Montgomery County Council calls for 60-day moratorium on defaults

Montgomery County Council calls for 60-day moratorium on defaults

Leaders ask banks, financial institutions, public utilities to create emergency plans

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Evan Glass

Montgomery County Council Member Evan Glass's initially proposed a resolution to call on banks, financial institutions and public utilities to have a 60-day moratorium on defaults. Since the council did not have its Tuesday session, council members released a joint statement on Wednesday.

File photo

Montgomery County leaders requested banks, financial institutions and public utilities to place a moratorium on customer defaults for at least 60 days because of the economic impacts from the coronavirus.

The County Council sent a joint statement on Wednesday that stressed the need to assist residents, business owners and nonprofits experiencing dramatic financial losses.

“Many public utilities are offering payment assistance, suspending late fees and deferring disconnections for gas, electric and water services, and the Council encourages that these activities continue for at least 60 days,” the statement said.

Utilities that serve Montgomery County, such as the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, have announced that they will hold off on shutting off service for nonpayment.

Pepco has said its moratorium from disconnections and late payment fees is in place through at least May 1. It also will work with customers to establish payment arrangements and identify energy assistance options.

The council encouraged banks and financial institutions to develop emergency assistance plans.

Those could include fee waivers, loan modifications, payment deadline extensions, payroll advances, and low-rate and zero-rate loans.

The County Council planned to approve the call-to-action as a resolution on Tuesday.

But after President Donald Trump’s recommendation for gatherings to be limited to no more than 10 people, the council canceled its session yesterday.

The council plans to vote on a resolution for the moratorium next week, said Council Member Evan Glass, a lead sponsor.

The council is “limited in the tools that we can use to help our residents immediately,” Glass said in a phone interview. “We are already looking at how we can provide additional support for our small businesses, whether that’s through restructuring fees and regulations. We’re also looking at the property tax payments later this year and whether that will need to be addressed.”

Glass said the recommendation was 60 days because it seemed like a “sufficient window,” but it’s not known how long the crisis will last.

“Ultimately, many of these immediate needs are at federal and state levels that we cannot change by law or regulate,” he said. “So this is a statement of solidarity from the entire County Council showing our support for all the residents and business owners of Montgomery County.”

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.

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