The health and safety of our employees, members, and communities is extremely important to us. We continue to pay close attention to updates about new variants of the COVID-19 coronavirus and are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the World Health Organization to ensure that we are taking appropriate precautions in our branches and adequately educating our staff.
BRANCH LOBBY ACCESS
The pandemic continues to create staffing challenges in our branches, which can lead to occasional lobby closings or restrictions. If you’d like to speak with a member service consultant, we encourage you to schedule an appointment online. If you are concerned about your health, we welcome you to wear a mask and ask that our staff put on a mask. You can also use alternative methods that will allow you to continue banking safely until you feel more comfortable returning to the credit union branch.
YOU CAN BANK SAFELY
Whether you are concerned about COVID-19 or would simply like to use more convenient banking options, you can rely on our digital and technology services for your basic banking needs:
- Digital Banking—Bank safely from the convenience of your computer or mobile phone. Digital Banking allows you to review your accounts, deposit checks, transfer funds, make payments, open some accounts, apply for a loan, manage your debit and credit cards, and much more. Not enrolled? Enroll now by clicking on the link at the top right corner of the screen.
- Video Teller Services—All our branches offer either a drive-through or video teller services, which eliminate the social interaction of a traditional teller line.
- ATM —Use an ATM at one of our branch locations or at a CO-OP Shared Branching location for simple transactions like withdrawing, depositing, or transferring funds.
- Merchant Cash Back—Many retailers, such as grocery stores, and larger box stores, like Walmart, offer cash back from your account when you use your debit card to make a purchase. This is a quick and easy way to get cash from your account.
- Mobile Wallet—The safest place for your cash is your financial institution. If you are relying on your cards more than ever, keep them together and easily accessible on your phone with Mobile Wallet. With Mobile Wallet, all you need to make payments is your phone.
- Apply for Loans Online—You can apply directly online for a car or any consumer loan as well as a mortgage or home equity loan.
COVID LOAN RELIEF PROGRAMS
If you have lost income as a result of COVID-19 and are concerned that you won’t be able to make your monthly loan payment, we offer several loan relief programs that can help.
To make it as easy as possible to help you get through this time, we have streamlined our processes, will continue to remove obstacles, and are waiving fees normally associated with some of these options.
WHERE TO START?
Every individual need is different. We’ve provided the options below but let us help you determine the best option for you. Call us at 802/800 371-5162 during business hours and we’ll help you navigate the available programs.
VERMONT COVID EMERGENCY HOMEOWNER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
On January 24, Governor Scott initiated a new Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP) to support Vermonters who have fallen behind on payment due to financial challenges stemming from the pandemic. The program is funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act for the amount of $50 million. It is managed through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), which is accepting applications now.
This grant is for Vermont homeowners who are eligible and meet income limits and is not just for those who have a mortgage on their home. It covers up to $30,000 for primary home expenses which may include past-due mortgage payments, reverse mortgages, utility bills, property taxes, and condominium fees.
This will be an ongoing program, which is intended to help Vermont homeowners avoid foreclosure due to the pandemic. Grant funds are considered disaster relief funds and will be paid directly to your mortgage servicer for up to twelve months of mortgage or property tax liability. This assistance is considered a grant, so you would not have to pay it back.
In order to qualify for the HAP program, applicants must be applying for expenses on a primary Vermont residence, must have an income that meets guidelines and is equal to or less than 150% of the area median income, and must have experienced a financial challenge associated with the pandemic after January 21, 2020. This can include job loss, reduction in income, increased costs due to illness, or caring for a family member.
It is recommended that homeowners get in touch with a local HUD counselor before applying for the HAP program, to obtain free counseling as well as to make sure they have utilized all tools and programs available to Vermont homeowners who are facing hardship due to the pandemic. You can contact the Homeowner Assistance Program information hotline between the hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, at 833-221-4208.
MORTGAGE LOAN FORBEARANCE
Your mortgage payment is likely your biggest monthly expense. Various media and government officials have encouraged people to contact their lender to ask for a forbearance on their mortgage payments. While forbearance can provide a stop gap to help increase cash flow when you’ve lost income, mortgage payment forbearance can come with some downside. It’s important to understand how a forbearance works.
Mortgage forbearance is not mortgage forgiveness. A forbearance allows you to pause or reduce your payment for a specific amount of time to help shore up your limited income to cover other necessities. At the end of the forbearance period however, the full amount of all missed and current payments is due in full as a lump-sum payment.
VSECU is a Fannie Mae (FNMA) approved lender, which requires us to follow FNMA forbearance guidelines that provide for an initial period and up to six months of forbearance. We are setting up mortgage forbearance for an initial three-month forbearance term and at the end of the term all missed payments will be due. If needed, we can extend forbearance to the full 180 days or look for other modification opportunities if appropriate.
Because of the repayment shock and potential difficulty to repay three or more months of mortgage payments in one lump sum, a standard two-month loan deferment may be a better option to help manage your mortgage payment or other consumer loan payments.
This program allows you to defer the entire monthly payment for two consecutive months, during which the interest portion of your payment will continue to accrue on the outstanding balance of the loan. When your loan payment resumes, it will be applied first to the accrued, unpaid interest before it is applied to your principal balance. The maturity date will be modified to reflect the change in terms due to the deferred payment amount.
Additional loan deferments may be considered at the end of the two-month term if appropriate.
LOAN MODIFICATION OPTIONS
One of the easiest ways to safeguard your ability to continue making payments without the worry of losing your home, vehicle, or other collateral is through a loan modification.
Depending on your circumstances, we may be able to extend the term of your current loan by adding one or more months to the term of your loan. This option is typically used at the end of a mortgage forbearance period and as a result, the full amount of all missed payments will be added to the end of the loan.
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SCAMMERS & POTENTIAL RISK
In times like these, a natural reaction may be to withdraw your cash and secure it somewhere in fear that you won’t be able to access your money. We cannot emphasize enough how dangerous it is to withdraw large amounts of cash to store in your home or elsewhere. The safest way for you to protect yourself and your money is to leave it securely deposited at your credit union or bank, where your funds are federally insured.
Scam artists take advantage of times like these to gain access to bank accounts. Protect yourself by being aware of suspicious emails and text messages. Keep your eyes open for medical supply scams, fraudulent donation sites, or anything else that seems fishy. If it seems like it could be fraud, it probably is, so listen to your gut and don’t provide your personal identification (usernames, passwords, Social Security number, etc.) unless you are 100% certain you are dealing with a legitimate organization—one with whom you have made the initial contact. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown email senders, and do not make purchases or donations on any unknown sites.
KEEP LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE
At VSECU, we are proud to live by our values of being real, human, brave, selfless and, yes, playful. We encourage all of you to be kind, patient, diligent, and supportive of each other. Lead by example and support others as we all work together to solve problems. Our credit union roots could not be more important than they are today.