Capitol Alert

Big banks will grant mortgage waivers to Californians affected by coronavirus, Newsom says

Four of the nation’s top banks have agreed to grant a 90-day mortgage payment waiver to California homeowners affected by COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

His announcement followed an executive order he signed March 16 that encouraged cites to enact local bans on renter evictions during the coronavirus outbreak.

“I am very pleased that Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Citi and J.P. Morgan Chase have all agreed to 90-day waiver of payments for those who have been impacted by COVID-19,” Newsom said.

Additionally, he said, 200 California’s state-chartered banks and credit unions to delay foreclosures and mortgage payments for people affected by the virus, the governor said.

Entire industries have ground practically to a halt with Californians avoiding travel, many workplaces and entertainment venues to comply with Newsom’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus. Newsom on Wednesday said the state has recorded more than 1 million unemployment claims since March 13.

On Wednesday, 30 California lawmakers sent a letter to Newsom, calling on him to go further to protect renters by enforcing a statewide ban on evictions.

“Around the state, there is enormous apprehension by countless renters about the upcoming April rent due date,” the lawmakers wrote.

Newsom at his press conference declined to say whether he’d support the proposal.

He said only one major national bank, Bank of America, has declined to offer 90-day mortgage waivers to people who might become ill or lose their jobs because of the outbreak.

“I hope they will reconsider and join those other banks that are willing to do the right thing by at least extending that commitment to their customers for 90 days,” he said.

Bill Halldin, spokesman for Bank of America, said in a statement that, “Bank of America is deferring mortgage payments on a monthly basis until the crisis is over.”

Halldin also noted that Bank of America has paused all foreclosures, evictions and repossessions.

Newsom said that there is no income requirement for the waiver, but that the homeowner must provide documentation that they have been affected by COVID-19. The governor said that he is working with the major banks to reduce the amount of paperwork required for the process.

Newsom said that the banks are nervous about a potential surge in calls from people requesting a waiver. The governor urged people to “take a little bit of time, pause, get their documents in order” before calling.

“If every single person with a residential mortgage makes a phone call at the same time to their bank, those call centers will collapse,” he said.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.