WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. banks should waive customer fees, ease credit card limits and allow borrowers to make late payments on the islands affected by Hurricane Maria, a top banking regulator said on Wednesday.
Lenders should also consider increasing ATM cash limits and easing terms for new loans in communities battered by the storm’s ferocious winds and torrential rains, said the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which regulates state-chartered banks.
“The FDIC encourages banks to work constructively with customers experiencing difficulties beyond their control because of damage caused by Hurricane Maria,” the regulator said in a statement to U.S. lenders.
Maria roared ashore in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as the most powerful hurricane to strike the island in nearly a century, knocking out the U.S. territory’s entire electrical grid, unleashing severe flooding and causing widespread heavy damage to homes and infrastructure.
The storm, which also hit St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, killed more than 30 people across the Caribbean, including at least 15 in Puerto Rico.
It was the third major hurricane to affect the United States in less than a month, following Harvey in Texas and Irma, which ranked as the most powerful Atlantic storm on record before thrashing several Caribbean islands and Florida.
Banking regulators including the Fed and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also urged lenders in those storm-hit areas to be sympathetic toward customers.
Maria was downgraded to a tropical storm on Tuesday but it regained hurricane strength on Wednesday as it churned off the coast of North Carolina.
Additional reporting by Robin Respaut and Dave Graham in San Juan