By Imani Moise and Michelle Price
(Reuters) – Citigroup Inc <C.N> said on Friday it would waive some fees and offer other assistance for U.S. consumers and small businesses impacted by the coronavirus.
Effective Monday, impacted customers will be eligible to have monthly bank account fees and certificate of deposit penalties waived. Citigroup said it would also provide hardship programs and additional small-business support, such as extended banker availability.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we want our customers to know we are here to provide assistance should they need it,” said Anand Selva, chief executive of Citi’s U.S. Consumer Bank.
In the United States, the coronavirus outbreak has spread to 22 states. The U.S. death toll on Friday stood at 15, with more than 230 cases.
Worldwide, the number of people infected with the coronavirus surpassed 100,000 on Friday. The outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people and spread across more than 90 nations.
Industry experts have raised concerns over how the illness could impact markets if consumers curb spending.
“Another week or so of growing COVID-19 contagion, canceled events, foregone travel and shuttered businesses will lead to waves of delinquent debt from Americans with no other choice,” said Karen Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics. “One longstanding lesson of economic history is that liquidity crises descend into solvency debacles if not quickly resolved.”
Officials, including Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan, have been mulling whether to ask banks to consider adopting forbearance programs to help consumers who are squeezed financially by the pandemic. The Federal Reserve has urged banks to take similar steps during natural disasters like Hurricane Michael and during the government shut down.
(Reporting by Imani Moise; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler)