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Record Hike in Unemployment Will Strain Servicers
Mar 26, 2020
Photo credit: Getty Images/France68

The news of low rates may not necessarily equate to a run on homebuying by the U.S. public, as earlier Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department announced that 3,283,000 Americans filed for unemployment last week as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week's revised level. This marks the highest recorded jump in unemployment claims in history, shattering the previous weekly jump high of 695,000 in October of 1982.
“Mortgage servicers are already hearing from a substantial number of homeowners who are concerned about their ability to make their mortgage payments on time,” noted Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni. “The mortgage industry is ready and willing to help through the use of established forbearance programs, allowing borrowers who have lost their jobs or been furloughed as a result of the virus the ability to delay their payments for at least six months.”
As strain begins to wear on the servicing side, with a surge in demand infringing upon a workforce either dilapidated by Coronavirus cases or the transition to working remotely, Fratantoni notes that: “Even if a quarter of all borrowers request forbearance for six months or longer, cash demands on servicers could exceed $75 billion and could climb well above $100 billion.”
Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have forbearance programs in place, and the U.S. Senate has unanimously approved the $2 trillion H.R. 748, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or the "CARES Act," which next heads to The House for their vote. Late last week, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) directed both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days.
“It is absolutely critical for the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury to immediately establish a liquidity facility so that otherwise solvent mortgage servicers can borrow from the Fed to support these forbearance programs,” continued Fratantoni. “This needed backstop for servicers will ultimately support homeowners during these challenging times.”
H.R. 748 will grant many Americans checks in the amount of $1,200 for individuals, or $2,400 for married couples. To address those who filed for unemployment insurance, they would get an extra $600 per week for up to four months, on top of state unemployment benefits to make up for 100 percent of lost wages.
“The stimulus bill proposal currently working its way through Congress seeks to address certain features of the unemployment insurance systems, such as eligibility requirements and the amount and maximum duration of benefits paid, which are intended to help alleviate some of the financial stressed caused by job loss,” said Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Furthermore, payments to households are designed to make up for lost earnings. Proposed support for businesses is intended to help them survive the shock to demand in order to be positioned to re-hire workers after the virus subsides and demand picks back up.”


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