The following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat. She is also running to be the Democratic nominee for president.
WASHINGTON DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, and Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions (HELP), sent letters to the CEOs at five large U.S. retail banks — JP Morgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and U.S. Bancorp — to ask how they plan to provide financial assistance to customers who may face economic difficulties related to the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In the past, these five banks have extended flexibilities to their customers to ensure that temporary conditions, including natural disasters and the 2019 government shutdown, did not create long-term financial difficulties.
In countries where COVID-19 cases have proliferated, the spread of the illness has shaken local economies, shuttered businesses, stopped travel and trade, closed schools, and quarantined workers.
If the outbreak grows in the United States, the economic costs could be severe: many of the banks’ customers may have temporary or permanent losses of income that would make it hard for them to pay their mortgages, credit card bills, auto loans and other consumer debts.
If businesses’ bottom lines take substantial hits, workers could have their hours cut or even be laid off. And if there are shortages due to supply chain disruptions from the outbreak or due to individuals purchasing items in bulk, prices could climb dramatically.
Senator Warren’s letter noted that she has also called for providing emergency paid sick leave to all individuals exposed to coronavirus that would fully replace wages lost while in quarantine or acting as a family caregiver.
“Because of the severe economic threat from a coronavirus pandemic, the financial stability of millions of American families may be at risk,” Senator Warren wrote. “As one of the largest retail banks in the country, your institution can take certain steps to limit this risk, as you have done in prior times of economic distress for individuals.”
In 2019, when President Trump’s government shutdown affected over 800,000 federal workers, Senator Warren wrote to the same five banks to ask about the actions each bank was taking to assist those affected.
In response, banks reported that they were offering zero-interest credit card accounts, waiving overdraft and late fees and offering forbearance for mortgages — providing important relief to workers and families.
“It is my hope that, should they be necessary, that you will again be willing and able to provide a similar set of solutions to those affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Given the uncertain trajectory of the disease and the number of individuals who could be affected, I hope that you will be able to provide additional assistance to the extent it does not impact the safety and soundness of your bank,” wrote Senator Warren.
Senator Warren has requested responses to her questions by March 17, 2020.