By Barbara Booth
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of companies across the U.S. are announcing layoffs and hiring freezes.
But Bank of America claims they hired more than 2,000 new employees in March alone and raised their U.S. minimum hourly wage to $20.
The company’s vice chairman, Anne Finucane, says, “we won’t be doing any layoffs or job reductions in 2020.”
Companies right now are facing unprecedented challenges in responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak. While many across the U.S. are announcing layoffs and hiring freezes, Bank of America claims they hired more than 2,000 new employees in March alone and will not be doing any layoffs or job reductions in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. They also raised their U.S. minimum hourly wage to $20.
CNBC spoke with Bank of America vice chairman Anne Finucane this week on how the company protects the well-being of its more than 200,000 employees while also maintaining business continuity and protecting the bottom line.
What is the bank doing to help employees get through this difficult time? Our 208,000 teammates around the world are our No. 1 priority and are critical to our path forward. It’s because of their continued focus to making financial lives better that we can keep the wheels turning and be there for our millions of clients. That’s why we won’t be doing any layoffs or job reductions in 2020 as a result of coronavirus. In fact, during March alone, we welcomed more than 2,000 new teammates to our company in the U.S. in consumer and operations functions.
We are also protecting critical benefits, like 40-hour workweeks, paid sick leave and paid time off, and providing access and special allowances for child- and elder care. At our financial centers across the U.S., eligible employees will continue to be paid for their regular, full weekly schedule, even if their hours are reduced. They will also receive a special supplemental payment of $200 per pay period [every two weeks]. And at our U.S. call centers and operations centers nationwide, those teammates who continue going into the office and working overtime will receive double the hourly base pay rate when they work more than 40 hours a week. This quarter we also raised our U.S. minimum hourly wage to $20.
We also recognize that with school closures, work-from-home mandates and other added strains, supporting the emotional wellness and mental health of our teammates and their families is critical. That’s why all our teammates and members of their households have access to confidential counseling services to help navigate through this period of uncertainty. As our CEO Brian Moynihan has said: “This is a health and humanitarian crisis. We need to take care of our people, customers and clients.”
The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the markets is causing fear and anxiety across the world. What is Bank of America doing to calm clients’ fears? For us, people always come first – whether that’s our employees, community members or our clients. So for clients, that means providing access to the important services they use every day and being there to help those who are impacted by coronavirus.
Last week, for example, we announced additional support for our 66 million consumer and small business clients to help mitigate hardships during this time. From deferring payments on small business or auto loans, mortgages and home equity to pausing all foreclosure sales, evictions and repossessions. Now that the new legislation has passed, once the rules are written, we will also work to implement the small business lending program.
For example, we have announced a $100 million commitment to help address the extraordinary challenges communities around the world are facing from the coronavirus pandemic. Recognizing that we serve and are a member of a broader global community, we need to work together — both public and private sectors — to devote the necessary resources and support to help clients and small businesses experiencing financial hardship during this unprecedented time.
To add to the solutions across our company and help communities during these times, last week we committed $250 million in capital and $10 million in philanthropic grants to community development financial institutions (CDFIs), which will expand access to capital to more small businesses and not-for-profits.
Bank of America has always been very community-minded. Are you currently introducing any programs to help communities or small businesses that are straining under the impact of COVID-19?
We committed $100 million to help increase medical response capacity, address food insecurity and provide assistance to the world’s most vulnerable populations. The majority of these funds will be distributed on the ground in local communities, focused on both immediate needs facing communities and providing ongoing support in the months ahead. Our in-market teams across the U.S. and internationally, are currently assessing local needs and deploying the funds to our partner organizations to maximize the impact of our support. We’re also increasing funding to several national and global organizations who are on the front lines, tackling the most pressing issues in neighborhoods around the world.
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