FINANCE Minister Paschal Donohoe is to urge banks to deal with customers hit by the Covid-19 pandemic “sensitively” but he stopped short of committing to tell them to extend payment breaks for mortgages and other loans.
Mortgage breaks of up to six months that were brought in to help families whose income has been impacted by the crisis are due to end on after Wednesday September 30.
Mr Donohoe is to meet bank bosses to discuss the situation on Monday.
He defended the scheduling of the meeting just two days before the deadline insisting that he and his officials had multiple engagements with the banks on the issue.
But asked directly if he would tell the banks to extend the mortgage payment breaks he gave no signal that he would.
Mr Donohoe said: “I will be asking that they continue o demonstrate sensitivity and understanding to the circumstances of all who are affected by this [the pandemic].”
He said the banks will have to be guided by European and national regulations on the issue.
Mr Donohoe suggested that the banks should “work hard to deal with this on a case by case basis and give all an opportunity to recover from this pandemic and get their businesses back up and running, get a job back, get their income back to normal.”
He said he believes the banks know the importance of the issue.
He also said: “I’ll be continuing to emphasise to them they do all they can to be aware of individual circumstances and to put arrangements in place that are as flexible as possible.”
But he argued that the “biggest intervention” the Government can make “to support those who are having difficulty in paying loans at the moment is to try to give them the best chance of keeping a job and keeping an income.”
He said that’s why the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme is in place.
Asked what he would do if he was running a bank he replied: “I would be looking to treat everybody who is in this situation as sensitively and as fairly possible. “The way in which I think this needs to be done is to recognise, the very different individual circumstances for many whoa re replaying their loan at the moment and to try to treat everybody carefully.”