Q&A: Wells Fargo’s Rulon Washington on Homeowner Assistance Fund Available for Homeowners with COVID-Related Financial Hardship
The last three years have been difficult for us all and continue to be a challenge. Homeowners on the verge of losing their homes due to a financial hardship and struggling to stay afloat may receive help using the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF). HAF assists in preventing mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities, and displacement of homeowners experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.
Wells Fargo has a dedicated outreach team in place solely focused on keeping people in their homes. Rulon Washington, Wells Fargo’s East Region Leader of Mortgage Sustainability, stands ready to engage the right partners to assist homeowners with financial hardships. With more than 20 years of financial and mortgage experience, Washington has been engaged in community outreach work for the company since the 2008 housing crisis, providing grassroots outreach to those markets hardest hit by severe delinquency and foreclosure and assisting homeowners nationwide through nonprofit and community engagement efforts, support of housing counseling agencies and departments nationwide, and more.
For this special conversation, Rulon shares tips and information about the HAF program that could provide homeowners with much-needed relief:
There have been many assistance programs created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Are any of those programs available for mortgage assistance?
Rulon: The Homeowner Assistance Fund was created as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Through the Homeowner Assistance Fund, U.S. Department of the Treasury is distributing up to $9.961 billion to eligible states, territories, and tribes. Depending on availability and usage of funds, this mortgage assistance program is expected to be available through September 2025. In an effort to prioritize the use of these funds, Wells Fargo has created a Homeowner Assistance Fund landing page for homeowners. http:// www.wellsfargo.com/homeownerassistancefund.
Who is eligible to apply?
Rulon: These funds are available for homeowners who have experienced a financial hardship after January 21, 2020. They can be used to prevent mortgage delinquencies, defaults, and foreclosure, by providing financial assistance for one’s primary residence. In addition, some programs may also assist with avoiding the loss of utilities and assist with other qualified expenses.
How important is it to contact your mortgage company if you happen to run into financial challenges?
Rulon: Wells Fargo and other servicers are engaging with customers through emails, letters, and by phone to help their payment challenges. It is important that customers respond to this outreach or contact their servicers, as it’s the best way to ensure a smooth transition.
What is the best advice you would give to someone who has fallen behind on their mortgage?
Rulon: Please do not wait until the mortgage is severely past due. Call your mortgage servicer as soon as you know you can’t make your monthly payment. The phone number is listed on your monthly bill. Explain why you can’t make your monthly payment and ask the servicer for assistance.
What other resources are available to help homeowners who are faced with payment challenges?
Rulon: United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) certified housing counseling agencies are a trusted resource for homeowners who are looking for local assistance. If you need help dealing with broader financial challenges, reach out to a local HUD-approved, non-profit housing counseling agency for financial education, mortgage help services, and other free assistance. You can find a local, trusted HUD approved housing counseling agency at: http://www.hud. gov/counseling
Learn more about the Homeowner Assistance Fund and the assistance available to homeowners at http://www. wellsfargo.com/homeownerassistancefund