Consumer Confidential: Lenders say they'll be flexible during this pandemic. But you'll still have to pay

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Emily Patton is a pediatric occupational therapist, working with kids facing a variety of developmental challenges, including autism, cerebral palsy and attention deficit disorder.

Like many other service providers, her work has dried up as businesses shut their doors and millions of Americans shelter in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And like many such professionals, Patton, 27, is saddled with a huge pile of debt resulting from her student loan -- about $120,000, requiring a monthly payment of $1,100.

The Culver City, Calif., resident also has to pony up $1,600 a month in rent and $250 for her monthly car payment, then cover the basic costs of day-to-day life.

"It's more than overwhelming -- it's all-consuming," Patton told me, her voice breaking. "I lay in bed at night wondering how I'm going to manage."

She isn't alone. From student loans and mortgage payments to credit-card bills and rent checks, consumers are facing possibly the most uncertain time of their lives making ends meet.


Many lenders, loan servicers and other businesses are stepping up, announcing measures -- or the possibility of measures -- to ease people's financial burden and help them through this extraordinary event.

But it remains to be seen whether these declarations of goodwill are sincere efforts to share the pain or whether, in some cases, they're just empty words.

"We are in unprecedented times," said Robert Broeksmit, chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association. "Borrowers are facing hard economic times through no fault of their own."

Andrew Winton, a finance professor at the University of Minnesota, said many consumers' financial futures depend almost entirely on how much flexibility creditors are now prepared to show.


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