5 big banks sus­pend mort­gage pay­ments

Times Standard (Eureka) - - FRONT PAGE - By Adam Beam

SACRA­MENTO » Five of the na­tion’s largest banks have agreed to tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend res­i­den­tial mort­gage pay­ments for peo­ple af­fected by the coro­n­avirus, Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som said Wed­nes­day. The an­nounce­ment came as New­som pro­vided yet an­other grim statis­tic about the eco­nomic dev­as­ta­tion from the virus: 1 mil­lion Cal­i­for­ni­ans have filed for un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits since March 13 as busi­nesses shut down or dra­mat­i­cally scaled back be­cause of a statewide “stayat-home” or­der to pre­vent the spread of the virus.

Mean­while, New­som said Cal­i­for­nia is rapidly ex­pand­ing its sup­ply of equip­ment for health care work­ers and hospi­tal beds in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the ex­pected surge in pa­tients that will come as more peo­ple are in­fected. Test­ing for the virus is ac­cel­er­at­ing quickly as the state adds lo­ca­tions for the pub­lic to get checked.

“We are lean­ing in to meet this mo­ment,” New­som said.

Wells Fargo, US Bank, Citi and JP Mor­gan Chase will de­fer mort­gage pay­ments for three months.

State char­tered banks and credit unions will of­fer sim­i­lar de­fer­rals. The banks also pledged not to ini­ti­ate fore­clo­sure sales or evic­tions for the next 60 days. And they promised not to re­port late pay­ments to credit re­port­ing agen­cies.

New­som said ev­ery­one is el­i­gi­ble, re­gard­less of how much money they make. He said home­own­ers must sub­mit “some form of doc­u­men­ta­tion,” but did not give de­tails.

“I thought the Great Re­ces­sion was over­whelm­ing, and we re­ally had to re­act. This one is much big­ger,” said Diana Dyk­stra, CEO of the Cal­i­for­nia-Ne­vada Credit Union League. “Peo­ple’s health is on the line, it’s deeper and broader than that cri­sis was. It was a hous­ing cri­sis. This is a cri­sis for ev­ery­one.”

New­som crit­i­cized Bank of Amer­ica for only agree­ing to waive mort­gage pay­ments for one month. But Bank of Amer­i­can spokesman Bill Halldin said the com­pany isn’t cap­ping its of­fer at 30 days. It will con­sider de­lay­ing pay­ments on a monthly ba­sis that could ex­tend be­yond 90 days de­pend­ing on the length of the cri­sis.

The news comes af­ter Congress reached an agree­ment with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on a $2 tril­lion eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age to keep the econ­omy afloat dur­ing the cri­sis. The plan would in­crease weekly un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits by $600 more than what states are al­ready pro­vid­ing.

For Cal­i­for­nia, that means some of the un­em­ployed would be el­i­gi­ble for up to $1,000 per week. That’s on top of the $1,200 many adults will get as a one-time pay­ment un­der the stim­u­lus pack­age.

At a af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence, Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti praised the pack­age, call­ing it “a glim­mer of hope” for those who are strug­gling eco­nom­i­cally be­cause of the virus.

“I hardly can look at this as a stim­u­lus pack­age. It’s a sur­vival pack­age,” he said, pre­dict­ing that busi­ness clo­sures and stay-at-home or­ders are likely to be nec­es­sary for at least two months.

More help could be on the way for Cal­i­for­ni­ans. Assem­bly­man Phil Ting, a Demo­crat from San Fran­cisco, said Tues­day state law­mak­ers could con­sider a state stim­u­lus pack­age to sup­ple­ment what­ever Congress ap­proves.

Coro­novirus cases in Cal­i­for­nia

are in­creas­ing as more test­ing is done. A tally by Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity counted nearly 3,000 in­fec­tions and at least 65 deaths. Con­firmed cases in the state are dou­bling ev­ery three to four days, ac­cord­ing to Cal­i­for­nia Health and Hu­man Agency Sec­re­tary Dr. Mark Ghaly.

Cal­i­for­nia hos­pi­tals are prepar­ing for a surge of pa­tients, with state of­fi­cials pro­ject­ing the state will need an ad­di­tional 50,000 hospi­tal beds. Last week, New­som an­nounced the state had leased Se­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Daly City, a hospi­tal that was slated to close af­ter its par­ent com­pany filed for bank­ruptcy. On Wed­nes­day, New­som said the 357-bed fa­cil­ity is op­er­a­tional.

“A sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone,” he said.

The gov­er­nor’s of­fice also an­nounced it is emp­ty­ing the state’s spe­cial fund for “eco­nomic un­cer­tain­ties” and us­ing the $1.3 bil­lion to buy pro­tec­tive equip­ment for health care work­ers and med­i­cal sup­plies and to help hos­pi­tals in­crease their ca­pac­ity.

When the cri­sis be­gan, Cal­i­for­nia had a stock­pile of 21 mil­lion masks for health care work­ers but was down to 2.5 mil­lion on Mon­day. The state has now ac­quired 100 mil­lion masks and is look­ing for more, New­som said. The state also has au­tho­rized the pro­cure­ment of 1 bil­lion gloves.

The state has con­ducted 66,800 virus tests so far, New­som said. That’s nearly 40,000 more tests than he had pre­vi­ously been an­nounced. The quick in­crease comes be­cause more labs are now re­port­ing their test­ing num­bers, he said.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple tested are still await­ing re­sults, New­som said.

RICH PEDRONCELL­I — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gov. Gavin New­som speaks at the Gov­er­nor’s Of­fice of Emer­gency Ser­vices in Ran­cho Cor­dova on Mon­day.

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