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Boston-based Berkshire Bank is taking steps to help both retail and small business customers facing financial hardship due to the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Gov. Charlie Baker used powers under Massachusetts’ state of emergency to ban gatherings of 25 people or more and require all restaurants cease dine-in operations and serve customers via take-out, only. Further disruptions to the retail sector are expected as residents try to limit their potential exposure to COVID-19.

For an initial 30-day period beginning March 18, Berkshire Bank will increase daily debit card spending limits for retail and small business customers. The bank will also waive penalties for early CD withdrawals up to $20,000.

Customers with consumer and mortgage loans will have the option to forbear payments for one to three months.

Small business customers will be able to leverage specific options for consideration to forbear their loan.

“We understand that COVID-19 and the necessary precautions we are all taking to prevent its spread have begun to impact members of our community in meaningful ways,” Berkshire Bank CEO Richard Marotta said in a statement. “In addition to these initial steps to provide our customers financial flexibility, we will continue to explore additional ways to support our customers and neighbors during this difficult time.  As a committed member of our community, we understand how essential it is that we all work together at this time.”

Berkshire Bank is also “engaging with” the Massachusetts LGBTQ Chamber and the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, among others, to provide funding assistance to small businesses that are most impacted by the financial implications of the pandemic, the company said.

“We are exploring ways to provide a unique selection of low-interest rate solutions underwritten by our community partners.  We intend to set aside $3 million in available capital to support this effort,” Marotta said.

Grants for small businesses will also be available through the bank’s charitable arm. The Berkshire Bank Foundation has earmarked an incremental $500,000 for small business grants to help businesses that do not have the ability to pay.

“We look forward to working with the Berkshire Bank Foundation and the Foundation for Business Equity, among others, to make these dollars available to those who need them most in the communities we serve and to sharing more details about these programs in the short term,” Malia Lazu, Berkshire Bank’s regional president for the Greater Boston area and the bank’s chief experience and culture officer, said in the statement.

Berkshire Bank also said customers should contact the bank if the initiatives do not relieve hardship to further discuss how the Berkshire could assist.

Berkshire to Help Business Borrowers Facing Hardships

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min