Wells Fargo halts residential foreclosures, grants $175M and boosts employee fund

Wells Fargo is suspending residential property foreclosure sales, evictions and involuntary auto repossessions, waiving late payment fees and donating $175 million to help customers, communities and employees impacted by COVID-19.

The charitable $175 million fund will address food, shelter, small business and housing stability needs in addition to assistance to public health organizations, the company said in a release.

The Wells Fargo Foundation is adding $10 million to its WE Care Fund that assists employees facing financial hardship. Additionally, the company has increased branch cleaning frequency, social distancing and telecommuting options, temporarily closed some branches or reduced operating hours, uses drive-ups where possible, and is encouraging customers to visit mobile and online banking tools.

CEO Charlie Scharf said Wells “will continue to evaluate” the fluid situation and take additional action as necessary. With $1.9 trillion in assets, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States, according to the company website.

Charitable donations will focus on local and national collaboration efforts.

Wells will cover critical housing needs “such as helping renters and homeowners stay in their homes” through eviction and foreclosure prevention assistance, financial counseling and coaching. Additional resources distributed to nonprofits serving food, housing and other emergency needs of vulnerable populations – including a $1 million grant to Feeding America that supports 200 member food banks.

In collaboration with Opportunity Fund and SaverLife, Wells will provide $2 million in flexible capital, immediate cash boosts and coaching support to small businesses. Other funds go to financial counseling and coaching for families and individuals, especially “struggling hourly, part-time, lower-income and gig economy workers.”

The Wells Fargo Foundation will establish the Coronavirus Pandemic Financial Resilience Resource Center “to help the 100 million people with disabilities and chronic health conditions nationwide,” with information and financial counseling.

Apartment industry applauds FHFA’s forbearance for owners suspending evictions

National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) President Doug Bibby applauded the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s decision “to offer mortgage forbearance to multifamily housing property owners who suspend evictions… as a necessary step” to protect both property owners and tenants, the company said in a release.

As the nation deals with COVID-19 and millions are sheltering in place housing support by the federal government and the apartment industry is more important than ever.

The FHFA pledged, “Financially strapped apartment landlords with government-backed mortgages can avoid foreclosure if they don’t evict tenants,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The order applies to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage companies, which will extend mortgage forbearance to any landlord “negatively affected by the coronavirus national emergency.”

Most of the trillion-dollar apartment industry, the landlords represented by NMHC, consist of individuals and small business property owners, according to the organizations website, who provide apartment homes for 40 million Americans and 17.5 million jobs.  

These owners face the same pandemic challenges and have financial obligations, mortgages, utilities, payroll, insurance and taxes to pay. “If residents cannot pay their full rent obligations because of the COVID-19 outbreak,” NMHC said, property owners too are at risk of defaulting on their own financial obligations.

“This crisis is testing all of us,” Bibby said. “No one should lose the roof over their head during a pandemic.” It is the reason why NMHC and its members are proactively implementing a series of principles to assist renters, he added, “including a halt to COVID-19 related evictions and the establishment of payment plans for residents who are unable to pay their rent because of the outbreak.”

NMHC recently created a list of recommendations for property owners who wish “to help America’s renters retain their housing during this crisis.”

Halt evictions for 90 days for renters in good standing if they can show they are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; Avoid rent increases for 90 days; Create payment plans for residents who are unable to pay rent and waive late payment fees; Develop a response plan for potential COVID-19 exposure. Inform residents about these options; Identify government and community assistance resources that can help them weather the crisis. 

Fulton Bank offers mortgage forbearance, other COVID-19 distress assistance

Fulton Bank is enhancing efforts to support individuals, families and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic through limited-time special programs such as mortgage forbearance designed to minimize its economic impact on the bank’s footprint.

Fulton Bank is a subsidiary of $21.7 billion-assetFulton Financial Corporation of Lancaster, Pa. that operates 225 branches throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

“We understand the hardship our customers may face as a result of business and school closures, reduced business and/or work hours, and social distancing, and we’re prepared to help, on an individualized and personal basis,” said Curtis J. Myers, Chairman and CEO of Fulton Bank. The company also is working closely with local business customers to understand their needs and develop individualized assistance.

Assistance programs consist of temporary forbearance on residential mortgage loans, closed-end consumer loans secured by real estate for six months, and temporary deferrals of other consumer loan payments.

Subject to credit approval, the bank offers a credit card with a 0% APR for 20 billing cycles and 13.49% – 22.49% APR when the introductory period ends. Unsecured OptionLine or personal line of credit with introductory 0% APR for three months, and 4.00-8.75% APR afterwards will be available. Existing consumer and small business cardholders (through Elan Financial Services) qualify for credit card fee relief and an early withdrawal penalty waiver for one Certificate of Deposit.

Fulton’s employee support measures include frequent cleaning and sanitization of office spaces, providing disposable gloves, arranging shifts to allow greater distances between employees, additional leave with pay for parents of school-age children, telecommuting, discontinuing non-essential business travel.

Currently Fulton is delivering services through drive-up windows, ATMs, call centers and digital banking. Customers must call to schedule in person meeting at a financial center.

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