BANKING & FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Regulating Financial Services, Protecting Montanans

FINANCIAL RESOURCES FOR MONTANA RESIDENTS IMPACTED BY COVID-19

The Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions (DBFI) has developed a list of financial resources for Montana consumers impacted by the Coronavirus. The Division will add to this list as more resources become available.

Last Updated: October 22, 2021

Federally insured banks and credit unions offer a safe place for members to save money. All deposits at federally insured banks and credit unions are federally insured up to at least $250,000 per individual depositor. For more information visit www.fdic.gov for federally insured banks, or www.ncua.gov for federally insured credit unions.

If you are out of work, the Montana State Unemployment Insurance Division provides support services to individuals affected by COVID-19 in Montana.

If you have seen a reduction in pay due to COVID-19 and are struggling to make your credit card or loan payments, contact your lender right away. Explain your situation and ask about hardship programs that may be available. Regulatory agencies have encouraged financial institutions to work with customers impacted by the coronavirus.

Credit card companies and lenders may be able to offer you a number of options to help you. This could include waiving certain fees like ATM, overpayments, and late fees, as well as allowing you to delay, adjust, or skip some payments.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW FIRST

  • If you can pay your mortgage, pay your mortgage.
  • If you cannot pay your mortgage, or can only pay a portion, contact your mortgage servicer immediately. Don't wait until you're behind on payments. Servicers may work with you to waive late fees, set up a repayment plan or offer loan forbearance.

HOW TO REQUEST RELIEF

Call your servicer, or review your servicer's webpage for relief options and applications.

For Assistance:

  • Homeowners in distress may call DBFI at 1-406-841-2920 to talk to a member of our team and to get assistance in how best to contact their mortgage servicer, and to learn more about their options.

RESOURCES AND INFORMATION

The Montana Emergency Rental Assistance Program is now available which provides rent and utility assistance to Montanans who have been financially hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Montanans can receive up to $2,200/month for rent and $300/month for utilities dating back to April 1, 2020 through the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance program. The online application is easy and thousands of Montanans qualify. Renters can apply directly and landlords can apply on behalf of renters with the renter’s co-signature and required documentation.

To be eligible for rent or utility assistance:

  • Your household income cannot exceed 80 percent of the area median income. Use the eligibility requirement tool on the program webpage to check your income eligibility: 
  • You or someone in your household must have been financially impacted, directly or indirectly, by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Show that you are at risk of homelessness or housing instability 

If you are unable to make your rent payment, contact your landlord immediately and try to work out an agreement. If you are in need of rental assistance, you can also contact a housing counseling agency toll-free (800) 569-4287. They can help point you in the right direction.

For more information about protections for Montana renters, visit the Montana Legal Services Association. Renters are encouraged to work with their landlords and make all good faith efforts to pay owed rental arrears and future rent due. Renters experiencing financial hardships due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic are urged to apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance program.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

If you're in a short-term financial bind, you may qualify for a deferment or a forbearance. With either of these options, you can temporarily suspend your payments.

Federal Student Loan Payments to Restart After Jan. 31, 2022

The Department of Education (ED) announced on Aug. 6, 2021, that the relief flexibilities period for ED-owned federal student loans has been extended for the final time. The current relief measures for eligible loans include:

  • A suspension of loan payments
  • A 0% interest rate
  • Stopped collections on defaulted loans

The current relief flexibilities were scheduled to end Sept. 30, 2021, but have now been extended to Jan. 31, 2022. You can find more information on the Federal Student Aid Coronavirus webpage.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Consider your options before taking out a high cost short term loan. Talk with your creditors to negotiate more time to pay bills, borrow from friends or family, or explore low interest loans offered by local banks and credit unions.

If you do take out a short-term loan, make sure the lender is licensed with the Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions and borrow only what you can afford to pay back. Currently, Montana does not have any licensed deferred deposit lenders ("payday lenders"); this includes payday lenders with a physical presence in the state as well as online lenders.

If you are struggling to pay your utility bills, contact your service provider right away. Many utility service providers offer emergency assistance programs.

The Montana State Auditor's Office has resources and information available for consumers who have insurance related questions.

The U.S. Small Business Administration re-opened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan portal to PPP-eligible lenders with $1 billion or less in assets for First and Second Draw applications on Friday, January 15, 2021. The portal is fully open to all participating PPP lenders to submit First and Second Draw loan applications to SBA. The SBA is currently only accepting loan applications from participating community financial institutions (CFIs). Businesses can find a participating CFI at Lender Match.

Consumers should be on alert for increased fraud during the COVID-19 outbreak. Consumers should be vigilant about protecting their finances and should not share financial or other sensitive information with anyone who contacts you unsolicited.

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

  • Your bank or credit union should not ask for you financial account details via email. If you receive an email, contact your bank or credit union with the contact information listed on their website.
  • Don't click on links from sources you don't know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the (CDC) and the World Health Organization's (WHO) websites.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don't let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don't do it.

TIPS FOR AVOIDING FRAUD

  • Government agencies will not call or text you about benefits or money, and they won't ask you for a deposit, fees or other payment in order to get your benefits.
  • Government agencies will not ask you for your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card number.
  • Be careful about emails, calls, and texts from sources you don't know.

CORONAVIRUS SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Below are COVID-19 related scams Montana consumers should beware of.

SCAMS INVOLVING CRYPTOCURRENCY RELATED TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Fraudsters are leveraging increased fear and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money and launder it through the complex cryptocurrency ecosystem. Many traditional financial crimes and money laundering schemes are now orchestrated via cryptocurrencies.

SBA LOAN AND GRANT FRAUD

The Small Business Administration is warning Americans to be on the lookout for grant fraud, loan fraud, and phishing emails. If you are contacted by someone promising to get approval of an SBA loan, but requires any payment up front or offers a high interest bridge loan in the interim, suspect fraud. Beware of SBA Scams and Fraud

CHECKS FROM THE GOVERNMENT SCAMS

The Federal Trade Commission is warning Americans to beware of scams regarding checks coming from the federal government. Keep in mind that the government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing. The government also will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.

PRICE GOUGING

Consumers have been reporting price gouging during the COVID-19 outbreak. For coronavirus-related consumer complaints regarding price gouging or scams, call the Montana Office of Consumer Protection at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500.

COVID-19 INVESTMENT SCAMS

The Office of the Montana State Auditoris reminding investors to beware of con artists looking to cash in on the COVID-19 outbreak. Before making any major investment decisions you should do your research and verify that you are working with licensed financial professionals.

IMPOSTOR SCAMS

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is warning scammers using their name fraudulently. The FDIC does not send unsolicited correspondence asking for money or sensitive personal information.

FinCen issued an advisory on detecting, preventing, and reporting consumer fraud and other illicit activity related to COVID-19.

TEXT MESSAGE AND ROBOCALL SCAMS

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is warning Americans to beware of text message and robocall scams regarding COVID-19. The FCC has received reports of scam and hoax text message campaigns and scam robocalls offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance, and preying on virus-related fears.

PHISHING EMAIL SCAMS

Be on the lookout for phishing emails asking you to provide personal information and trick you into clicking on links. You should never be asked to provide personal information such as social security number, bank account information, or passwords via email. 

COUNTERFEIT TREATMENTS OR EQUIPMENT

Be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns, and gloves. More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh. You can also find information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, www.fda.gov, and the Environmental Protection Agency website, www.epa.gov. Report counterfeit products at www.ic3.govand to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at iprcenter.gov.

COVID-19 RUMORS

Rumors regarding the COVID-19 pandemic continue to circulate. Always go to trusted sources of information like coronavirus.gov, coronavirus.wa.gov, or your state and local government's official websites or social media accounts for instructions and information specific to your community.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES - OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is alerting the public about fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

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