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.
Our bank and loan servicing clients also face novel challenges affecting their industry due to COVID-19, particularly the ever-changing rules and regulations concerning evictions and foreclosures. We are closely tracking these updates and have assembled an interactive tracker containing state orders and guidance documents regarding residential foreclosure and eviction moratoriums. You may access this new interactive tool at https://covid19.troutman.com/trackers-ef.php.
To help you keep abreast of relevant activities, below find 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 December 4, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the student loan repayment forbearance for federally held student loans would be extended through January 31, 2021. Federal student loan borrowers can forgo making payments through January of next year, although payments made during that time will benefit from the 0% interest rate to pay down principal. Nonpayments will continue to count toward the number of payments required under an income-driven repayment plan, a loan rehabilitation agreement, or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. For more information, click here.
- On December 3, the Ombudsman’s Office of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its annual report. The report provides updates to the CFPB’s internal and external engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, click here.
- On December 3, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (Council) approved its 2020 annual report. The report analyzes the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the policy responses to mitigate its impact on the economy and the financial system. Additionally, the Council’s annual report describes significant financial market and regulatory developments, potential emerging threats to U.S. financial stability, recommendations to promote U.S. financial stability, and the activities of the Council. For more information, click here.
- On December 3, U.S. House of Representatives Maxine Waters, as chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, called on financial regulators to refrain from enacting “midnight rules” or other administrative actions through January 20, 2021. Any actions taken before the inauguration will be reviewed with heavy scrutiny. For more information, click here.
- On December 2, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) would extend the moratoriums on single-family foreclosures and real estate-owned (REO) evictions until at least January 31, 2021. The foreclosure moratorium applies to Enterprise-backed, single-family mortgages only. The REO eviction moratorium applies to properties acquired by an Enterprise through foreclosure or deed in lieu of foreclosure transactions. The current moratoriums were set to expire on December 31. For more information, click here.
- On December 3, the State of Maryland approved temporary remote worker regulations for licensed employees operating from a location other than the location on the employer’s license or licenses. For more information, click here.
- On December 3, the city of Tampa Housing and Community Development extended the application deadline to December 30, for its new Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation program that offers deferred payment loans to landlords of multi-family affordable housing properties that have seen decreases in rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is intended to provide assistance to landlords. The city will offer loans from $100,000 up to $500,000. The loans will have zero percent interest and can be deferred each year for 10 years and eventually forgiven if the property owners keep their units affordable during that period. For more information, click here.
- On December 2, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the opening of the third round of Working Washington Small Business grants with $50 million earmarked for qualifying small businesses with annual revenues of $5 million or less in 2019 operating in sectors specifically impacted by recent public health measures, such as full-service restaurants, fitness centers, bowling alleys, and music and event venues. Grants up to $20,000 are available, and businesses are encouraged to apply by December 11.
- On December 2, Arizona Governor Douglas A. Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-58, which requires the Arizona Department of Health Services, in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions, to require all insurers regulated by the state to waive all cost-sharing requirements for consumers related to the administration of all COVID-19 vaccinations, without regard as to whether the provider is in-network. The Order will expire upon the termination of Arizona’s Declaration of Public Health Emergency or the enactment of a federal requirement to provide the COVID-19 vaccine without cost-sharing. For more information, click here.
- On December 4, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new working group called the “False Claims Act Working Group” (Working Group). The Working Group aims to “combat fraud and abuse by identifying and focusing resources on those who seek to defraud the American taxpayers.” The Working Group will strengthen existing partnerships with the Department of Justice and the HHS Office of Inspector General to protect against fraud on the federal government. HHS shared that it will focus on bad actors who seek to defraud the HHS’ programs, including those intended to fight COVID-19. To read the full announcement, click here.
- On December 3, HHS issued an amendment to the Declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act). Among several changes, HHS “[a]uthorizes healthcare personnel using telehealth to order or administer Covered Countermeasures, such as a diagnostic test that has received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), for patients in a state other than the state where the healthcare personnel are already permitted to practice.” To read the full description of the amendments, click here. To read HHS’s announcement, click here.
- On December 3, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned consumers that scammers are calling individuals pretending to be well-known companies to trick them into providing personal information. Scammers likely recognize that consumers are spending more time making online purchases due to COVID-19, and scammers are likely looking to capitalize on this increased dependence. In one instance, scammers pretending to be Amazon support staff call consumers stating that an issue has occurred with a consumer’s account, asking them to provide an account password or credit card number. To read more, click here.
- On December 3, Wired reported that hackers are targeting COVID-19 supply chains. Any company or association focused on transporting the vaccine appears to be “within bounds for the attackers[,]” such as manufacturers of solar panels who might need to power trucks to transport the vaccine. Wired reports that it is still unclear whether any of the attacks have been successful or what the hacker’s objectives might be. Business leaders looking to reduce their organizations’ cyber risks should check out Troutman Pepper’s article by clicking here. To continue reading Wired’s report, click here.
- On December 2, the FTC reminded consumers that it offers COVID-19 resources to protect against scams in different languages, including Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Spanish. Consumers can explore blogs, articles, and publications to learn about critical frauds and scams. Click here to check out the different language offerings.
- On December 1, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (OAG) released a video to offer Californians tips on avoiding deceptive or misleading solicitations when making donations during the COVID-19 holiday season. The FTC shared a similar post. The OAG and FTC inform consumers to:
- Check registration status of charities operating in California. The OAG reminds consumers that charities and telemarketers soliciting donations are required to register with the OAG’s Registry of Charitable Trusts.
- Give to organizations that you trust. The OAG and FTC inform consumers to make donations to organizations only after researching them, such as determining the purpose and ways donations are spent.
- Be cautious of “look-alike” websites. Fraudsters often purchase similar-looking web-domains to trick donors into sending them money rather than the appropriate organization.
To check out the OAG’s video or continue reading the announcement, click here.
- On December 1, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shared its findings regarding masked-facial recognition technology, demonstrating that developers have made significant progress in recognizing faces with masks. Interestingly, “red and black masks tended to yield higher error rates” than other colors. Also, unsurprisingly, the more a face mask covers, “the higher the algorithm’s error rate tends to be.” To read more about the study, click here. For developers working on facial recognition software in the COVID-19 era, make sure to stay up-to-date on regulations by visiting our blog; there, you can read about the Biometric Information Privacy Act’s (BIPA) updates. Troutman Pepper is also preparing its “2020 CFS Year in Review Publication,” where we will discuss BIPA copycats. Stay tuned!
- On November 30, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report, “Artificial Intelligence [AI] in Health Care.” The report focuses on the promises and challenges posed by AI tools in health care, especially as individuals continue to focus on remote care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The GAO offered six potential paths for policymakers; they could:
- encourage interdisciplinary collaboration between developers and health care providers;
- develop or expand high-quality data access mechanisms;
- encourage relevant stakeholders and experts to establish best practices for development, implementation, and use of AI technologies;
- create opportunities for more workers to develop interdisciplinary skills;
- collaborate with relevant stakeholders to clarify appropriate oversight mechanisms; or
- allow current efforts to proceed without intervention.
To read the full GAO report, click here.