1 1 (March 16, 2020)

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              Researh Sevice

The Financial Industry and Consumers

Struggling to Pay Bills during the COVID-19

(Coronavirus) Outbreak

March 16, 2020
A growing number of cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID- 19) have been identified in the United
States, significantly impacting many communities. For background on the coronavirus, see CRS In Focus
IF 11421, CO VID-19: Global Implications and Responses, by Sara M. Tharakan et al.
This outbreak may continue to cause disruptions as federal, state, and local governments limit public
gatherings, close schools, and encourage workers to telework to contain the coronavirus's spread. While
this situation is evolving rapidly, the economic impact may be large due to illnesses, quarantines, and
other business disruptions.
Consequently, many Americans may lose income and face financial hardship due to the coronavirus
outbreak. Some workers may need to take time off work if they or their families fall ill. In addition,
layoffs or reduced hours may impact workers in particular industries affected by the outbreak, such as the
travel, restaurant, and entertainment industries. To address these concerns, on Saturday, March 14, the
House passed H.R. 6201, which, among other things, expands sick leave access, unemployment
insurance, and food assistance benefits. Even if this bill is enacted, some families may continue to feel the
economic impact. This Insight focuses on possible policy options relating to the financial services
industry for consumers who may have trouble paying their bills due to the outbreak.

Payment Relief for Consumer Loans

On Monday, March 9, federal and state financial regulators coordinated a statement to the financial
industry, encouraging it to help meet the needs of consumers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. They
stated that financial institutions should work constructively with borrowers and other consumers in
affected communities, and that prudent efforts that are consistent with safe and sound lending practices
would not be criticized by regulators. This statement was similar to past statements by financial regulators
during events such as natural disasters and government shutdowns. On Friday, March 13, the Office of the
Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) expanded on
this statement with more detailed guidance for the institutions they regulate.
                                                              Congressional Research Service

Prepaed for Membeivs and
Committees of Conqgre.s

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