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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB examines pandemic’s effects on consumer finances

Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Covid-19

Federal Issues

On December 21, the CFPB released a data point report discussing the results of a Making Ends Meet survey, which examined consumers’ financial health during the Covid-19 pandemic. Using the results from the survey as well associated credit bureau data, the Bureau found that while consumers “were much more likely to face income drops during the pandemic,” their “financial well-being scores improved on average through the end of the survey period (February 2021).” The Bureau reported that this may be attributed to pandemic-assistance policies, including unemployment insurance and pandemic-specific loan and rent flexibilities, many of which have ended or will end soon. Among the report’s observations, the Bureau noted a pattern between credit card debt and credit card utilization rates, where “credit card debt increased and decreased as cash assistance policies started and stopped.” Additionally, with the exception of federal student loan borrowers who received an automatic zero-payment-due plan, the Bureau found that roughly “80 percent of consumers who received rent, mortgage, credit card, or other forbearance suffered a significant income drop.” Recognizing that these policies helped protect consumers impacted by pandemic, the Bureau cautioned that “their expiration may lead to increased consumer distress unless the economic recovery is strong and equitable enough to make up for the loss of protections.”

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