Members and Friends of AILA:
I have been in constant discussions with association officers and members and the State Banking Department about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer finance companies in Alabama. The information is constantly evolving. But, I wanted to write this email to report to you what I know as of now.
1. Supervisor Corscadden put out an email bulletin yesterday that I forwarded to you. While there is limited specificity in the email, the general tone of it advises licensees that the Department expects licensees to work closely with customers that may be impacted by circumstances related to COVID -19, including the possibility of the deferral of fees or other charges. It also provides that licensees should notify the Department of any circumstances that require the closure, relocation, or remote work program. And, most significantly the email reminds licensees to protect the health and safety of employees and customers alike.
2. The Governor of Alabama has issued three Proclamations related to COVID-19—one on March 13th another on March 16th, and another today. None of these Proclamations requires any actions of consumer finance companies with respect to closure of offices or dealing with customers.
3. The State of Alabama Department of Public Health issued an Order on March 16th addressing restrictions on gatherings, and specifically permitting County Health Officers in Jefferson, and Shelby Counties to issue more stringent orders. The State Public Health Department’s order does not restrict finance company offices from their routine operations.
4. The Jefferson County Department of Public Health through its County Health Officer, Dr. Mark Wilson has issued two orders—one on March 16th and another at 5:00 tonight, March 19th. While the latter order is very stringent in its effect (including gatherings of 10 or more people), it does not alter the base right of consumer finance companies to conduct business. That order specifically identifies “nonessential businesses” that must be closed. Consumer finance companies are not so identified.
It goes without saying that COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down. Business is not being conducted as usual. Those finance companies that have perfected on-line lending may find their business lives a little easier than those which are totally dependent on “brick & mortar.” But, please know that as of this writing, there is no restriction that I know of, on the state or local level that prohibits a loan office from conducting business from its physical location. Of course, the judgment of bringing customers and employees into a confined physical location is one that is currently left up to ownership.
I will be happy to discuss further with anyone. Maury