The health and safety of our employees, members, and communities is extremely important to us. We are paying close attention to updates about 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.
Most importantly, we are prepared to be responsive to changes that could lead to disruption while ensuring access to your money and accounts at VSECU. We are prepared to continue serving your needs.
ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS
The American Rescue Plan was signed into law on March 11 and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has begun distributing the third round of Economic Impact Payments. They are distributing the payments automatically, so you do not need to take any action.
If you have received an automatic payment via direct deposit, you will initially see it as a “pending" deposit in your account. The word “pending” indicates that the deposit has been initiated but you do not yet have access to the funds. You will have access to the funds when the pending status has been removed. If you don’t receive a direct deposit by early January, you may receive a paper check or debit card in the mail.
As with the first two rounds of Economic Impact Payments, we expect that Americans with direct deposit information on file with the IRS will receive their payments first.
Unfortunately, we do not have information to tell you when your payment will arrive. If you are uncertain of your payment status, you can use the Get My Payment tool on the IRS website. For more information about your third stimulus payment, please read our most recent blog.
BRANCH LOBBY ACCESS
As of May 3, 2021, we are unlocking our branch lobby doors to allow expanded access to the credit union. As with each step we have taken during the pandemic, we remain cautious and ask that you help keep our staff and other members safe by continuing to follow appropriate safety precautions.
We’re excited to welcome you back into our branches while we continue to follow the guidance of Governor Scott and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and determine how to serve members best within our lobbies.
We encourage you to continue banking safely until the pandemic has passed and welcome you into our branches for teller transactions and to meet with our staff. If you can, please make an appointment in advance of your branch visit so that we can ensure our availability to meet your needs. To make an appointment at the branch nearest you, call 802-371-5162 (choose option 8) to meet with a member service consultant.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT?
The health and wellbeing of our members and our staff is extremely important to us. We are practicing caution and will continue to expand or contract access as needed and implement continued procedures to ensure that you can bank safely. We ask that you support our efforts by wearing a mask when you visit a branch and maintain a distance of six feet from other people. Please do not come to a branch if you are feeling ill.
HERE’S WHAT WE’RE DOING TO HELP KEEP YOU SAFE.
- You will have access to a single-use mask if you do not have one.
- Signage on stands and on the floors will help you maintain a six-foot distance from others.
- VSECU staff will be wearing masks or a face shield and/or will be behind a transparent physical barrier.
- You will have access to hand sanitizer.
- Branch staff and cleaning crews will clean surfaces at regular intervals throughout the day.
Please note that we may ask you to remove your mask briefly for identification purposes.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 802-371-5162 (choose option 8).
YOU CAN BANK SAFELY
Limiting in-person social interaction is the key to reducing potential spread of COVID-19. We encourage you to rely on our digital and technology services for your basic banking needs until the threat of the coronavirus has passed:
- 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.
If you’re looking for more ways you can help protect yourself, check out these simple ways to stay healthy and prepared.
COVID RELIEF FOR OUR BUSINESS MEMBERS
Credit unions were built on the philosophy of people helping people. We will continue to be here to help you as this situation unfolds. If you experience any hardship or difficulty as a result of COVID-19, rely on us to help you navigate through the challenge.
If you’re a business owner and COVID-19 has reduced your revenue or forced you to make tough decisions about payroll and which bills to pay in order to keep the doors open, we can help. Several options have arisen out of the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), offering business owners support to help recoup lost revenue, pay the bills, and keep as many people employed as possible.
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 802/800 371-5197 during business hours and we’ll help you navigate the available programs.
VERMONT COVID EMERGENCY MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
If you are a Vermonter who has missed mortgage payments due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for assistance through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA)’s Vermont COVID Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program. The program began accepting applications on May 3, 2021.
Grant awards are made based on need (not on a first come first served basis). The 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.
You may be eligible if you meet the following criteria:
- Your primary residence is in Vermont.
- You entered your mortgage before March 1, 2020.
- You missed payments since March 1, 2020 due to a COVID-19-related hardship.
- The income for all borrowers was less than $84,000 in 2020 or $21,000 within the last 90 days. For Chittenden County, $96,000 in 2020 or $24,000 in the last 90 days.
- You do not escrow your property taxes and are past due with your town for COVID-19-related reasons.
Learn more and apply online at vhfa.org/map.
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.
This option can be used only once. It allows you to skip one monthly payment on your personal, auto, or credit card loan. We are waiving the fee on this option as part of our pandemic relief efforts. The interest on the unpaid balance will continue to accrue, which will ultimately increase the total loan amount to be repaid.
- If you have lost your job, be sure to file for unemployment with the Vermont Department of Labor. Claims will be filed within 24 hours and the federal government is allowing states to loosen unemployment requirements. You may qualify for unemployment benefits if:
- Your employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing you from going to work,
- You are quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over, or
- You leave employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
- You may be able to take paid leave from work. Ask your employer if the coronavirus emergency relief package, passed by the federal government on March 18, applies to your situation.
- Get updates from the Vermont Department of Health by calling 211 or visiting healthvermont.gov/covid19.
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.
INFORMATION AND GUIDANCE
- BLOG: Keeping You and Your Money Safe during COVID-19!
- BLOG: Everything You Need to Know about Your IRS Stimulus Payment
- BLOG: Protect Your Finances from Fraud during COVID-19
- BLOG: How to Deal with Financial Hardship Due to the Coronavirus
- BLOG: Tips for Reducing Stress while ‘Social Distancing’
- BLOG: Top Five Myths about IRS Stimulus Payments
Financial advice in the COVID-19 age with VSECU SVP Yvonne Garand.