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7 Tips for Using Zoom Videoconferencing With Remote Teams

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Note: This post was updated 3/20/20.

Here are some helpful tips to improve your next video meeting.

If you’ve suddenly found yourself spending a lot more time looking at your colleagues through a Zoom videoconference as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, you’re not alone. If you’re not used to video meetings, it can be a little intimidating at first.

Fortunately, there are best practices that you can use, like keeping yourself on mute and always keeping your camera on (unless you have a good reason otherwise). Both of those go a long way toward fostering a productive and engaging meeting with your remote team.

Here are a few additional tips for getting the most out of your Zoom meetings.

1. Use a Waiting Room

If you have a lot of meetings, especially with a full calendar, there’s always a chance that the person or people in your next meeting will log on a few minutes early, or a meeting might run long. Fortunately, Zoom has a waiting room feature that allows you to have new attendees placed there instead of just appearing in your meeting room.

To do this, log in to your account on Zoom.com, select Preferences, and scroll down to Meeting (advanced), where you can toggle the waiting room on or off.

2. Create Recurring Meetings

If you meet with the same people on a regular basis, you can create a recurring meeting within Zoom, which uses the same settings as well as the same meeting link. This makes it easy to set up a schedule, and since it doesn’t use your personal meeting invitation, you can keep different groups of attendees separate. Simply log in to Zoom, select “Meetings” and select “Schedule a Meeting.” Then click the box for “recurring meeting.”

3. Use Attention Tracking

One of the hardest things when you’re hosting a meeting, especially if you’re sharing your screen, is that it’s hard to see your participants. Naturally, some of those participants are probably working on something else or not giving you their full and undivided attention. If that’s a problem, you can turn on the “Attention Tracking” feature, which will let you know if one of your attendees has moved another window in front of Zoom. This feature is also under the advanced meeting settings.

4. Request Control of Another Desktop

Sometimes helping a co-worker diagnose a problem or work on a project would be so much easier if you could be sitting next to that person. While Zoom hasn’t completely solved that problem, it does allow you to request control of your participant’s desktop. They’ll have to approve the request, but you’ll be able to maneuver their cursor with your own mouse and keyboard, which is especially helpful for demos or technical support.

5. Pay Attention to Your Background

We don’t usually pay much attention to what is behind us until we log on to a meeting and can see ourselves. It’s often then that you realize that it might have been worth paying a little more attention to what everyone else sees. If you don’t have a great option, Zoom has a “virtual background” that you can set within the Zoom app on your laptop.

6. Record Your Meetings

The free version of Zoom allows you to record calls to your computer, which is convenient for meetings and demos especially. The paid version also allows you to save recordings to the cloud, which makes it easy to share with team members later by simply emailing a link.

7. Touch Up Your Appearance

If you want to have a little fun, or if you have a meeting before you had a chance to fully get ready for the day, you can choose the “touch up my appearance” setting. From the Zoom App on your laptop, choose “preferences” and then “video settings,” to add a subtle skin-smoothing effect.

Bonus: Use a Good Pair of Ear Buds or Headphones

Making sure your team can hear you well is important, especially if you’re working somewhere where there might be background noise. The same goes for being able to hear them. I’m a personal fan of the Apple AirPods Pro, but honestly, any paid of wired or wireless headphones will do.

By the way, if you’re new to videoconferencing, Zoom also has a really helpful resource guide dedicated to supporting teams affected by Covid-19. It includes free training as well as a handful of best practices you can use to keep your team connected.

Source: Inc.com –    By Jason AtenTech columnist@jasonaten Published on: Mar 20, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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5 Ways My Home Has Calmed Me Down During the Coronavirus

I’m usually pretty calm during a crisis—I’m a New Yorker, after all. I’ve endured everything from the horrors of Sept. 11 to the blackouts of Superstorm Sandy and beyond. But the coronavirus feels even scarier, perhaps because it will last so much longer—and that definitely has me on edge.

Yet as I was folding an enormous basket of laundry the other morning (the piles have exploded since my college-aged girls returned home), I decided to light a pine-scented candle, still on display in my living room since Christmas. And as I breathed in its calming scent, I instantly felt my shoulders relax.

Thymes Frasier fir–scented candle for the win!
Thymes Frasier fir–scented candle for the win!Jennifer Geddes

Yup, one of the unexpected upsides of having to shelter in place is my rediscovery of the joys within my own home—a sentiment that many of my friends and family say they’ve felt, too.

So, in case you need something positive to focus on as you’re holed up at home, here are a few things about home that are making me and my fellow neighbors smile during this bleak hour.

1. Discovering food I totally forgot I had

The deeper you dig, the more you'll find.
The deeper you dig, the more you’ll find.Jennifer Geddes

Since we can no longer pop out to local restaurants and even grocery runs are discouraged, I decided to do a full excavation of my pantry—and was pleasantly surprised by what I found in its depths.

I could probably live for weeks using the forgotten foods in my pantry and deep freezer. I unearthed seven kinds of rice, pork and cabbage dumplings, boxes of bread crumbs, and a few cans of tuna.

Larry Perlstein of Westport, CT, reports discovering parts of his pantry that he hasn’t seen since he moved in to his house 12 years ago. The items included a box of raisins dating to 2015, which he wisely decided not to eat.

“But I also found lots of sprinkles, both rainbow and chocolate, and I’ve read they last forever,” he says. Baking projects are now on deck with his 12-year-old.

Christina Vercelletto of Babylon, NY, has reaped the same sweet rewards at her house.

“I’m baking with my daughter using every neglected box mix we have, plus a bag of coconut and white chocolate chips that we bought in the fall but never used,” she shares.

2. Having time to organize and declutter my house

New York City resident Anne Levy did a colossal cleaning and reorg of her house in order to prepare both of her daughters to learn remotely, and so her school teacher husband could teach from home.

“The place feels lighter—and I feel mentally lighter, too,” she says. Levy gathered nine bags of clothing and textile donations and plans to keep on purging.

One person does not need more than a dozen tablecloths.
One person does not need more than a dozen tablecloths.Jennifer Geddes

Meanwhile, I’ve finally whittled down my linen drawer. My amazing mother-in-law, you see, gives me every tablecloth she’s tired of—and she runs through several a year, which means the two dresser drawers where I store these linens is full to bursting. During this virus crisis, I’ve finally had a chance to tackle this spot and embrace only the tablecloths I truly love—and toss that yellow-and-green tropical number in the middle!

3. Taking long, luxurious baths

A nightly soak is a must during turbulent times.
A nightly soak is a must during turbulent times.Jennifer Geddes

I used to complain about this tub (too big, takes too long to fill, a pain to clean), but I no longer sing that tune. Instead, I’m digging around for bath salts, oils, and other potions to pour in so I can soak my stress away. I’m using it as long as the coronavirus lasts—and maybe longer.

4. Having date nights—in the basement

No movie theater? No problem. We watch shows in the chilly basement with our pup Django.
No movie theater? No problem. We watch shows in the chilly basement with our pup Django.Jennifer Geddes

Stressful days like these were made for streaming mindless movies and TV shows, which I’m suddenly finding pretty enjoyable in my little basement. It’s dark and cold, but we have excellent Wi-Fi and comfy chairs, so I’m ready to embrace regular date nights here with my hubs.

5. Checking off home to-do lists

Working from home has given me pockets of down time, and as a result, my perpetual list of household chores is just about whittled to zero. Burned-out lightbulbs? Replaced! No-slip mats finally laid under dangerous throw rugs? Done. Next up, I’m steeling myself to enter the basement “scary closet” (so named because of the occasional mouse that pops up) to sort through my garden pots that I hope to plant once this crisis is over.

Granted, I will be thrilled once this coronavirus scourge has finally lifted—but until then, I will try to look at the silver lining and relish all the comforts and opportunities that staying at home has to offer.

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COVID-19 pandemic: Tips to remain ‘sane and safe’ during social distancing

social-distance.jpg

Photo: Crystal Eye Studio/Shutterstock

Muncie, IN — Maintaining a routine, helping others and taking time to focus on self-care are among the tips one Ball State University professor is sharing to help people stay “sane and safe” while practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jagdish Khubchandani, a health sciences professor, has 15 recommendations to “counterbalance” the physical and psychological effects of social distancing, which involves reducing close contact with others in an effort to help stop the spread of the disease, per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Khubchandani’s tips:

  • Maintain a routine. As much as possible, social distancing should not disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, working hours and daily activities.
  • Make social distancing a positive by taking time to focus on your personal health, training, diet, physical activity levels and health habits, as well as reassessing your work.
  • Cook for yourself and others in need. Add more fruits, vegetables, vitamins and proteins to your diet. (Most U.S. adults don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables). Eat two or three meals a day.
  • Go for a walk or exercise at home. “Definitely go out in nature as much as possible. Only half of American adults today get enough exercise.”
  • Don’t let anxiety or being at home lead to binge eating or alcohol and drug use. Don’t oversleep, but try to sleep at least seven hours a day.
  • Know that social distancing can cause anxiety and depression because of disruption to routines, isolation and fear over a pandemic. If you or someone you know is experiencing either, help is available.
  • Make the best use of technology to finish your work, attend meetings and engage with co-workers with the same frequency required during active office hours. “The good news: Working from home can make people more productive and happier.”
  • Small breaks during social distancing are also good times to reassess your skills and training – consider taking an online course, pursuing certification, undergoing training or personality development, or learning a new language.
  • Engage in spring cleaning, clear clutter and donate household items. Home clutter can harbor pollutants, lead to infections and result in unhygienic spaces.
  • Social distancing shouldn’t translate to an unhealthy life on social media. Although you can certainly become a victim of myths, misinformation, anxiety and fearmongering, you can also inadvertently become a perpetrator, creating more trouble for communities.
  • Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey and leisure-related time-spending patterns worldwide, “too much time” is spent on screens. Except for one to two times a day to watch, read or listen to national news for general consumption and local news for updates on the spread of COVID-19 in your community, you’re likely overconsuming information and taking away time for yourself and from friends and family.
  • Reach out to others and offer help. Social distancing should help reinvest in and recreate social bonds. Consider providing for and helping those at risk or marginalized (e.g., the elderly, disabled and homeless; survivors of natural disasters; and people living in shelters). “You will certainly find someone in the neighborhood who needs some help.” This can be done from a distance via a phone or by online activities, as well as giving.
  • Check your list of contacts on email and your phone. It may be a good time to check on your friends’ and family members’ well-being. This will also help you feel more connected, social, healthier and engaged. “Be kind to all; you never know who is struggling and how you can make a difference.”
  • Engage in alternative activities to keep your mind and body active. For example, listen to music or sing; try dancing or biking, yoga or meditation; take virtual tours of museums and places of interest; sketch or paint; read books or novels; solve puzzles or play board games; try new recipes; and learn about other cultures.
  • Don’t isolate yourself completely – social distancing shouldn’t become social isolation. Don’t be afraid, don’t panic and do keep communicating with others.

“Social distancing can be tough on people and disrupt the social and economic fibers of our society,” Khubchandani said. “Given the existing crisis of isolation in societies — with probably the loneliest young generation that we have today — social distancing can also take a personal health toll on people, causing psychological problems, among many others.”

Source: Safety & Health The Official Magazine – March 18, 2020

 

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The next financial crisis: A collapse of the mortgage system

Federal Reserve

The U.S. mortgage finance system could collapse if the Federal Reserve doesn’t step in with emergency loans to offset a coming wave of missed payments from borrowers crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress did not include relief for the mortgage industry in its $2 trillion rescue package — even as lawmakers required mortgage companies to allow homeowners up to a year’s delay in making payments on federally backed loans.

When individuals stop making payments on their home mortgages, the companies that handle the loans and process those payments, so-called mortgage servicers, are still on the hook: They’re legally obligated to keep sending money to insurers and investors in mortgage-backed securities, the giant bundles of home loans that are packaged and sold on the securities markets.

Now industry executives and regulators are worried that Congress’s generosity toward homeowners could wipe out those companies, causing investors not to get paid and potentially bankrupting the entire mortgage finance system — a domino effect that would make it much harder for borrowers to access credit to buy homes.

Housing lobbyists sounded the alarm to Senate staff about the potential danger, but the sheer scale of the rescue bill and the focus on communicating the industry’s other big concerns — such as the details of how long mortgages would be suspended — meant their warnings were unheeded in the rush to finish the massive legislation.

Yet while the final bill allocates $454 billion for the Treasury Department to support the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs, including for large corporations, there is no overt requirement for lending to mortgage companies, despite a weeklong lobbying push by the industry.

“There was a strong desire on the part of housing lobbyists to have the bill explicitly direct the Fed and Treasury to use some of that money to finance servicing advances,” said Michael Bright, CEO of the Structured Finance Association, which represents 370 financial institutions in the bond market.

Now industry lobbyists are turning their efforts to Trump administration officials.

“We have been in constant contact with many parts of the administration to ensure that they understand the urgency of this liquidity facility being set up,” said Bob Broeksmit, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, a trade group.

Concerns about liquidity in the mortgage finance system have been building for years, as the companies that service mortgage loans are increasingly nonbanks — which don’t have banks’ access to Fed loans or their strict capital requirements and deposits to fall back on. Banks, which once dominated the business, have steadily pulled back since the 2008 housing market meltdown.

Usually, a mortgage company can withstand a few borrowers failing to make payments, but the breadth of the coronavirus pandemic has sparked industry estimates of between 25 and 50 percent of borrowers being unable to pay.

That “could threaten the ability of a mortgage servicer, particularly nonbank servicers, to remain a going concern,” the Conference of State Bank Supervisors warned Fed Chair Jerome Powell and Mnuchin in a March 25 letter.

State regulators wanted to weigh in because “our members are the primary regulators of the nonbank servicers,” said Margaret Liu, CSBS senior vice president and deputy general counsel.

If 25 percent of borrowers fail to make their mortgage payments, the industry would need $40 billion to cover three months of payments, according to Jay Bray, CEO of the servicing company Mr. Cooper. Depending on how long the situation lasts, Broeksmit said demands on servicers “could exceed $75 billion and could climb well above $100 billion.”

And if mortgage companies fail across the board, “the system breaks down,” said Andrew Jakabovics, vice president for policy development at Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing nonprofit.

“The kinds of relief we did during the foreclosure crisis — all of that had to do with the fact that we wanted to ensure that investors from across the world would continue to treat U.S. mortgage-backed securities as an incredibly safe investment,” Jakabovics said. “That would have very serious ramifications for the availability and price of mortgage credit.”

Bright, who formerly managed the $2 trillion portfolio of government-run mortgage financier Ginnie Mae, said he believes the Fed will come through with an emergency lending program for the industry.

“Even though that language wasn’t included [in the Senate bill], I do think it’s likely that this could be part of [the Fed’s Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility Program] in the end,” he said.

Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria — who regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored mortgage giants that prop up about half of the nation’s $11 trillion market — said this week in a Bloomberg TV interview that he was confident that large banks would continue to extend credit to mortgage servicers for the time being.

Stillhe said, “if we get to a situation where this goes longer than two months, absolutely there’s going to need to be a bigger solution.”

Broeksmit said some mortgage companies won’t make it that long, depending on the share of loans in their portfolios located in areas of the country where the virus has hit particularly hard.

“Some servicers will need the liquidity sooner than others, so we’re hoping that the facility will be set up immediately,” Broeksmit said.

Liu also said the credit lines from banks wouldn’t be enough to keep the system afloat.

“The mortgage market is one of the many multiple complexly interconnected pieces of our financial system, so those assurances are really important, but I think the role of the government in being a reliable and available source of credit for the mortgage market and mortgage servicers during a crisis is even more important,” she said.

In the meantime, the industry is crossing its fingers that the individual cash relief in the Senate bill will lead to fewer people needing to request forbearance on their payments.

“We’re hoping that the take-up rate won’t be too high and that the duration is not extended, but we have to prepare for both,” Broeksmit said.

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Trudeau announces new emergency programme for workers who lost work from COVID-19

Trudeau announces new emergency programme for workers who lost work from COVID-19 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the federal government is launching the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, a new programme that will provide $2,000 a month for four months to individuals who lost their work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking outside of his residence where he is self-quarantining with his family, Trudeau acknowledged the dilemma facing Canadians trying to process mounting bills without a steady income, noting that “far too many Canadians are having these tough conversations about their finances and their future.”

With nearly 1 million people applying for employment insurance last week, Trudeau stated the new programme is in the process of being set up.

“An application portal will launch as quickly as possible and people should start receiving money as soon as 10 days of applying,” he said.

The programme will replace a pair of initiatives, the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit, that were announced last week. Trudeau said the decision to combine the two earlier programmes into a new endeavour was done “in order to streamline the process.”

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Deferred Mortgage Payments: A Credit Score Gamble?

Last week, the President of the Canadian Bankers Association announced that all six major banks would offer deferral payments on their mortgages and other credit products. Just like many public announcements over the last couple of months, many were left with more questions than answers.

One question that still has yet to be answered is, how deferred mortgage payments might affect your credit score? Equifax recently announced, “In the event that a [lender] makes a credit relief or payment deferral program available to its consumers to opt out of making monthly payments during the pandemic, Equifax’s expectation is that the [lender] would take actions on its system to ensure that it does not report any derogatory/missed payment information to the credit bureaus that is misaligned with the program it has implemented.”

millennials in debtScott Hannah, B.C.-based CEO of the non-profit Credit Counselling Society, was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying, “I don’t see creditors punishing consumers for being as responsible as they can under circumstances beyond their control.”

Many financial professionals have been posting messages online and sending emails to reassure the public and their clients that a deferral payment will not affect their credit score.

I agree that Canadians should not have their credit affected by deferred payments, although I predict a much different reality for consumers starting April 1. Lenders update the payment history of each credit account electronically to Equifax and TransUnion.

In order for these deferred payments to not be reported to the credit reporting agencies as late, as Equifax alluded too, the lender would need to “take actions on its system to ensure that it does not report any derogatory/missed payment information to the credit bureaus.”

Lenders big and small have been bombarded with phone calls that have put pressure on their personal and electronic systems. Are you willing to gamble your credit score and assume that every lender has updated its reporting system?

Millions of Canadians have found errors in their credit reports. For over a decade, I personally have received thousands of calls from consumers stating that a customer service rep told them one thing, only to find out that it was reported incorrect on their credit report.

In reality, it doesn’t matter what the customer service rep, the government, or what the industry experts tell you. If the lender’s internal system sees it as a late payment, that is how it will report. No one will know for sure if all these deferred payments will report correctly or not.

might a mortgage payment deferral affect your credit scoreWe can all agree that the amount of deferred payments over the coming months is unprecedented. For this reason, I expect an increase in the amount of mortgage, loan and credit card payments reporting incorrectly on Canadian credit reports.

Even with the chance that a deferred payment will show up as a late payment, many Canadians will still need to take advantage of such programs being offered by banks.

For those that don’t really need to defer their payments this month, I suggest you wait until it is necessary. A deferred payment is not free money. You will have to pay the lender back with interest.

Any delay is just going to increase the amount on future required payments. My hope is that, going forward, underwriters or those reviewing credit applications will be lenient on any late payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, I am positive that the credit scoring system will not show much sympathy. On average, one late payment will drop your score 20 to 40 points.

A low credit score, regardless if it was caused by an error or not, will make it much more difficult to qualify for best-rate financing, renting, some employment opportunities and discounted insurance premiums. This is not to say your life will be over, but it will take at least 6 to 12 months for your credit to recover.

For those who have no choice but to request a deferred payment, here are some ways to protect your credit.

  1. Request electronic or written confirmation that the payment is being deferred.
  2. Ask for the employee number or service rep’s name that confirmed your deferred payment.
  3. Write down the day and time you talked to the customer service rep.
  4. Place all supporting documentation and record keeping in a safe place where you will actually remember where to find it.
  5. Track both your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports for at least the next few months
  6. If you do see an error, reach out to your lender and the credit reporting agencies to open up a dispute.

mortgage payment relief announcedI’m sure the thought of making another call might be overwhelming for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have already spent hours on the phone to request the deferred payment.

For anyone who has something better to do than to spend hours listening to the annoying automated voice and elevator music, I suggest you start with suggestion number three.

I don’t want to create panic or be like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling. The point I sincerely want to get across is that reporting errors are common and always have been.

It is unrealistic to think there won’t be any errors as a result of the increased demand for deferred payments. Regardless of what happens, now is the perfect time to monitor and learn how to better protect your credit.

Source: Mortgage Broker New
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Consumers could face hit to credit scores, jump in payments from mortgage deferrals

‘You’re going to get hiccups in this process; it’s never happened before,’ expert says

Details of RBC’s mortgage deferral program, obtained by CBC News, reveal the option will be available to all mortgage holders but in a way that appears to ensure the bank will not lose money in the short term and may even come out ahead. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Canadians couldn’t get answers on mortgage deferrals at Canada’s biggest bank because information and eligibility requirements kept changing almost by the hour, a source who works for RBC tells CBC News.

When the first details were eventually given out to frontline employees at RBC’s Mississauga call centre, they revealed deferrals would be available to all mortgage holders, but in a way that appears to ensure the bank would not lose money in the short term and may even come out ahead.

“Deferrals actually meant that interest accrued from each deferred payment was being added back into the principal balance of the mortgage,” said the source.

“Technically clients would then be [charged] interest on top of interest for those payments [that were] deferred,” they said.

In effect, it’s as though the bank is loaning you the amount that you would have paid in interest during the deferral period and then charging you interest on that loan as well.

“They’re going to make more money because they’ve just loaned you more,” said Peter Gorham, an actuary with JDM Actuarial Expert Services.

“I don’t know that I want to say it’s profiting. I would say it’s not costing them a penny.” he said.

“People are increasing their debt load. If you are not desperate for the financial relief, don’t take it,” Gorham said, adding RBC and other banks are taking on increased risk from deferrals, a risk that could grow significantly if the COVID-19 crisis runs from months into years.

When it comes to repaying the increased debt load from a deferral, there may be other complications for mortgage holders.

“This also means an increase in clients’ payments at their next renewal period due to the increase in mortgage balance,” the source at RBC said.

RBC frontline employees at one of the Bank’s call centres were overwhelmed with calls and had no information to provide customers, a source tells CBC News. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

If the client doesn’t want a bigger payment, they can extend the amortization period, the source added. But that typically requires a full credit application which may affect their credit score.

The other option is making extra payments after the deferral period ends to bring the mortgage back down as quickly as possible to its original amount.

Two other big banks have mortgage deferral polices similar to RBC’s.

In an updated set of deferral FAQs posted on its website, Scotiabank too says interest will continue to accrue.

“You will pay more interest over the life of your mortgage, but a deferral will also help you with your short-term cash flow,” the banks states on its website. Scotiabank is also offering deferrals on personal and auto loans, lines of credit, and credit cards.

On its website, BMO also states interest will continue to accrue on mortgages.

The Canadian Bankers Association issued a statement late Sunday night saying, “Customers should understand that [a deferral] is not mortgage forgiveness. Mortgage deferral means that payments are skipped for a defined period of time, during which interest which would otherwise be part of the deferred payments is added to the outstanding balance of the mortgage.”

Credit card deferrals

RBC is also offering six-month deferrals on credit card payments, according to an email obtained by CBC News. But once that period ends the minimum payment would include all accrued interest from the deferred payments. Meaning the minimum payment could jump significantly.

A section of an email obtained by CBC News which was sent to RBC employees with instructions of how to respond to customers seeking a deferral on credit card payments. The email was sent on March 18 at 1:16pm EDT. (Obtained by CBC News)

Most minimum payments on credit cards are interest plus $10. But Quebec passed a law in 2017 changing minimum payment requirements in an effort to counter rising household debt by making people pay off more than just accumulated interest.

Minimum payment on credit cards in Quebec is 2.5 per cent of the balance owing and will eventually rise to five per cent.

Confusion

Last week, all of Canada’s big banks agreed to a request from Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to defer mortgage payments for up to six months for people suffering financially due to COVID-19.

The banks issued a joint statement saying they “have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through challenges such as pay disruption due to COVID-19; child-care disruption due to school closures; or those facing illness from COVID-19.”

 

But initially many Canadians looking for deferrals said, after waiting for hours on hold, they were told they didn’t qualify. One BMO customer — who is actually a former BMO branch manager — said he was told he needed a full credit check and credit application and even then the bank would not tell him their criteria for approval.

It turns out the person he spoke with may not have known the criteria themselves at that point.

By midday Wednesday, workers at RBC’s Mississauga call centre still hadn’t been informed.

WATCH | Consumer frustrated at lack of information about mortgage deferrals

Watch

Confusion surrounds COVID-19 mortgage deferrals

Many Canadians looking for relief from mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic are met with a confusing process. 2:00

“Anyone calling in to RBC between 8 a.m. and noon was directed to call back ‘later’ as we had been given no direction or timeframe as to when relief procedures would be implemented, other than ‘soon,'” a source told CBC News.

On March 13, the finance minister said that he had already spoken with the CEOs of the big banks. The banks issued their statement promising to work with Canadians on a case by case basis on the evening of March 17, around 7 p.m. ET.

Canadians began calling their banks the morning of March 18.

But, as late as March 20, Canadians were still being told no information was available.

“I was on hold for 11 hours [March 19] and then five hours [March 20],” said Lindsay Gillespie, who has a mortgage and a line of credit with FirstLine Mortgages, a division of CIBC.

Canada’s Minister of Finance Bill Morneau at a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada March 13, the day he told reporters he had spoken with the CEOs of Canada’s big banks. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

“I finally got through and was told there’s nothing that can be done right now, they don’t have anything set up. I was told to call back another time,” she said.

Also as late as March 20, some RBC customers were still being told they didn’t qualify for a six-month deferral.

“We called RBC and were told that deferrals are being assessed on a case-by-case basis and that our eligibility for a deferral is limited to six weeks,” said Jeff Hecker, a principal at a Toronto Marketing research firm.

“No explanation was provided,” he said.

In a statement issued Sunday evening, RBC said “the developments around COVID-19 are moving quickly and we understand that clients have questions. Our frontline employees are doing incredible work to respond to clients quickly and effectively, and we are staying close to them to ensure they have the information they need to support clients.”

Hiccups

Some in the mortgage industry say the confusion over deferrals is understandable, given the unprecedented and rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 crisis.

“You’re going to get hiccups in this process; it’s never happened before,” said Robert McLister, mortgage expert and founder of RateSpy.com.

 

“It’s case-by-case, it’s completely at the lender’s discretion as far as I understand it. Even though the big banks have agreed with the federal government to offer these programs, there’s no mandatory federal guidelines that I’m aware of,” he said.

McLister says it’s possible some people are being declined mortgage deferrals because they can’t prove their income has dropped.

“But generally speaking if you are in legitimate need and you’re about to default on a mortgage payment the lender is going to work with you,” he said.

Source: CBC.ca – Aaron Saltzman – March 22, 2020

Senior Reporter, Consumer Affairs

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