A couple stands together at a large window in their home, looking out pensively as if wondering what the future may hold.
Many people have found themselves out of work in the COVID-19 crisis. Mortgage payment deferrals and other debt relief provide help in times of need.
April 23, 2020

Finding payment relief when work comes to a halt

The COVID-19 crisis has left many people unemployed and others uncertain about their jobs. An Arizona couple received badly needed help from their Wells Fargo banker.

Like many workers amid the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, Susan Magestro and her husband, Greg MacDonald, felt blindsided. Her work as an educator and conference speaker came to a standstill. He was laid off from his job as an oil field security specialist. With major bills coming due, the Arizona couple needed help, especially with their mortgage and personal loan payments. They called on a close trusted source, Wells Fargo Banker Talisa Medina, who helped them reach the right people to arrange payment deferrals for the next three months.

A portrait photo of Wells Fargo banker Talisa Medina.
Talisa Medina

“We just really got hit on both fronts,” said Magestro, a criminologist and author. “We knew what was coming if we didn’t get help. So we reached out to Talisa, who we’ve worked with for years. We knew if anyone could make it happen, she’d be the one — and she did.”

Similar stories have emerged in recent weeks as Wells Fargo has received a huge wave of calls and online requests from customers affected by layoffs and other financial adversity amid the crisis. From early March to early April, the company deferred mortgage, auto, and other payments for more than 1 million customers and waived fees for 900,000 customers.

Nationwide, lenders saw an unprecedented tenfold increase in homeowner requests for mortgage relief last month, according to a survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Wells Fargo announced a wide range of aid last month for customers who reach out to the company, including potential payment deferrals, fee waivers, and other assistance.

Wells Fargo responds to COVID-19

We’re taking action every day to support our employees, customers and communities during this challenging time. Read about the actions we are taking, what our strategists are saying about market volatility, how to conduct banking from the safety of your home, and more.

Explore the series >

“Our top priorities are the safety and well-being of our employees and customers,” said Carmen Bell, head of Wells Fargo Home Lending Servicing Customer Contact and Default Decision. “We want our customers to have confidence and peace of mind as we assist them with options for their financial hardship during this challenging time.”

When the repercussions hit Magestro and MacDonald on March 23, they immediately emailed Medina about their situation and asked to meet with her the next day. She connected them to representatives with Wells Fargo Home Lending and Personal Lending, who set up the payment deferrals. Medina monitored the next steps along the way.

Fortunately, the couple had acted quickly, just before the deluge of calls began coming in from individual customers who had lost their jobs and business owners who were in crisis as many companies nationwide shuttered amid the public health emergency.

“I’ve worked with many customers since the coronavirus hit,” said Medina, who has both consumer and business clients. “Greg and Susan were among the first to reach out to us about their loan payments. I know they were so concerned about whether they would be able to handle everything. When I first saw them, I could see the worry on their faces.

“After they got their payment deferrals, they were so relieved,” she said. “It was like night and day.”

“We want our customers to have confidence and peace of mind as we assist them with options for their financial hardship during this challenging time.” — Carmen Bell, Wells Fargo Home Lending

Medina credited the efforts by the Home Lending contact center, which helped make the complete experience a good one for the couple. “We got great feedback from Greg and Susan about the great work everyone did,” she said.

The handoff from Medina to the contact center was seamless, according to Magestro. The couple worked with Toyana Mims of Mortgage Servicing to complete their payment deferral. “She was understanding, compassionate, informative, and answered all our questions completely,” Magestro said.

Such outcomes are encouraging during an unprecedented crisis like COVID-19, when customers need Wells Fargo’s support and advice more than ever, said Lisa J. Riley, the bank’s regional president for Central Arizona.

“It’s heartwarming when our bankers connect with our customers and provide a resource that can make a difference in their lives,” she said. “Building and maintaining relationships is critical. Our customers become much more than that — they become extended family.”

Magestro and MacDonald said they have experienced that kind of relationship with Wells Fargo for many years. The couple met in Alaska decades ago and later married and relocated to Arizona to be near some of their grown children. Initially, they worked with branch banker Robert Calta (now a business banking specialist) and later with Medina.

“Wells Fargo has continued to come through for us now in this pandemic,” said MacDonald, a veteran security professional who commutes to Alaska and works security duty rotations for oil companies. “Between the oil price war and the COVID-19 crisis, the oil industry went flat. We lost a lot of jobs, including mine.

“I’m lucky that the company I work for is eventually going to move me to a new contract,” he added. “In the meantime, though, I have not been paid. So Wells Fargo really stepped up for us and helped us stay on track.”

“In those challenging moments of your life, you want to be able to call on those institutions you do business with and have them come through for you.” — Susan Magestro

For Magestro, the crisis has led to a jarring interruption to a career that has taken her across the U.S. as a conference speaker, trainer, teacher, and specialist in family trauma, criminal behavior, domestic violence, and mental health. With conferences canceled and travel on indefinite hold, she and MacDonald faced unprecedented cash flow pressures, which led to their call to Medina. It was the latest personal crisis the bank has helped her through, including a battle against breast cancer three years ago, she said.

“The bank has helped make our journey possible,” Magestro said. “It was there for us during really challenging times, and that’s what you want in life, you know. In those challenging moments of your life, you want to be able to call on those institutions you do business with and have them come through for you.”

Read other featured stories in our special section,“Wells Fargo responds to COVID-19.”