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Community Bankers Play a Vital Role in America’s Pandemic Response

Carl White

Proud. Overwhelmed. Frustrated.

These sentiments and others expressed by bankers come from the 2020 National Survey of Community Banks, conducted annually by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and state banking regulators for the past seven years. The survey is released each year during the annual Community Banking in the 21st Century research and policy conference; the event is sponsored by the Federal Reserve, the CSBS and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In this year’s survey, the effects of COVID-19 dominated and colored typical industry concerns related to regulatory burden, small business lending, industry consolidation, competition and technological innovation.

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Fed Releases Proposal for CRA Reform, Seeks Comments

Carl White

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is a federal law that requires federally insured banks to meet the credit needs of people in their communities while meeting safety and soundness standards. At the time of its 1977 passage, lawmakers were concerned about unequal access to credit and policies such as redlining, especially in low-and moderate-income communities. Bank regulators were given the task of writing, implementing and enforcing regulations to ensure banks were meeting the goals of the law.

CRA regulations were last updated in 1995, and much has changed in the banking industry in the last 25 years. Technological change—especially the move to online and mobile banking—means that a CRA focused solely on activity in brick-and-mortar branches will miss a large swath of banking activity as an increasing number of banks begin to operate online.

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Small Business Lending Gives a Boost to Banks

Carl White

The recession that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic has hit most sectors of the U.S. economy hard, and commercial banks are no exception. Through the first half of 2020, profits sharply declined from their year-ago levels as banks worked with loan customers through deferrals and modifications, new loan demand fell, and banks set aside more funds for anticipated losses.

Those trends were true of both community banks and their larger counterparts to varying degrees within the District and nationally.

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Bank Supervision Adapts to Pandemic Challenges

Carl White

The last several months have been challenging ones for all of us, both personally and professionally. We’ve all had to adjust, especially when it comes to getting essential work done. For the Federal Reserve and other bank regulators, the challenge has been to maintain close oversight of our financial institutions and to assist banks as they work to keep credit flowing to their customers. It’s been a delicate balancing act, but one that appears to be working well thus far.

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Clarity for Banks Serving the Hemp Industy

Carl White

Banks serving hemp producers no longer have to automatically fill out reports used to detect money laundering activities. This reduction in regulatory burden can be traced to the 2018 farm bill (officially titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018), which legalized hemp by removing it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Properly licensed industrial hemp producers can now be treated the same as other bank commercial customers for anti-money-laundering regulatory purposes.

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