Homeowners across the country have been struggling to make mortgage payments on time and are experiencing “housing insecurity” due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing the White House to introduce legislation aimed at easing the mortgage burden amid a crisis that’s left millions of Americans vulnerable and unemployed.
Last year, Congress passed the Cares Act, which offered the first round of major assistance to homeowners who couldn’t make mortgage payments because of a decreased income or loss of employment. The package included a year of mortgage assistance initiatives, which President Joe Biden extended through his $1.9 trillion rescue bill.
The Biden administration allocated $10 billion for homeowners to help with housing-related payments like mortgage, taxes, utilities, insurance and homeowners association dues, which was incorporated into the same law that sent eligible Americans $1,400 stimulus payments and unemployed workers $300 weekly benefits.
Here are the two major forms of homeowner-related aid, both of which serve to prevent homeowners from losing their homes due to the pandemic.
Homeowners are able to enroll in a mortgage forbearance program if they are unable to make monthly payments. Forbearance allows homeowners to postpone mortgage payments without getting late fees and other related consequences for not paying on time.
Economists suggest, however, that homeowners do not use this any longer than what is needed, since they will have to pay back the missing payments in the future and interest will continue to accrue during the period.
Those who are suffering financial hardship, directly or indirectly linked to the pandemic, are eligible to enroll in coronavirus mortgage forbearance. It’s also available to homeowners with government-sponsored mortgage loans, such as HUD/FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Biden’s stimulus package pushed the deadline to apply for a forbearance program to June 30, 2021, for those holding a HUD/FHA, VA or USDA mortgage. If homeowners have loans with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, then there is no deadline.
Most forbearance programs provide between three and six months of relief, with the option to extend to 12 months, or as much as 18 months of forbearance.
A foreclosure moratorium averts the worst possible consequence for a homeowner with missing payments.
The moratorium blocks lenders from moving forward with foreclosure proceedings until June 30, 2021 at the earliest, offering struggling homeowners extra time to gather money together to make payments.
“President Biden is committed to protecting homeownership and housing stability as America begins to turn a painful crisis into a robust recovery,” the White House said in a statement.
When the Biden administration introduced the homeowner protection-related legislation, the White House released a fact sheet that uncovered that one in five renters are behind on rent, while more than 10 million homeowners are struggling to make mortgage payments.
“Today’s extended forbearance and foreclosure programs are an important step towards building stronger and more equitable communities,” the White House said.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.