Governor Tony Evers, through his designee, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm, issued Emergency Order #12, “Safer at Home” which becomes effective at 8 a.m. on Wed., March 25 and ends at 8 a.m. Fri., April 24 (unless superceded sooner). The banking industry is indeed exempt from the order since it is deemed an essential business. This is accomplished in two ways under the order. First, is a reference to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance as to the 16 categories of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during the COVID-19 Response.” In the CISA document, “financial services” is a category, and it describes the workers as follows:

  • Workers who are needed to process and maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services (e.g. payment, clearing, and settlement; wholesale funding; insurance services; and capital markets activities)
  • Workers who are needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services, including ATMs, and to move currency and payments (e.g., armored cash carriers)
  • Workers who support financial operations, such as those staffing data and security operations centers.

In addition, banks are also separately and specifically identified in the Order in Section 13 (l) as follows:

Financial institutions and services. Banks, credit unions, and other depository or lending institutions; licensed financial service providers; insurance services; personnel necessary to perform essential functions at broker dealers and investment advisor offices.

Banks should work with these descriptions in both excluded areas to identify who among their staff fit under this category and consider them individuals who should report to work. Then, for those individuals, while the Order does not require this, out of an abundance of caution, you should consider doing the following:

  • First, on your bank’s letterhead, dated, and signed by the President or CEO of the bank, write a letter similar to the following (NOTE: Updated as of Tuesday, March 24):

To Whom It May Concern:
[Full Legal Name of Employee] works at [Name of Bank – specify office location address if you wish] performing an essential service as outlined in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) document under the “Financial Services” category. Governor Evers’ Emergency Order #12 permits workers described in the CISA document to continue to travel to work since they are performing an essential service. In addition, Emergency Order #12, Section 13(l) specifies “Financial Institutions and services” as an essential business.

In addition, the attached memo from U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin further clarifies the critical role financial service providers perform during this state of emergency.

As a result, [Full Legal Name of Employee] is needed at our Bank to perform these critical services for our customers and, therefore, is permitted to travel to/from our Bank to perform such services.

Bank President or CEO

  • Second, staple the Treasury Secretary’s memo (which can be found HERE) to the above-described letter and give original copies to all covered employees.
  • Third, if your bank issues employees picture IDs to work at the bank, all covered employees should carry those on their person at all times. If not, all covered employees should carry business cards with their name and your bank’s name on their person at all times.
  • Finally, all employees should have a state-issued form of identification on their person at all times.

It should also be noted that real estate services (including appraisal, home inspection, and title services) are also exempt as an essential business. Like all others, though, they should to the greatest extent possible, use technology to avoid meeting in person and do remote work.

WBA has also contacted the media regarding banks as an essential service under Gov. Evers’ order. It is critical that the public understand that their money is safe, sound, and easily accessible. Your bank is welcome to share the press release with local media or modify it as a message to your customers. The release is available online. The full text is also below:

Banks Essential Under Gov. Evers’ Orders: Your Money is Safe, Sound, and Easily Accessible

COVID-19 is causing many concerns with consumers, but access to your money shouldn’t be one of them. Here are the top five things you need to know about your money and banks under “Safer At Home.”

1. You have continued access to your funds and bank services.
Banks are considered an essential service which means you continue to have access to your funds through in-person services and self-service tools, such as mobile or online banking.

2. Your money is safe, secure, and insured.
FDIC deposit insurance currently covers up to $250,000 per person and ensures the security of consumers’ funds. Congress is working on legislation providing authority for the FDIC to increase this coverage through Dec. 31, 2020. No consumer has lost a single penny in the history of this insurance fund.

3. Your bank is prepared.
Banks are prepared for situations like a pandemic, with tested and proven business continuity plans and procedures. Although state and federal regulations require banks to be prepared, you’ll find that community banks are prepared because they want to continue to serve, not because they are required.

4. Your bank is looking out for you, your family, and your business.
Wisconsin’s banks are proactively contacting customers, offering assistance in the form of fee waivers, loan payment deferral programs, credit card payment relief, suspension of foreclosure and repossession programs, and more. Bankers are also helping their customers apply for grants offered at the state and federal level as well. Congress is also working on providing more assistance to businesses through banks in the form of additional changes to federal programs, such as the SBA program.

5. Your banker is listening and ready to act.
Customers should contact their banker to talk about how COVID-19 is affecting them, and how the bank can help. Wisconsin’s banking industry is strong and ready to help.