing is suspending those payments until the end of the note. Let’s say you have a five-year loan and you’ve got a payment due right now; that payment is now going to be due at the end of the period – in other words, deferred to a later date,” Futrell said.
Both Futrell and Community Financial Services Bank (CFSB) Calloway County Market President Jason Pittman are also keeping a close eye on the United States Small Business Administration, which last week committed to providing disaster assistance loans for small businesses being harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
These will offer up to $2 million in assistance for small businesses. In addition, U.S. Senate Republicans last week began discussing a plan to send $1,200 to all Americans making $99,000 or less as part of what is being tabbed as a coronavirus stimulus package.
“That’s going to be a huge shot in the arm if the funds go through on the federal level, at least to keep capital in the system. I don’t see how they could shut down the payment system of the country and recover well from that,” Pittman said, also sending praise in the direction of Kentucky’s state government. “Now, the state of Kentucky has done a great job, in my opinion, of rolling out the plan with unemployment, taking away the waiting period with unemployment to get access to those funds for the citizens of the commonwealth. That’s also going to be a huge shot in the arm.”
Futrell also said small business owners who may not have a loan, but have been using cash only to finance an operation, or nonprofits, should consider looking at a local bank for guidance.
“Always go there first, and I can guarantee you that every bank in this community can help, because everybody right now is a team player,” she said.
Pittman said one of the biggest things banks can do right now is simply listen.
“I think that’s huge. Honestly, I think that is one of the most important things we do on a daily basis, whether this is going on at all or whether this is a normal day in America, I think it is our job to listen to our clients,” he said. “We are counselors, we are marriage counselors, we are biz advisors, we are financial stewards, we are folks that help you get through tragedy whenever mom dies or family member passes away and helps you navigate. Sometimes, we try not to be poorly advised attorneys, but we wear so many different hats whenever somebody walks into our doors at the bank. That’s just what community banking is about and you know being that calming force or lending that ear to those folks? That’s a big deal.”
Something else both Futrell and Pittman also wanted to say is that the local banks are still open for businesses and that citizens can have confidence that their money is safe. In addition, Tim Stark, vice president of marketing for The Murray Bank, said that it is his understanding that all ATMs of local banks are operating and customers can use those to obtain funds for purchasing needs at this time.