Wells Fargo in downtown Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
**FILE** Wells Fargo in downtown Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

Wells Fargo & Company, the community-based financial services company that boasts $1.9 trillion in assets, has announced a comprehensive response to help customers, communities and employees who are grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The banking giant’s response includes suspending residential property foreclosure sales, fee waivers and the acceleration of $175 million in donations to help the most vulnerable

In an announcement this week, Wells Fargo said it also had suspended involuntary auto repossessions. 

The precedent-setting financial relief includes the distribution of $175 million in donations to help address food, shelter, small business and housing stability, as well as to provide help to public health organizations.

“The coronavirus is disrupting the daily lives of many people around the world, and Wells Fargo has taken — and will continue to take — the steps needed to support our customers, employees and communities during this difficult time,” said CEO Charlie Scharf. “We will continue to evaluate this fluid situation and take additional action as necessary.”

Wells Fargo is also taking several additional steps to meet the needs of customers, operate safely and effectively and reduce the risk to employees and customers, recognizing that the company provides critical and essential services to the stability of the economy and the financial wellbeing of customers.

Meeting customer needs

Officials said the company is working daily to put measures in place to support the needs of customers affected by COVID-19 in the most effective ways possible. The measures include offering fee waivers, payment deferrals, and other expanded assistance for credit card, auto, mortgage, small business and personal-lending customers who contact the company.

While also prioritizing employee and customer safety, Wells Fargo continues to take action needed to ensure it can best serve customers. The company is temporarily closing some branches, adjusting operating hours of branches, relocating employees to busier branches and utilizing the drive-up instead of lobbies where possible. 

Customers can check Wells Fargo’s branch locator for ATM locations and the status of branches and can use mobile and online banking tools almost anywhere 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Across the company, including in branches, contact centers and corporate locations, the company is taking significant actions to ensure safety, including enhancing social distancing measures, staggering staff and shifts, enabling work from home for as many employees as possible and implementing an enhanced cleaning program.

Accelerated national and local giving

Donations from the Wells Fargo Foundation will be allocated via expedited grant-making at the local level and through relief efforts in partnership with national organizations that work in many key areas across the U.S. 

Resources will focus on helping nonprofits serve the immediate needs of the most vulnerable populations, including food, housing and other emergency needs. 

This includes a $1 million grant to Feeding America to support their 200-member food banks as they work to feed people during this time of crisis.

Charitable donations will also focus on three key areas through collaboration with many national and local organizations — housing, small business and financial health:

Housing stability: Funding will be allocated to critical housing needs, such as helping renters and homeowners stay in their homes through foreclosure prevention assistance, eviction assistance and financial counseling and coaching.
Small business: Resources will be deployed to meet the urgent needs of small businesses, $2 million of which will focus on the deployment of flexible capital in collaboration with Opportunity Fund and will also provide immediate cash boosts and financial coaching support of entrepreneurs and their low-wage workers in coordination with SaverLife.
Financial health: Donations will support efforts to ensure ongoing financial health for families and individuals, including for financial counseling and coaching and through grants to help struggling hourly, part-time, lower-income and gig economy workers navigate broad financial stability challenges due to loss of income.
The Wells Fargo Foundation will also support the creation of the Coronavirus Pandemic Financial Resilience Resource Center to help the 100 million people with disabilities and chronic health conditions nationwide with alternative and accessible information and financial counseling, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Supporting employees experiencing hardship

To assist employees who may experience hardships, the Wells Fargo Foundation will donate $10 million to its WE Care Fund, which provides resources to colleagues who face a catastrophic disaster or financial hardship resulting from an event beyond their control. 

This program is available to those affected by the coronavirus and is intended to help employees, especially those with limited resources, get back on their feet with basic necessities.

Wells Fargo has made several significant enhancements to its U.S. benefits and time away programs to provide additional support to all U.S. employees during this public health emergency, including benefit enhancements specifically for employees directly affected by coronavirus through illness or school closures.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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