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How Canada’s Banks Have Responded to COVID-19

Joint action from the country’s banking sector and supported by government aims to help consumers and businesses through the global health crisis

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How Canada’s Banks Have Responded to COVID-19

Canada’s banking sector has been “working around the clock” to help customers find a way through the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Canadian Banks Association (CBA) last week published a range of measures that have been enacted by the country’s largest banks to provide relief and support to individuals and businesses affected by the measures taken by the government to reduce the spread of the virus.

The government has already pledged more than C$1.1 billion (US$781 million) towards health measures and last week finance minister Bill Morneau pledged billion of dollars worth of economic support for small business, included interest-free loans and support in paying staff.

In a statement, the CBA said: “Banks are now working to effectively implement the direction announced by the federal government to support Canadian businesses, more details of which will be available in the coming weeks.

“Each bank will have more information to share with their small business customers in the weeks ahead, as specific plans are clarified by the federal government.

“Once all details of the support program are finalized with the government, banks will update their websites with customer information about how to enrol and have their questions answered.

“For details about existing relief programs, customers are encouraged to visit banks’ specific COVID-19 relief webpages for further information before calling or visiting their specific bank.”

Canadian banks have already begun offering mortgage payment relief and flexibility on credit card repayments and lines of credit.

The CBA said banks had also instituted policies to prioritize older or vulnerable populations when accessing in-branch services.

Small business have been offered payment deferrals on loans and advice and support on cash management or new lending.

Within branches and offices, banks have initiated “intensive cleaning programs”. They have also paid bonuses and granted extra paid days off to customer-service employees who work in branches and call centers, given the increasing demands for their services.

In addition, Canadian banks have joined their US counterparts in making substantial donations to charities and community support groups to extend support for vulnerable individuals and communities.

In the US, more banks have pledged millions of dollars in support for charities, healthcare groups and community support groups. Last week it emerged that the US had recorded the most cases of COVID-19, with almost 85,600 reports, more than China where the outbreak started.

Capital One has pledged US$50 million in funds to support its non-profit partners and enhance digital financial resources for various communities.

MUFG has committed $3 million to “non-profit organizations, local government agencies and public-private humanitarian partners”, it announced on Friday. Union Bank pledged a similar amount in support for local communities.

USAA and its charitable foundation announced a $2.3 million donation to “military-focused and national non-profits”, including the Association of Defense Communities, the Blue Star Families COVID-19 Military Support Initiative, the Fisher House Foundation, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, USO, and the We Care for America Foundation.

Truist has committed $1 million each to LiftFund and the Natural Capital Investment Fund to support small businesses in the communities in which it operates.

Raymond James announced on Friday that it would donate $1.5 million to charities “delivering essential services to communities affected by COVID-19”, including Feeding America.

Associated Bank has pledged $300,000 to support local relief efforts in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.

The Bank of Hawaii has donated $100,000 and more than 1,200 face shields and masks to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

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