Banking & Finance and Government

West Michigan banks assisting federal employees during shutdown

January 17, 2019
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ChoiceOne Bank branch Rockford E. Division St. NE
Sparta-based ChoiceOne Bank operates 14 branches in West Michigan. Courtesy ChoiceOne Bank

As the partial government shutdown nears the month mark, many West Michigan banks are taking action to help federal employees meet their obligations.

On Dec. 21, Congress let funding for about a quarter of the federal government expire amid a dispute with President Donald Trump over funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Many government employees from agencies that lack approved funding were furloughed, and others have been forced to work without pay.

An estimated 800,000 federal workers missed their first paychecks last week. That could mean the economy lost a pre-tax $4.3 billion last month — and each month that workers are unpaid, according to an estimate from the Chicago-based global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Families and individuals who aren’t getting paid and typically live paycheck to paycheck have faced decisions about which bills to pay, including mortgages, credit cards and car loans.

The Business Journal reached out to about 20 banks with a West Michigan presence and received responses from the following at press time, in alphabetical order, regarding their pledges to assist federal employees during the shutdown:

Chase Bank

Since Dec. 24, New York-based Chase Bank has been automatically waiving or refunding overdraft and monthly service fees on Chase checking and savings accounts if an employee’s salary from an affected federal agency was direct-deposited into the account as of November 2018.

Chase on Jan. 10 encouraged customers affected by the U.S. government shutdown to call its special care hardship line at 888-356-0023 if they have questions or need help with their mortgages, credit card accounts or car loans.

The bank’s hardship program helps qualifying customers by waiving or refunding late fees, extending payments on car loans and leases and protecting customers’ credit histories.

“We’re here for our government worker customers whose pay may be disrupted,” said Thasunda Duckett, CEO of consumer banking. “We all hope this will be resolved soon.”

Chemical Bank

Midland-based Chemical Bank said it “may be able to help” employees of the federal government affected by the shutdown.

“Our customer care representatives are ready to discuss solutions for making payments and avoiding late fees for your Chemical Bank mortgage, credit card or loan,” the bank said in a post on its website.

Customers can call 800-867-9757 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday to get help with their Chemical Bank accounts.

ChoiceOne Bank

On Jan. 14, Sparta-based ChoiceOne Bank announced various relief solutions to customers and federal employees in the community affected by the shutdown.

“As the local community bank, our focus is on the people in our communities,” said Kelly Potes, president and CEO. “We want to do whatever we can to help lighten this financial burden.”

The bank is offering customers affected by the shutdown and federal employees the opportunity to skip a payment on eligible personal loans, waive fees on new short-term personal loans, waive overdraft fees on request, waive early withdrawal penalties on CDs and obtain a financial wellness review.

Those affected can call 888-775-6687 or visit one of the bank’s 14 branch offices to learn more.

Community Shores Bank

Muskegon-based Community Shores Bank President and CEO Heather Brolick said the bank is “working to assist customers in our community impacted by the partial shutdown” and encouraged customers to call 888-853-6633 or visit one of its four branch offices in Muskegon and Ottawa counties to learn about their eligibility.

Brolick said the bank is willing to offer penalty-free withdrawals from CDs, waive loan fees on new short-term personal loans, provide one-month payment deferral on existing Community Shores consumer loans and offer free financial health consultations.

“We realize that everyone’s situation is unique, and we want to work with our customers, their families and friends to find solutions that meet their individual needs,” she said.

Edgewater Bank

St. Joseph-based Edgewater Bank President and CEO Rick Dyer said the bank will work with “any client” affected by the shutdown, as the bank does with all customers facing difficult times.

“Edgewater does not have a formal ‘government shutdown’ program but will work with clients (personal and business) that are impacted,” Dyer said. “That may mean skipping a loan payment, covering an overdraft or restructuring an existing loan. Most of all, we will talk and come up with a solution.”

Edgewater Bank can be reached at 800-922-5221.

Fifth Third Bank

Beth Oates, VP of regional communications for eastern and West Michigan for Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank, said the bank is “working with customers to help them address financial concerns depending on their specific situation.”

“Customers can go to our website at 53.com for specifics on how we can work with them, based on what type of account they have with us, whether it’s a loan or deposit account,” Oates said.

Fifth Third is addressing “shutdown-related hardship concerns related to auto loans, credit cards and loans secured by real estate,” as well as mortgages and equity loans, on a case-by-case basis.

Customers can call 866-601-6391 to start the application process. Some of the loan solutions available include lowering interest rates, extending loan terms and reducing the principals.

For deposit accounts, the bank offers customers the opportunity to receive relief for overdraft or other fees incurred because of the furlough if they call 800-972-3030.

Flagstar Bank

Troy-based Flagstar Bank said it “has a special program for borrowers impacted by the government shutdown that provides them with extra time to coordinate their finances without causing additional fees and/or impacting their credit reporting negatively.”

“We are re-evaluating the program on a weekly basis to ensure that it is available for the duration of the shutdown,” the bank said.

Customers can call (800) 393-4887 and self-identify as a government employee impacted by the shutdown to receive assistance.

Huntington Bank

Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bank said Jan. 4 it will automatically waive all overdraft-related fees on existing Huntington checking accounts of customers identified as current government employees affected by the shutdown. Refunds on overdraft fees are being backdated to Dec. 23 and will last until the government shutdown ends.

Huntington is also offering a low-rate, quick-loan program for qualified Huntington customers who are federal employees needing special assistance during the shutdown. The program is available until Feb. 6 or until the shutdown ends — whichever is sooner.

“We understand the financial stress created by a government shutdown,” said Andy Harmening, director of consumer and business banking. “We also believe in looking out for our customers who need assistance during this time.”

Huntington customers can visit their local branch or call Huntington’s government shutdown support line at 888-697-4682 to learn more.

Independent Bank

On Jan. 14, Grand Rapids-based Independent Bank said federal employees who contact the bank in regard to not receiving paychecks during the government shutdown “will be offered assistance.”

The bank said it will work with loan customers to “avoid the negative consequences of missing a payment, such as late fees and/or reporting a late payment to the credit bureau.” If requested, loan payments will be suspended for affected federal employees.

Customers can contact the borrower assistance team at 844-279-2748 or homeownersupport at ibcp dot com to request help.

Independent Bank said it will also work with all customers who are federal employees on any fees or issues incurred as a result of the shutdown. Customers can contact their local banking office or call 800-355-0641 for assistance.

Old National Bank

Evansville, Indiana-based Old National Bank yesterday said it will offer assistance to clients, community members and associates in the wake of the federal government shutdown.

Furloughed government employees and employees of federal contractors impacted by the government shutdown can apply for a 90-day, no-fee, interest-free loan of up to $1,500.

Clients who are furloughed can call the Old National Bank Client Care Centers at 800-731-2265 or visit its banking centers for assistance with consumer loan/line payment extensions, mortgage loan payment extensions, refunds of overdraft or monthly maintenance fees on consumer accounts, waiving of monthly consumer checking service charges and waiving of early withdrawal fees for non-IRA CDs.

“As a community bank, helping those in need is a top priority,” said Jim Sandgren, president and COO. “The continuing government shutdown is impacting more than 100,000 citizens across Old National’s footprint, and we are pleased to offer this assistance for those experiencing challenges.”

PNC

Pittsburgh-based PNC said Jan. 14 it is encouraging “impacted customers to contact us so we can work with them based on their unique situation and needs.”

The bank said it is “prepared to waive monthly service fees and take other appropriate actions for government employees who are experiencing financial difficulty due to the shutdown.”

PNC is also offering several forms of short-term financing.

Customers can call 888-762-2265 to learn more.

United Bank

Grand Rapids-based United Bank said yesterday its relief solutions for qualifying government employees impacted by the shutdown will include waived early withdrawal fees on CDs, waived monthly consumer checking service charges, refund of overdraft fees on consumer accounts and payment extensions for consumers’ loans.

“As a community bank, we genuinely believe in helping our neighbors in times of need,” said Mike Manica, president and CEO. “Our mission is to provide creative solutions to our customers’ financial needs and offer them the best in customer service.”

Customers can call 616-559-7000 or visit one of United Bank’s 12 local branches to discuss financial wellness and solutions to fit their situation.

West Michigan Community Bank

West Michigan Community Bank said yesterday customers affected by the shutdown should contact the bank to discuss the current situation with their deposit accounts and loans.     

“Community support is something we are deeply committed to,” said Phil Koning, president and CEO. “We value our community and customer relationships, and we are ready to help. … Our goal is to work together, with respect and fairness, to assist those in need.”

West Michigan Community Bank can be reached via email at callcenter at wmcb dot com, by calling 800-664-1778 or visiting one of its six branch locations.

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