SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The housing crisis has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and millions are facing housing and rental instability. In response to these financial challenges, Wells Fargo Foundation is providing nearly $11 million in additional grant funding to seven legal-assistance organizations and 12 housing counseling agencies to help keep people housed. Since March of last year, Wells Fargo has provided more than $25 million in grant funding to national nonprofit housing and legal assistance organizations in support of housing counseling, renter stabilization, and eviction avoidance.
Supporting families during uncertain times
Miecho Saffo is just one of more than 250,000 renters and homeowners who will have been helped through the effort. Prior to the pandemic, Saffo and her three children settled into their new rental home in St. Louis. During the pandemic, Saffo was furloughed from her job and worried about paying rent and bills. Beyond Housing, a local nonprofit that received a Wells Fargo grant, helped clients with utility bills, rental assistance, food security and, ultimately, helped keep Saffo and her family in their home.
“We are thrilled to be part of Miecho’s story and it’s just one of thousands of examples that have resulted from our collaboration with nonprofit housing organizations as we work together to help keep people in stable housing,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, head of housing affordability philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “The economic fallout of COVID-19 has caused housing instability for far too many renters, and Wells Fargo believes supporting organizations that provide legal assistance, housing counseling, and other housing support is an important step in helping people avoid eviction, which is often the first step toward additional financial and housing instability.”
During a global pandemic that caused widespread income loss, unemployment, and illness, many found themselves unable to make mortgage payments or pay rent on time. Nonprofit housing counselors have helped homeowners and renters navigate available federal and state housing assistance while providing independent advice on foreclosure prevention, credit issues, debt management, and long-term financial health. The work of housing counselors also helps address systemic inequalities related to housing in an effort to close the housing security gap.
Helping renters avoid eviction
Up to 40 million U.S. renters impacted by the pandemic-related economic downturn could face eviction, according to research from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. And multiple studies have shown that tenants with legal representation are significantly more likely to avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their home. In response, Wells Fargo is continuing to support legal assistance organizations that work to keep people and families housed through services and advocacy efforts.
The grants will enable legal assistance organizations to provide free or low-cost legal counseling and representation to people at risk of eviction, advance advocacy work, and identify solutions to mitigate evictions across the U.S., including for Black, Indigenous and People of Color disproportionately affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. While the funds are being provided nationwide, The Legal Aid Society in New York is one of the grantees.
"New York is still facing a surging pandemic coupled with looming mass evictions,” said Edward Josephson, supervising attorney at The Legal Aid Society in New York City. “Rental relief is desperately needed, especially with the eviction moratorium in limbo, and many need assistance from organizations like ours to secure protection from eviction as well as the promise of monetary relief. With Wells Fargo's commitment, we've been able to extend outreach and guide our clients through processes that keep them safe and in their homes."
About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is the leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 37 on Fortune’s 2021 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories. Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo.
VIDEO/SUPPLEMENTARY HUMAN INTEREST STORIES:
- 'Stabilizing lives, housing, and communities during crisis' (Wells Fargo Stories; April 7, 2021)
- 'To fight poverty, we must have civil legal aid' (Wells Fargo Stories; March 22, 2021)
- 'How housing nonprofits are supporting families during COVID-19' (Wells Fargo Stories; June 4, 2020)
- 'The benefits of affordable homeownership are too tremendous to ignore' (Wells Fargo Stories; Jan. 21, 2021)
News Release Category: WF-PESG