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The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) welcomed heads of key federal agencies tasked with leading the administration’s COVID-19 response last week during the 2020 REALTORS® Virtual Legislative Meetings. U.S. Labor Department Secretary Eugene Scalia, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza offered insight into their respective entities’ role in federal coronavirus relief efforts during a regulatory issues forum on Tuesday, May 12.

Director Kraninger unveiled a new mortgage and housing assistance website during her remarks: NAR joined a broad coalition in calling for the creation of such a resource earlier this month. The site—developed alongside the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development—is designed to ensure homeowners and renters have the most up-to-date and accurate housing assistance information as they navigate the ongoing pandemic.

“The Bureau will be unveiling a unified, interagency housing website to be the one-stop shop for consumers during this pandemic,” Director Kraninger said. “The need is greatest for those who have experienced job loss or loss of income due to the pandemic… Struggling borrowers can request up to 180-days forbearance, and if they still need assistance, they may request another 180 days. Additionally, if consumers do not have a federally-backed mortgage, many loan servicers have forbearance or deferment options for non-government backed or private loans.”

Kraninger, who became CFBP Director in December 2018, noted the Bureau’s concern for homeowners currently facing unemployment and/or diminished household income.

“We are monitoring the increases in the number of homeowners who need forbearance and the dips in the new mortgage inquiry numbers,” she continued. “This is of concern to many, and I know we will all come together to weather this storm. After all, we have a common goal: mortgage transactions that turn out successfully for borrowers,” she added.

“We’ve come together to ensure that consumes are protected during this pandemic,” explained Kraninger, who noted that prior to the pandemic, many households were not prepared to weather an extended period of income drop.

“According to the Bureau’s 2019 Making Ends Meet Survey, 52 percent of households in America would not be able to cover expenses for more than two months if they lost their main source of income,” she added, underscoring the importance of the research the Bureau is conducting when it comes to understanding consumers’ concerns.

Secretary Scalia touted the Department of Labor’s (DOL) role implementing the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, and recounted conversations with NAR regarding the groups’ shared support of association health plans.

“I was reminded that among the earlier meetings that I had as Secretary of Labor back in the fall was with your CEO, Bob Goldberg,” noted Scalia, who was sworn in as DOL Secretary in September 2019. “We met and talked about the economy at the time…about association health plans… [which are] a way that small businesses and even the self-employed can come together and buy health care together, enjoying the leverage and the economies of scale that a large company does.”

Scalia noted that the Department’s AHP rule is designed to make it easier for professionals like REALTORS® to “obtain more affordable health insurance. That rule was challenged in a court here in Washington, D.C. It was put on hold by the Court. We appealed that, argued it last fall and are awaiting the court’s decision…we certainly want to do all we can to get that program back up and running,” he continued.

“We’re in a very different place today,” noted Scalia, who pointed to the job numbers that were recently published as a key indicator of the difficult economic times we’re facing. “The numbers garnered a lot of attention, as unemployment was reported to be at 14.7 percent nationwide, with 20.5 million payroll jobs lost as reported by employers just in the month of April,” explained Scalia.

“These are hard times for the American people, but we’re working with states as they begin to reopen to ensure that they are promptly moving people back into the workplace and out of the unemployment role.”

Carranza’s Small Business Administration (SBA) has been responsible for the rollout and implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, both created by the $2 trillion CARES Act signed into law at the end of March.

“As you know, this pandemic has been devastating for our nation’s 30 million small businesses, many of whom are here virtually with us today,” said Carranza, the SBA’s 26th Administrator. “At the outset of the coronavirus, the SBA—following the President’s leadership—established a tremendous public-private partnership with banks. We launched the Paycheck Protection Program one month ago, rolling out an extraordinary $349 billion, followed by an additional $310 billion in emergency capital to small businesses.”

Carranza, who also served as U.S. Treasurer, noted that the SBA processed 14 years’ worth of loans within 14 days of launching the PPP.

“Assisting many of you in the real estate industry, the PPP was created to bring quick relief to our amazing entrepreneurs, to get them through this challenging time,” Carranza told thousands of REALTORS® tuning in to hear her remarks. “These loans are helping to keep hundreds of thousands of small businesses viable, and in the process, they are helping millions of employees and their families keep their lights on and food on the table,” she added.

“Your work in real estate is indispensable to the American Dream. Families and small businesses rely on you to establish their homes and their places of business… We need your spirit of entrepreneurship, grit and kindness now more than ever before,” said Carranza.

“When these dark clouds clear, each and every one of us can take heart, knowing we contributed our best to helping our neighbors recover and continue pursuing the American Dream for their families.”

“While REALTORS® continue to find innovative ways to get Americans into new homes without jeopardizing public safety, NAR thanks Secretary Scalia, Director Kraninger and Administrator Carranza for taking the time to educate our members on their efforts to get our nation back to work and our economy growing again,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & C, Inc., in San Francisco, Calif. “We’re grateful in particular for their efforts to secure the housing and commercial real estate markets, which represent nearly one fifth of our national GDP.”

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