Greater Lowell non-profits among those to receive Eastern Bank COVID-19 aid

Merrimack Valley Food bank and Greater Lowell Community Foundation to receive grants

Organizations continue to pick up food for local food pantries from the Merrimack Valley Food Bank. Warehouse assistant Brandon Crocker of Pepperell puts on fresh gloves after cleaning his hands. (SUN/Julia Malakie)
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LOWELL — The Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation has committed $10 million in funding to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Merrimack Valley Food Bank and Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

The bank will give $3 million to support community organizations, nonprofits, health centers and small businesses in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

“Obviously in times of great challenge and times of crisis, it’s important that everyone comes together…” Eastern Bank Chair and CEO Bob Rivers said in a phone interview.

The Greater Lowell Community Foundation will be one of 10 regional organizations to receive a $100,000 grant for its COVID-19 emergency response. Eastern Bank is also giving $500,000 in grants to more than 80 food banks, including the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.

“School closures, day care shutdowns, and other barriers to access caused by the coronavirus are leaving many children, adults, elders, and families without healthy food and adequate nutrition,” a news release by Eastern Bank states.

The bank will give $500,000 in grants to 41 health care centers and $1 million in grants to small businesses, with a focus on businesses owned by people of color.

The bank has also established loans that will provide $7 million to its individual customers and small businesses “experiencing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus crisis,” according to a news release.

The $2 million Consumer Impact Loan Fund will allow existing customers to borrow up to $5,000 with 0% interest and no payments for the first three months. After three months, there will be a fixed interest rate of 3.99%.

The $5 million Small Business Impact Loan Fund will allow small businesses to borrow up to $25,000 with interest-only payments for the first six months and an interest rate of 3.99%.

“They’re designed to be flexible programs,” Rivers said, adding that the bank has already received applications for the loans.

The bank has instituted several other policies to support individuals, families and businesses during the pandemic.

Foreclosures, evictions and repossessions have been paused. Clients can request refunds of overdraft fees, insufficient funds fees and monthly maintenance fees.

ATM and debit card cash withdrawal limits and mobile deposit limits have been increased. Penalties for early CD withdrawals of up to $50,000 have been waived. Late loan charges will be waived as needed. The bank will allow deferral of mortgage and other loan payments as needed.

Businesses can also request refunds of overdraft fees, insufficient funds fees and monthly maintenance fees. The bank has also waived penalties for early CD withdrawals of up to $50,000, and increased ATM card withdrawal limits for businesses.

Payment relief for commercial and small business loans will be provided as needed. Late loan fees will also be waived as needed.

“Again… as in any other case in our history as a community and a country, in times of trouble people come together with what resources they have,” Rivers said.

“We see this as a first installment,” Rivers said, adding that the bank will likely expand on its philanthropy as the pandemic unfolds.