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More struggling U.S. homeowners eligible for reduced payments

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Homeowners with certain government-backed mortgages could get their monthly payments reduced by 25% if they are still struggling to make payments, the White House said on Friday as part of efforts to help keep people housed amid the pandemic.

The move targets those with loans backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Agriculture or Department of Veterans Affairs. They will be brought closer in line to those backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the White House said.

Homeowners who are still “looking for work, re-training, having trouble catching up on back taxes and insurance, or are continuing to experience hardship for another reason,” are eligible, it added in a statement.

“Where agencies have the authority and depending on homeowners’ financial conditions, agencies will require or encourage mortgage servicers to offer borrowers new payment reduction options to help them remain in their home.”

The Biden administration has taken several steps aimed at protecting homeowners during the COVID-19 outbreak, including extending an eviction moratorium until July 31. The pandemic has upended the nation’s economy’s since emerging in early 2020 and has caused more than 600,000 deaths.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) last month finalized new protections for struggling homeowners as it seeks to prevent a wave of foreclosures in coming months, but it stopped short of a blanket ban.

Black and Hispanic U.S. mortgage borrowers are much more likely to be delinquent or in a “forbearance” program than white borrowers, highlighting how the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating systemic racial disparities, CFPB data show.

The consumer watchdog agency is also scrutinizing mortgage servicers’ compliance with pandemic relief programs, according to a report.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Pravin Char)

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