Less than two months after the full onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Housing Finance Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development launched a consumer-facing website with information about the pandemic. While it was still going on.
Most government agencies aren’t known for expediency when it comes to websites. It’s a role usually left to the private and academic institutions. That’s largely because most government agencies have their focuses elsewhere.
Yet, homeowners and renters impacted by the coronavirus now have a new resource to access the most up-to-date information on housing assistance. It was launched about six weeks after the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27.
The agencies have created the CFPB.gov/Housing page as a guide to help affected homeowners and renters through the relief process by consolidating CARES Act mortgage relief information, protections for renters,resources for additional help, and information on how to avoid COVID-19 related scams into one central location. It also has tools for homeowners to determine if their mortgage is federally backed, and for renters to find out if their rental units are financed by FHA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
In addition to the site, the CFPB and the FHFA have teamed up for the Borrowers Protection Program. In this program, the two agencies are able to share servicing information to protect borrowers during the pandemic.
This being primarily a CFPB site, there is good information for consumers on scams related to the coronavirus. It has practical info on avoiding the lure of fake charity pitches, as well as attempts to target personal information and compromise social security details. Unlike the main page, the scam page is translated into six different languages besides English,which should prove useful to a wide swatch of the population.
Also helpful on the main page are links to credit counseling organizations, HUD-approved housing counselors, and local bar associations and legal aid groups.
Is all of the information useful? Not necessarily but this is a government project so lots of credit does have to be shared. A sidebar with information on the White House Coronavirus Task Force about the White House Coronavirus Task Force in conjunction with CDC, HHS, and other agency stakeholders two months in to the pandemic isn’t going to be that useful.
The page also offers consumers an easy way to file complaints having trouble with a financial product or service. That might come in handy for consumers unintentionally placed into forbearance, for example. CFPB says it will respond in 15 days.