April 3, 2020 - CARES Act Consumer Economic Aid - Details and Risk of Fraud
April 2, 2020 - Paycheck Protection Program for Small Businesses - Benefits and Considerations
March 30, 2020 - Extension of Current Guidelines Until April 30th
March 23, 2020 - Increased Fraud Risk and Prevention Steps
March 19, 2020 - Thank You to our Customers
March 17, 2020 - Moving to Drive Up Only
March 16, 2020 - First Steps and Precautions
When the CARES Act was signed by the President of the United States a week ago today, it not only contained provisions to help small businesses (which was the subject of our prior post), it also contained provisions to provide economic assistance to many consumers. The CARES Act contains a maximum economic impact payment up to $1,200 for individuals, or $2,400 for married couples, and up to $500 for every qualifying child. These economic impact payments may be decreased, depending upon the income of the individual or household.
While this is likely good news for many of you reading this, there is a downside to benefits like the economic impact payments contained within the CARES Act. When there is a significant amount of money that is going to be distributed in a very planned and predictable manner, there are criminals who will attempt to fraudulently gain access to these funds for their own personal benefit.
The IRS anticipates that most Americans will not have to do anything to receive their economic impact payments. According to the IRS, the majority of Americans provide direct deposit information when filing their Federal taxes, and the IRS plans to use this direct deposit information for the payment of these benefits. If you have not provided the IRS with direct deposit information on your tax return, the IRS will be developing a secure website where this information can be provided. This website has not yet been created.
For those who are not required to submit a Federal tax return on an annual basis, the IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 for payment of this benefit.
In addition to providing you with some helpful information on how these payments are going to be distributed, we hope you will also understand that the IRS does not need the help of another entity to get your economic impact payment to you. Fraud is increasing in this area, as there are many criminals who are contacting consumers to gain access to these anticipated Government payments, or in an effort to fraudulently receive funds in advance of the payment of these funds. The IRS says that the vast majority of you reading this article do not need any assistance or need to take any additional action to receive your benefit payment. But don’t just take our word for it – we recommend you check out the IRS website on this subject to see for yourself.
Even though COVID-19 has interrupted our ability to serve you face-to-face, we are still working very diligently to ensure that you have every opportunity to fulfill your dreams. Should you have any questions about fraud, or should you believe that you might be the victim of fraud, please do not hesitate to contact us. We want to have the opportunity to help you through any fraudulent situation, or any potentially fraudulent situation.
On March 27, 2020, the United States Congress passed, and President Trump signed, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The provisions contained within the CARES act are intended to help support businesses and families through the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
All businesses should note that the CARES Act expanded the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Section 7(a) loan program with a program commonly referred to as the “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP). The PPP is designed specifically to support small businesses with $350 billion in targeted funding. Astra Bank encourages all of our small businesses who have been affected by, or who believe they will be affected by, the COVID-19 pandemic to consider applying for a loan under this program. The PPP provides small businesses with some critical benefits, including:
- Cash to cover select business expenses (such as employee salaries and payroll support, rent or mortgage and utilities payments, and insurance premiums);
- Six months of deferred loan payments; and
- Loan forgiveness on a portion, or possibly all, of your loan (businesses will have the responsibility for submitting payroll information for the time period from February 15, 2020 to June 30, 2020 to Astra Bank to support this forgiveness decision by the SBA).
As you consider PPP, you should know:
- The maximum term of a PPP loan is 2 years on the unforgiven portion;
- The maximum rate on a PPP loan is 0.5% on the unforgiven portion;
- The maximum size of a PPP loan is 2.5x of the business’s average total monthly payments for payroll costs during the 1-year period prior to the loan date;
- The first day to apply for small businesses and sole proprietorships is April 3, 2020;
- The first day to apply for independent contractors and self-employed individuals is April 10, 2020; and
- The last day to apply for a PPP loan is June 30, 2020.
Though the CARES Act was designed in attempt to ensure ample funding for small businesses, please be aware that there will be time required to complete the business’s application and to process the approval of the loan.
To apply for a PPP loan, Astra Bank will need a completed SBA Payroll Protection Program Application Form, the business’s 2019 Federal Tax Return (if the 2019 Federal Tax Return has not been completed, a 2018 Federal Tax Return and 2019 income statement is acceptable), and a current financial statement for the business (as of year-end 2019 or more current). If the SBA PPP Application Form is not available on the SBA website, please contact your Astra Bank loan officer, or email Astra Bank at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send the application form to you.
Please know that even though many of us are working remotely, Astra Bank is working hard to serve you through every opportunity given to us. We understand that this time is trying and stressful for you, and we are here for – working hard to provide you the best financial advice and service to ensure your success. We look forward to hearing from you!
On Sunday, March 29, 2020, the President extended the period in which guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) needed to be followed. The President’s extension now means that we will be adhering to these guidelines until April 30, 2020. While this does mean that interruptions to our “normal” lives will be ongoing for several weeks into the future, there are positive changes that are underway.
On Friday, March 27, 2020, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This law is well over 1,000 pages long, but contains some significant economic programs that are intended to assist those people and small businesses who have been adversely impacted by the current COVID-19 challenge. While we do have a limited number of our Astra Bank team available to serve customers through the drive-up facilities at our branches and through appointment, we do have our team who is not present at our branch facilities working to understand the details of the new programs created by the CARES Act. Our mission is unchanged: Provide dependable financial advice and service that helps others fulfill their dreams. The CARES Act has provided us with additional services we can provide, and we are working to ensure that we provide you with the options that best fit you.
If you have been impacted financially by this COVID-19 challenge, we encourage you to contact us so we can start the process of helping you minimize this financial stress. If you think that you have the potential to be impacted financially by this COVID-19 challenge, we want you to contact us as well. The earlier we understand your financial needs, the better our options to help you though these challenging times.
In addition to assessing your financial situation, we encourage you to keep informed of communication coming from your local governments. The COVID-19 virus can pose a very serious health risk, and we encourage you to do what you can to assist your local government officials in working to reduce the spread of this virus. (And, yes, that includes taking seriously the “stay at home” orders that may be in effect for your location!)
All of us at Astra Bank encourage you to take appropriate precautions to stay healthy. Continue to monitor guidelines at www.cdc.gov. If you have questions for Astra Bank, please email us at email@example.com, or please call us at your Astra Bank location.
Much of the media coverage has focused on actions you can take to minimize your health risk during this current COVID-19 challenge. This is appropriate, and we would recommend that you regularly check www.cdc.gov for the current recommendations and guidelines to minimize your opportunity to contract the COVID-19 virus.
One subject that's not receiving much attention is actions you can take to protect your financial well-being during the COVID-19 challenge. It is an unfortunate, but true, fact of life that fraudulent financial activity has soared in recent weeks with the advent of COVID-19 in the United States. Prior to the current challenge, Astra Bank committed a significant amount of resources to protecting your financial information from fraudulent activity. As each of us has devoted more attention and focus to COVID-19, criminals have made a concerted effort to exploit that shift in attention in an attempt to compromise your financial information.
The first of these types of scams has criminals pretending to be employees of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). These criminals are asking for your financial information under the guise of collecting information to ensure the safety of the nation’s financial system. The FDIC will not contact your for this type of information – ever! In fact, the FDIC has no need to ask you for that type of information because all banks are regularly submitting required reports to the FDIC and other regulatory agencies to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s financial system.
There is a second type of scam that is simply false advertising. An investment firm from California has been informing people that their IRA accounts in banks may not be safe due to laws passed in 2008. This claim is based on a grossly erroneous interpretation of the law. The claim is so misleading and inaccurate that the chief legal counsel for the FDIC has contacted this firm to cease this advertising immediately or face legal consequences. To be clear, no depositor of an FDIC-insurance bank has ever lost any of their insured deposits. Furthermore, Astra Bank is a very safe and sound financial institution (we have been 5-star rated by Bauer Financial for more than two decades), so it is extremely unlikely that you should have to even be concerned with deposit insurance from the FDIC.
Finally, there are scams that are starting to surface regarding payments that are anticipated to be paid as part of the COVID-19 relief bill that is currently being debated in the United State Senate. When this bill passes, the Federal Government will not need to contact you to figure out how to get your payment to you (they already know how to do that), and you will not need to pay someone a fee to get your payment from the Federal Government (they don’t need an intermediate agent).
Even though we are facing challenging times from a public health perspective, you still need to be vigilant in protecting your financial information. Prior to the COVID-19 challenge, fraud prevention for our customers was one of our major areas of focus. This focus is still ongoing – even though you might not see us face-to-face.
We want to thank all of our customers who have been understanding and who have worked with us as we have shifted our operations to drive-up only. These changes were made not only to protect the health and safety of our team, but also to protect the health and safety of every one of our customers and each of our communities. We look forward to the end of this public health situation and being able to serve you in the lobbies of our branches!
During this situation, we encourage each of you to take seriously the warnings and precautions issued by government officials. As this situation is changing rapidly, it is imperative that you keep informed of the current situation and equally imperative that you follow all recommendations and guidance. Each of us – including everyone on the Astra Bank team – has a role to play in slowing (and, hopefully, eventually stopping) the spread of COVID-19. We also encourage each of you to regularly check on the physical health and mental health of your loved ones. The uncertainty of the constant changes to this situation can cause stress for everyone, but personal communication (even through technology) can help reduce stress.
While we may not be serving you in the lobbies of our branches, we are working proactively to develop solutions to address the adverse financial impacts you may be feeling as result of this situation. Much like your medical condition, the sooner you begin communication with us about adverse financial impacts in your life, the sooner we can begin to implement a solution that is developed to address your unique situation. Please contact your Astra Bank team member to see how we can help! Our goal is to work to reduce your stress, not add to it.
Yesterday, the President, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), issued revised guidelines for slowing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Astra Bank will revise its practices to conform to these guidelines. Some of these guidelines that will most significantly impact Astra Bank’s operations are:
- “Work or engage in schooling FROM HOME whenever possible.” – Effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Astra Bank will encourage all employees with roles and responsibilities that can be completed when working remotely to strongly consider the option of working from the employee’s home. Astra Bank’s technology platforms have been developed to enable the safe and secure handling and processing of sensitive customer financial regardless of the location where the work is being completed, so there will be no increased risk to you and your personal financial information from this change by Astra Bank.
- “Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts – USE DRIVE-THRU, PICKUP, OR DELIVERY OPTIONS.” and “AVOID DISCRETIONARY TRAVEL, shopping trips, and social visits.” – While this may appear to be aimed at businesses other than a community bank like Astra Bank, we do have the capability to offer banking services through our drive-up facilities. Accordingly, effective Wednesday, March 18. 2020, Astra Bank will begin offering banking services through its drive-up facilities only. In person banking services will be offered by appointment only. While we will miss the opportunity to visit with you face-to-face within one of our branches during this time, we do take our role in helping slow the spread of COVID-19 very seriously.
These changes to Astra Bank’s operations will remain effect through at least March 31, 2020. At that time, we will reevaluate our operations in light of the then-current COVID-19 risk.
All who have been impacted by COVID-19 continue to be in the thoughts and prayers of those of us on the Astra Bank team. We continue to develop and refine solutions to assist you through the financial impact of this situation. Please contact a member of our Astra Bank team if one of these solutions would be of potential benefit to you.
For continued information on COVID-19, we would recommend that you either visit cdc.gov or coronavirus.gov.
If you have questions for a member of the Astra Bank team, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at your local Astra Bank branch.
Thank you for your assistance in helping us do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
For more than a century, Astra Bank has provided its customers with dependable financial advice and service that helps them fulfill their dreams. With the current challenges that are facing our customers and our communities because of the current coronavirus (COVID-19), our commitment to each of you remains unchanged. We are in contact with government officials, and we are constantly monitoring the updated information that is available to us to ensure that we continue to be positioned to meet your financial needs.
Astra Bank already has self-service banking options in place that will enable you to fulfill many of your banking needs while practicing social distancing that is presently being recommended by public health officials. Internet banking and mobile banking allow you to check balances, to see cleared transactions (including checks), to transfer funds between accounts, to pay your bills, and to deposit checks. Click on the following links for these services: to enroll in Internet banking, to download the Apple phone app, to download the Android phone app, to download the Apple tablet app, or to download the Android tablet app. Please note – you must be enrolled in our internet banking service for our mobile banking service to serve you. In addition to these services, we also have our ATM’s available to meet your cash needs. Please click here for locations.
Astra Bank continues to proactively develop solutions to assist our customers and our communities that may be adversely impacted by COVID-19. We are very hopeful that each of you will not be in situations where these solutions are required, but we are continuing this effort to provide you the reassurance that we will be prepared to assist you. In addition to these solutions, we are evaluating procedures to better protect our team from the risk of exposure, and we are enhancing our cleaning and disinfecting procedures at our branches to reduce your risk of exposure if you chose to visit us in person.
We encourage each of you to follow precautions as recommended by public officials. We encourage you to read this resource from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on how you can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
If you have any questions or feedback for us, we want you to contact us. You may contact us by email at email@example.com or by telephone at your local branch. Please click here for a list of branches.
We thank you for allowing us the continued opportunity to serve you!