December 27, 2022
To: The Chief Executive Officer or Equivalent of the Organization
Re: Letter to New York State- and Federally Chartered Banking Organizations Regarding the December 2022 Blizzard in Upstate New York
The recent winter storm has delivered record-breaking snowfall to upstate New York, bringing the region to a virtual standstill and imperiling the lives and businesses of upstate residents and visitors, particularly in Western New York and the North Country regions. On December 22, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed Executive Order No. 26 (2022), declaring a disaster emergency in the state and subsequently requested a federal declaration of emergency. The New York State Department of Financial Services (the “Department”) seeks to ensure that all individuals affected by the storm are able to access essential financial products and services as safely as possible, avoiding any unnecessary travel while conditions remain dangerous. As a result, the Department is issuing this letter to encourage both New York State-chartered banking organizations and federally-chartered banking organizations operating in Western New York and the North Country regions (“Banking Institutions”) to consider all reasonable and prudent steps to assist consumers and businesses affected by the storm.
Consistent with the state of the emergency and the attendant travel ban, the Department encourages Banking Institutions to help minimize unnecessary travel for New Yorkers affected by the storm by allowing them fee-free access services from the nearest-available institution in areas impacted by the storm, even where they may not have an existing relationship with that institution. Allowing customers to access essential banking services, even though they may not have a relationship with that institution, limits the need for travel while providing needed financial services to those impacted by the storm. Such relief may include:
- Waiving automated teller machine (“ATM”) fees, allowing New Yorkers to use the nearest ATM available to them without a penalty;
- Increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits; and
- Easing restrictions on cashing non-customer checks.
In order for the Department to share with New Yorkers complete and accurate information of what relief may be available and under what conditions, Banking Institutions are asked to write to [email protected], describing the relief they are able to offer and noting any applicable conditions or limitations. The Department will share this information with the public.
The Department hopes that the devastating effects of this natural disaster on individuals and businesses in the upstate area will be transitory and that support from the financial industry will help those affected safely access financial services while cleanup and recovery efforts continue. The Department therefore requests that Banking Institutions take reasonable and prudent efforts for the duration of the declared emergency to provide relief to New Yorkers, consistent with safe and sound banking practices and in furtherance of the public interest.
Adrienne A. Harris
Superintendent of Financial Services