Like most industries today, Consumer Finance Services businesses are being significantly impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Troutman Pepper has developed a dedicated COVID-19 Resource Center to guide clients through this unprecedented global health challenge. We regularly update this site with COVID-19 news and developments, recommendations from leading health organizations, and tools that businesses can use free of charge.
To help you keep abreast of relevant activities, below is a breakdown of some of the biggest COVID-19 driven events at the Federal and State levels to impact the Consumer Finance Services industry this past week:
- On July 24, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced its intention to release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks to provide individuals with more access to their financial records. The CFPB will solicit comments pertaining to ways that CFPB can implement the financial access rights described in Section 1033 of the Dodd-Frank Act and to how Section 1033 interacts with other statutes, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For more information, click here.
- On July 23, 2020, the Senate unanimously passed S. 3841, a bill that protects the stimulus funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) from being garnished by judgement creditors and debt collectors, similar to how Social Security payments are exempt from being garnished. For more information, click here.
- On July 23, 2020, the Federal Reserve Board expanded the set of firms eligible to transact with and provide services in three emergency lending facilities. This expansion is aimed at increasing the Federal Reserve’s operational capacity and insight into the respective markets. For more information, click here.
- On July 22, 2020, the CFPB issued tips in a blog post directed to co-signors of private student loan debt during the COVID-19 emergency. The CARES Act offers relief for those with federal student loans. Many private student loan lenders are providing options for reducing or suspending payments as well. The blog includes a list of steps to protect a co-signer from the consequences of defaulting on a private student loan. For more information, click here.
- On July 21, 2020, the Federal Reserve Board announced its intent in 2021 to maintain the current schedule of prices for most payment services that the Federal Reserve Banks provide to depository institutions. This approach recognizes the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulty in applying standard forecasting tools in this environment. For more information, click here.
- On July 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor published additional guidance for workers and employers on how the protections and requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) affect the workplace as workplaces reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance from the Department’s Wage and Hour Division includes commonly asked questions and answers that address critical issues in all three laws. For more information, click here.
- On July 17, 2020, the Federal Reserve Board modified the Main Street Lending Program to provide greater access to credit for nonprofit organizations such as educational institutions, hospitals, and social service organizations. The Federal Reserve Board approved two new loan options to provide support to a broad set of nonprofit organizations that were in sound financial condition prior to the pandemic. The Main Street nonprofit loan terms mirror those for Main Street for-profit business loans, including the interest rate, principal and interest payment deferral, five-year term, and minimum and maximum loan sizes. For more information, click here.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced it would extend debt relief to veterans adversely impacted by COVID-19 through the end of 2020, suspending all collection actions on Veteran debts under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Treasury Department, which occurs once the debt has been delinquent for more than 120 days. According to the VA, veterans will have the option to suspend collection or extend repayment terms on preexisting VA debts through year’s end. For more information, click here.
- On July 27, 2020, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Emergency Temporary Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention Related to COVID-19 goes into effect and is set to expire six months thereafter. Virginia is the only state to pass a COVID-19 specific workplace safety standard. The standard gives legal effect to much of what is found in the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s guidance. For more information, click here.
- On July 24, 2020, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh sent a letter to the chief judges of the Court of Appeals and the District Court of Maryland requesting the Court extend its moratoria on eviction actions and debt collection cases until January 31, 2021. The current moratorium restricts Maryland’s District Court system from hearing eviction proceedings until July 25, 2020, when the current stay on residential evictions is scheduled to be lifted. For more information, click here.
- On July 22, 2020, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the state of emergency order enacted in response to COVID-19. The state of emergency was set to expire on July 24, 2020 but has been extended through October 9, 2020. For more information, click here.
- On July 22, 2020, the City of Chicago instituted the Fair Eviction Notice ordinance. The ordinance imposes notice periods before a landlord can decide not to renew, materially change lease terms, or terminate a lease. These notice requirements apply unless the tenant abandons the property, disturbs a neighbor’s peaceful enjoyment of premises, does not pay rent, or materially does not comply with lease obligations. For more information, click here.
- On July 17, 2020, New York Attorney General Letitia James extended the suspension of debt collection for medical and student debt owed to the state of New York for 30 days, through August 15, 2020. Interest accrual and collection of fees on outstanding state medical and student debt are suspended until August 15, 2020 as well. For more information, click here.
- On July 21, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) testified before Congress relating to the agency’s efforts in combatting COVID-19-related scams. The FTC shared with congressional members that it “has seen deceptive advertising or marketing touting ‘miracle cures’ for COVID-19” and that online shopping complaints have emerged relating to protective health equipment. The FTC created a resource page for consumers, which can be found here. Business leaders and staff could benefit by checking out our discussion relating to ways a business’s staff could reduce their cyber risks to an organization.
- On July 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) shared responses to frequently asked questions regarding “HHS Protect—the “secure platform for authentication, amalgamation, and sharing of healthcare information” for the COVID-19 response. To learn more about the program, check out the FAQs page by clicking here.
- During the week of July 20, 2020, reports have been coming in regarding cyber “Meow” attacks that are wiping vulnerable databases. The attacks delete databases, without warning, leaving behind a “Meow” notification. These reports are of particular importance for businesses which may have recently been forced to depend on reaching customers through virtual means due to COVID-19. To mitigate potential risks to these types of attacks, businesses with remote databases should scan for access from outside corporate networks to locate exposed services. Additionally, businesses should verify they have database backups in case an attack successfully wipes all essential information. For additional tips, check out Troutman Pepper’s post discussing five ways business leaders could reduce cyber risks within their organization.
- Companies were recently put on notice by the U.S. National Security Agency and other intelligence groups when regulators released a joint cybersecurity advisory to “expose the malicious activity by [Russian Intelligence Services]” targeting COVID-19 research and vaccine development. The advisory provides system administrators with a variety of tools and information they can use to review and mitigate potential security risks by government actors. The advisory is also a reminder for business leaders to think beyond “regulatory obligations to protect personal information and to ensure that their intellectual property is shielded from evolving cyber threats.” For the full advisory, click here. To learn more about the advisory, click here to read an analysis by Law360.