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If layoffs, furloughs, and continued economic uncertainty have you concerned about keeping afloat during the global pandemic, the financial lifeline you need may be easier to obtain than you think. Banks, credit unions, mortgage servicers, and other financial industry professionals recognize the financial impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and want to work with you to minimize the detrimental impact.

The Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB), the Commonwealth’s primary financial services regulator, is encouraging state-chartered banks, credit unions, and other regulated entities to work with customers affected by work stoppage and other hardships related to Coronavirus. If you have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 emergency, contact your financial institution or lender for options such as waived fees, increased credit card limits, or possible payment modifications.  Both the state and federal government have been active in responding to the financial strains on individuals impacted by the pandemic.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Bill (CARES Act), now the largest economic relief bill in our nation’s history, aims to support American consumers, small businesses, hospitals, and other businesses and industries directly affected by COVID-19. Specifically, the CARES Act distributes a one-time payment to eligible residents, provides protections against foreclosures and evictions, and provides for forbearances on certain mortgages.  The CARES Act has several protections for homeowners with federally backed mortgages experiencing a hardship. Under the CARES Act, you can enter into a forbearance plan with no negative marks on your credit report and without incurring any additional fees or penalties.

More locally on April 20th, Governor Baker signed into Massachusetts law Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020, An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency. Chapter 65 establishes a temporary moratorium on foreclosures on a 1-4 family owner-occupied residential property in Massachusetts; provides residential mortgage borrowers that have experienced a financial impact from COVID-19 with a right to obtain a forbearance on their mortgage payments for up to 180 days; and amends the in-person counseling requirements for prospective reverse mortgage loan borrowers in response to the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency due to COVID-19 on March 10, 2020. Chapter 65 also includes additional provisions relating to a moratorium on nonessential evictions for residential dwellings and small business premises units. DOB published FAQs for consumers which can be found here.

A mortgage forbearance is when your mortgage lender or servicer lets you pause or decrease your regular payments. Your home is your biggest asset and should be one of the first things to protect in uncertain times.  Contact your lender or servicer immediately if you are unable to pay your mortgage in full, even if you do not have a federally backed mortgage. The type of mortgage you have affects the options available to you. Determine what type of mortgage you have by finding out who owns your loan or by calling your mortgage servicer.

Making monthly student loan payments is a concern for millions of consumers. Beginning on March 13th federal student loan payments were automatically suspended through September 30th, 2020. This does not mean that you have to stop paying your loans; it means that the federal student loan interest rate is set to 0% and the monthly payment is set to $0 with no action needed from the borrower. The CARES Act student loan provision protects federal loans and does not affect your credit report.

In addition, the Massachusetts Division of Banks has joined a multi-state initiative to secure payment relief options for student loan borrowers and issued a Consumer Advisory with information and resources for private student loan borrowers. Through this initiative, DOB has secured relief options with 15 private student loan servicers to provide protections similar to those granted by the federal government to federal student loan borrowers.  These new options stand to benefit over 182,000 borrowers in this state with privately held student loans.  However, this is not automatic and private student loan borrowers must contact their loan servicer to see if they qualify and apply for protection.

While you continue to protect yourself from Coronavirus by practicing social distancing and adhering to other guidance, remember to regularly monitor and protect your finances during the pandemic. Learn more and find the most up to date federal and state information at coronavirus.gov and mass.gov/coronavirus.

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