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COVID-19 UPDATES AND WHAT HOMEOWNERS NEED TO KNOW

Aug 10, 2020|Source: Mortgage Architects

At Mortgage Architects, we recognize that many homeowners may be looking for guidance around mortgage financing. We are committed to updating you - our customers - on the current climate and how the recent COVID-19 developments may impact your mortgage, now or in the future.

We know that things may seem uncertain now, but we are working hard to gather all pertinent information and help you to understand your options during this difficult time.

Please check back regularly to get additional and updated information as more details arise.

What is COVID-19?

As many of you have heard by now, the world is being gripped by COVID-19 (otherwise known as “Coronavirus”). According to the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), Coronaviruses (CoV) is a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

The following are the most up-to-date symptoms compiled from 55924 patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection:

  • High Fever in 87.9%
  • Dry cough in 67.7%
  • Fatigue in 38.1%
  • Productive Sputum in 33.4%
  • Shortness of Breath in 18.6%
  • Sore Throat in 3.9%
  • Headache in 13.6%
  • Muscle and/or Joint Pain in 14.8%
  • Chills in 11.4%
  • Nausea 5%
  • Nasal Congestion 4.8%
  • Diarrhea 3.7%

There appears to be an increased risk for:

  • Men over 50
  • Patients with Blood Group A

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Financial Effects

Since being labelled a pandemic per the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), the effects of COVID-19 have begun to ripple through the world’s economy - including Canada - and causing a number of different effects. To help keep you up to date on what is going on financially, we have compiled a list of recent announcements by the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Canada, and OSFI:

  • Minister Morneau announced a new Business Credit Availability Program, adding $10 billion of financing, through Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada, to support Canadian Businesses. Click here for more.
  • The Bank of Canada lowered the overnight rate from 125 to 75 bps, to reduce the interest cost burden for businesses and consumers alike. The bank also increased its Government of Canada bond buyback program. Click here for more.
  • OSFI reduced the Domestic Stability Buffer from 2.25% to 1%, thereby freeing up $300 Billion additional lending capacity for Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBS). Click here for more.

Homeowner Need to Know

This can be a difficult time for a homeowner as many families are self-isolating or are in quarantine due to the virus. This can result in loss of monthly income and financial instability, which can cause stress and concern about your home and mortgage.

We have compiled the following information from our partners to keep you informed as to some of the recent developments surrounding mortgages, as well as what lenders are doing to help mitigate financial strain during this difficult time.

Here are a few important considerations for homeowners and potential homeowners to keep in mind during this time:

  • Mortgage application turnaround time may be an upwards of 15 days in some cases given the current climate and growing developments.
  • If you require an appraisal, there can be issues that could delay or prevent access of the appraiser into the home. Lenders are being proactive and exploring policy options to help circumvent this as best they can.
  • Don’t forget this situation is new to our mortgage brokers and lenders as well as the rest of us, so they are being cautious yet innovating to overcome any issues.
  • Rush transactions will be met with challenges.

The Stress Test

In lieu of this growing situation, OSFI has announced that it is suspending all consultations, incuding those regarding changes to the proposed B-20 benchmark rate. In addition, the Minister of Finance postponed the announced April 6, 2020 qualification change for insured mortgages. In short, until further notice, the Bank of Canada posted 5-year rate (which has dropped from 5.19% to 5.04%) will continue to be used for mortgage qualification.

Renter Need to Know

If you are renting in Canada currently, you may be facing some uncertainties about your future amid the COVID-19 pandemic - especially with the start of a new month on the horizon.

Provincial governments are currently rolling out plans to help renters during this time:

British Columbia: The B.C. government has imposed a moratorium on residential evictions. In addition, they will be providing renters with up to $500 per month for the next four months to help you manage your rent payments. Premier John Horgan also announced a provincial freeze on rental increases during this time. Click here to learn more about how B.C. is supporting renters.

Alberta: Alberta currently is considering a short term stay on eviction enforcement but no plan has been made as of yet.

Manitoba: Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has post-poned all hearings for non-urgent matters to avoid evictions resulting from non-payment of rent. In addition, any rent increases scheduled to take effect on April 1 or later are being suspended.

Saskatchewan: No COVID-19 rental policies currently in place. Ontario: Ontario has suspended eviction orders resulting from non-payment of rent until further notice. Further plans are in development.

Ontario: Ontario has suspended eviction orders resulting from non-payment of rent until further notice. Further plans are in development.

Quebec: Has suspended most eviction hearings amid COVID-19.

Nova Scotia: Has banned evictions resulting from non-payment of rent.

Prince Edward Island: Has banned evictions resulting from non-payment of rent.

Northwest Territories: Has banned evictions resulting from non-payment of rent.

If you are currently struggling to make your rent payments due to job or income loss caused by COVID-19, there may be additional options available to you ( scroll down to Section 4: Additional Financial Measures for more information ).

What Lenders are Doing

We understand that the COVID-19 outbreak is taking a toll on families across the country with many parents being out of work or quarantined. As an industry built on homeowners, many of our major lenders have pulled together to provide you beneficial options during this time and help alleviate some of the financial stress.

Depending on your lender, there may be options available to you during this time such as:

  • Deferral of payments
  • Re-amortization of the loan
  • Capitalization of outstanding interest & costs
  • Special payment arrangements

Please note that when you defer payment for (6) months, in most cases, the lender will take the interest that would have been paid compounded and add it to your monthly mortgage balance. Upon maturity of your mortgage term, the payments will be calculated moving forward based on the higher mortgage balance.

The Big Banks

In addition to these lenders, big banks including: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), Bank of Montreal (BMO), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and National Bank of Canada have opted to provide coordinated relief for their customers.

These banks will be working with personal and small business clients to cope with the economic fallout of the virus. Effective immediately, all six are introducing mortgage payment deferrals of up to six (6) months and are also offering relief on other credit products for those families who are facing hardship during this situation.

A mortgage payment deferral means that customers are not required to make regular payments (principal, interest and property tax, if applicable) on their mortgage for up to six months. During the time mortgage payments are deferred, it is important for customers to understand that interest will continue to accrue and will be added to the mortgage account balance at the end of the deferral period.

These banks are experiencing a much higher volume of calls than normal, so it may take time to get through. To help mitigate this, Scotiabank introduced an online application for mortgage deferrals, which you can find here. They have also introduced the ability to defer mortgage payments associated with up to four properties, including primary and rental/secondary homes.

We are monitoring if any of the other big banks do the same.

Credit Unions

In addition to mortgage insurers and big banks, credit unions are also working diligently to provide some relief for customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Desjardins

Clients of Desjardins that are having touble repaying their loans can reach out to discuss their options. The financial cooperative is reviewing each request on a case-by-case basis and will suggest solutions to help, which may include payment relief for all financing products (no negative impact on credit rating). Read the full release here.

Coast Capital

Coast Capital has noted possible deferral of mortgage payments and the opportunity for relief on other credit products on a case-by-case basis. Click here to read their COVID-19 release.

VanCity

Similar to the other credit unions, VanCity is working to offer relief on a case-by-case basis and has noted for individuals to contact them to discuss the options available. In other efforts to help, VanCity is working to provide emergency working capital, is buying back foreign currency at the original sold rate for those customers impacted by travel and they are waiving INTERAC e-Transfer® and ATM fees in Canada until April 30. Click here to read their full release.

Monolines

Last but not least are monolines, which are also doing their part to assist households with their financial struggles during this difficult time. Similar to credit unions, all financial assistance will be done on a case-by-case basis so it is best to contact your mortgage professional or lender directly.

Here are some important statements from these lenders regarding COVID-19:

Mortgage Insurers

In addition to the big banks, mortgage insurers including CMHC, Genworth & Canada Guaranty are working to help homeowners who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Starting now, they have increased their flexibility and are allowing payment deferral of up to 6 months for home-owners who, primarily but not exclusively, purchased with less than 20% down.

Click here to read the full release in English and cliquez ici pour le français.

Genworth Canada

Genworth Canada released a statement on March 16, 2020 outlining their Homeowner Assistance Program (HOAP), which is designed to assist Genworth Canada-insured homeowners who experience sudden financial setbacks that could temporarily impact their ability to meet their mortgage obligations. Borrowers who qualify under the lender’s internal guidelines and Genworth’s Homeowner Assistance Program will receive up to six (6) months of relief allowing borrowers some time to recover and focus on what’s important.

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is offering tools that can assist homeowners who may be experiencing financial difficulty. Their default management tools include: payment deferral, loan re-amortization, capitalization of outstanding interest arrears and other eligible expenses and special payment arrangements. Read their statement here.

CMHC also provides mortgage professionals with tools and the flexibility to make timely decisions when working with you to find a solution to your unique financial situation, including:

  • Converting a variable interest rate mortgage to a fixed interest rate mortgage in order to protect you from a sudden interest rate increase, should one occur.
  • Offering a temporary short-term payment deferral. Your mortgage professional may be prepared to offer greater payment flexibilities, particularly if previous lump sum prepayments have been made, or if you have previously chosen an accelerated payment schedule.
  • Extending the original repayment period (amortization) in order to lower your monthly mortgage payments.
  • Adding any missed payments (arrears) to the mortgage balance and spreading them over the remaining mortgage repayment period.
  • Offering a special payment arrangement unique to your particular financial situation.

Canada Guaranty

In addition to Genworth Canada and CMHC, Canada Guaranty is also doing their part to support homeowners during this difficult time. Per their statement released on March 16, 2020 they noted with their Homeownership Solutions Program, lenders currently have the ability to capitalize up to four (4) monthly mortgage payments.

However, to assist eligible homeowners as they navigate through these challenging circumstances, Canada Guaranty is prepared to extend this program option to allow the capitalization of up to a maximum of six (6) monthly payments. This is assuming the original insured loan amount is not exceeded, request for capitalization is received before September 13, 2020 and that the lender confirms the capitalization is being applied reasonably to help mitigate short-term financial difficulty resulting from COVID-19.

Read their full statement here.

Lender Contact Information

During this time, it is best to discuss your mortgage with your mortgage broker or lender should you have any financial concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. Please be advised, there may be longer than normal wait times for calls during this situation and to expect at least 20-30 minutes for a representative. Be sure to have your mortgage number available to ensure smoother service and remember to be kind!

Here are some direct contact numbers for various lenders across the country:

Lender Contact #
ATB 1-800-332-8383
B2B 1-800-263-8349
Bank of Montreal 1-877-895-3278
BluePrint Mortgage 1-877-637-7881
Bridgewater 1-866-243-4301
Business Development Bank of Canada 1-877-232-2269
Canada Guaranty 1-866-414-9109
Chinook Financial 403-934-3358
CIBC 1-800-465-2422
CMHC 1-800-668-2642
CMLS Financial 1-888-995-2657
Connect First 403-520-8000
Equitable 1-866-407-0004
First Calgary Financial 403-736-4000
First National 1-888-488-0794
Genworth 1-800-511-8888
Haventree 1-855-272-0051
Home Trust 1-855-270-3630
HomeEquity Bank 1-866-331-2447
HSBC 1-888-310-4722
ICICI 1-888-424-2422
Manulife 1-800-268-6195
Marathon 1-855-503-6060
MCAP 1-866-809-5800
Merix 1-877-637-4911
National Bank 1-888-835-6281
Optimum 1-866-441-3775
RFA 1-877-416-7873
RMG 1-866-809-5800
Royal Bank 1-800-768-2511
Scotiabank 1-800-472-6842
Servus 1-877-378-8728
Street Capital 1-866-683-8090
Tangerine 1-888-826-4374
TD 1-888-720-0075

Additional Financial Measures

In addition to helping homeowners manage their finances through deferred mortgage payments and adjustments, the Canadian Government has also come to the aid of families who may be struggling currently.

To help those currently struggling, the following measures are being taken or have already been implemented:

  • Income Tax Payments: The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all taxpayers to defer payments for any income tax amounts that are owing between March 18, 2020 and September 2020 until August 31, 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
  • Taxpayers who are required to remit quarterly instalments may benefit from up to 5 months of tax deferral.
  • Income Tax Filing: Income tax return filing has been extended one month from April 30, 2020 until June 1, 2020.
  • If you receive and rely on the GST credit or the Canada Child Benefit, it is still ideal to file sooner to ensure that the entitlements for the 2020-2021 benefit year are not delayed.
  • For trusts with a December 31, 2019 year end, the tax return filing due date has been extended to May 1, 2020 (from March 30, 2020)
  • Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs): The required minimum withdrawals from RRIFs will be reduced by 25% for the 2020 tax year.

In addition, the Canada Revenue Agency is adapting their Outreach Program in order to better support individuals during COVID-19. This service allows the CRA to offer assistance to ensure individuals understand their tax obligations and to help them obtain the benefits and credits to which they are entitled.

Emergency Funds During COVID-19

To combat COVID-19, the Canadian government introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). This benefit was designed for all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are eligible for EI or not, and will provide $2,000 per month (for up to four months) to those affected.

The CERB is designed to cover Canadians who have:

  • Lost their job due to COVID-19
  • Are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • Are working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures
  • Are still employed, but are not receiving any income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19

In a recent announcement, CERB was extended from the original 16 weeks (4 months) to up to 24 weeks (6 months) for workers who meet the above criteria. Click here for more information.

On July 31st, the Canadian Government announced the last scheduled CERB. The pay period is set to end on September 26th . The federal government plans to transition recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) still requiring support, over to the Employment Insurance (EI) at this time.

It is vital to note that Canadians cannot receive EI regular and sickness benefits and CERB in the same period. You can receive funds from the provincial government (such as the BC Emergency Benefit) and CERB from the federal government at the same time, but not EI.

If you are already receiving EI regular benefits, you will continue to receive those same benefits until the end of the benefit period. If those benefits end before October 3, 2020, you may then apply for the CERB if they meet the eligibility requirements. However, EI claims of those who became eligible as of March 15th will be automatically processed through the CERB. After four (4) months of receiving CERB, you willl be able to apply for regular EI benefits if you are still unemployed. Receiving CERB first will not affect your eligibility to receive EI benefits after the four month period.

You can apply online with CRA My Account through the COVID-19: Canada Emergency Response Benefit in the alert banner at the top of the page or you can do so over the phone with an automated phone service by calling 1-800-959-2019.

Keep in mind that the CERB benefit is taxable. No tax will be taken directly from the cheque, but it will instead be payable next year.

In addition to the CERB, there are some other emergency funds and options available to Canadians and businesses, including:

  • GST Credit: $400 for single adults, $600 for couples
  • Child Tax Benefit Top-Up: An additional $300 per child
  • Student Loan Payment Deferral:
  • 6 month timeframe
  • No payments
  • No interest accrual
  • Indigineous community based support fund
  • $200 million provided for community resources such as:
  • Shelters/homeless needs
  • Sexual abuse/transition house needs
  • 75% Emergency Wage Subsidy for small businesses:
  • Suitable for salaries paid between March 15 and June 6 for businesses that experienced a 30% reduction of their revenue in March, April or May
  • For employees hired before March 15, the subsidy will cover the lesser of:
  • 75% of the pre-crisis weekly remuneration paid (up to $847 per week); or
  • Current weekly remuneration paid (up to $847 per week).
  • For new employees (hired after March 15), it will cover 75% of the current remuneration paid (up to $847 per week).
  • All employers are expected to make best efforts to top up salaries to 100%
  • Note: Your employees cannot receive CERB if they receive employment income
  • Apply through the CRA’s My Business Account portal. Businesses will have to apply every month.
  • Click here for more information
  • 10% Emergency Wage Subsidy (if not eligible for 75%)
  • For salaries paid between March 18 to June 20, 2020
  • Over the 90 days period, the limit is $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer
  • $40,000 Canada Emergency Business Account
  • Eligible businesses will receive a $40,000 line of credit loan for immediate financial support to cover short term operating expenses, payroll and other business expenses which are critical for business continuity
  • Valid until December 31, 2020
  • After December 31, 2020, any outstanding balance on the revolving $40,000 line of credit will be converted into a non-revolving 5-year term loan maturing on December 31, 2025, at which time the balance must be paid in full
  • Interest-free until January 1, 2023
  • Insured Mortgage Protection Program
  • $50 billion provided
  • Payment deferrals
  • Special payment arrangements
  • Bank Supports
  • Auto loans
  • Deferral of payments possible
  • Contact bank directly
  • Speak to your institutes
  • Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs): Minimum withdrawal reduced by 25% for 2020
  • BC Climate Action Tax Credit
  • Eligible families of four will receive up to $564 (up from $112.50) and eligible individuals will receive up to $218 (up from $43.50) in an enhanced payment
  • BC Emergency Benefit for Workers
  • $1,000 tax-free payment for B.C. residents whose ability to work has been affected by COVID-19
  • BC Hydro Customer Assistance Program
  • Defer bill payments
  • Arrange for flexible payments
  • Optional: Apply to BC Hydro's Customer Crisis Fund for grants up to $600

What Does This Mean for Closings?

If you are currently in the process of purchasing or selling a home, we have taken the liberty of gathering information surrounding real estate transactions during this COVID-19 situation.

Land Registry Offices Remaining Open - For Now

Currently there are no plans to close the LROs. This may change, but currently LROs may be working with reduced staff and will likely prioritize services required for closings (over-rides, pre-approvals, PIN corrections, etc.). Click here to learn more.

Banks Are Remaining Open - For Now

All of Canada’s major banks have indicated an intention to remain open. Similar to other businesses, the banks may be working with reduced staff or locations and there may be delays in processing requests.

Tarion

Tarion issued an Advisory on Friday confirming that the builder repair period has been suspended until April 13, 2020, and that homeowners may refuse access and builders may refuse to perform after-sales services during the COVID-19 pandemic without penalty. The Tarion Advisory can be found here.

Client Meetings

Due to the focus on self-isolation and preventing further spread of COVID-19, there may be issues with clients not being able to meet with lawyers - or vice versa. Remote meetings are still a great option during this time (both in real estate and for your mortgage professional) and can be held via phone or video conference with a plan to provide any sworn documents aat a later date. If you do meet in-person, don’t shake hands, sit as far apart as possible and be sure to wash your hands after leaving any unfamiliar environments.

Municipalities

There have been recommendations that people limit in-person interactions, work from home if possible and not go out for ‘non-essential’ reasons. It is now very possible that municipalities may close their offices or work with reduced staff and that delays in receiving compliance information, permits and municipal agreements may be experienced.

What does this mean for your closings?

If either the LRO or the banks close, then real estate transactions will not be able to proceed and you would need to seek extensions wherever possible. The good news is that everyone is in the same situation! The bad news is that there is no right in most re-sale agreements to insist on an extension, however most people are understanding and you will have to rely on their goodness as well as common law principles to extend the transaction.

Title Insurance

To minimize the impact to your business during these uncertain times, FCT offering Extended Gap Coverage for commercial and residential transactions at no additional cost. In the event that there is a disruption to provincial land titles/registry offices, they have provided some steps you can take to minimize the effect. Click here to learn more.

As information is still developing surrounding title insurance and closing processes during COVID-19, please click here to visit the FCT website, which will be updated daily.

What Can You Do?

If you find yourself facing financial difficulties as a result of job loss or income reduction during this time, it can be overwhelming and may leave you feeling stressed and unsure of what the next steps are.

To make it easy, we have put together simple steps you can do to help resolve your financial difficulties and ensure you can focus on more important things such as your family and your health.

1. Cut Down on Costs

For anyone that is currently out of work due to COVID-19 or has found themselves at reduced hours, it is a good idea to look at your finances for ways to cut down on non-essential costs. Some ideas for reducing your monthly expenses include taking a look at streaming services, your phone data plan and gym memberships which can add up.

2. Talk to Your Mortgage Professional

Your Mortgage Architects mortgage brokers are working hard to stay on top of all information surrounding the development of COVID-19 as well as the responses from Bank of Canada and the Ministry of Finance to ensure the most up-to-date and accurate information to assist you. They can help explain the options available to you and provide further understanding as to how this situation may affect your interest rates and mortgage payments.

To get in touch with a Mortgage Architects broker, you can simply download the My Mortgage Planner App to connect remotely or find a local broker on our website.

3. Contact Your Credit Card Companies and Lenders

Many families and individuals cannot afford to lose their income, or even see it decrease. If you are in debt or living paycheck to paycheck, you may already find it difficult to make bill payments. Unfortunately, missing these payments can have long-term negative effects. Before it gets to this point, it is a good idea to contact your lenders, banks or credit card companies to see if there are options.

4. Find alternatives

Whether you are temporarily laid off, let go of your company or do not have enough sick days to cover your time at home.

  • You can try these alternatives if you are out of work due to COVID-19 and in need of financial assistance.
  • Employment Insurance (EI) might be an option. Services Canada has reduced the wait period and is currently offering EI assistance to individuals affected by the virus. Click here to learn more.
  • Have skills you can utilize online? While you’re off work or in quarantine, consider freelancing. Websites such as UpWork and Freelancer.com have jobs from across the globe from accounting to website development.

5. Stay Informed

Information is power and the more information you have at your disposal as this situation develops, the better prepared you will be to manage your household and finances. We will be providing updated information right here on our website as this situation develops.

Additional Support

We understand that along with financial hardships, many individuals are also experiencing a drastic toll on their mental health with regard to COVID-19. For any individuals that are currently managing mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc), please be sure to check with your mental health professional during this time if you are experiencing an increase in your symptoms.

In addition to your regular care, the Canadian Mental Health Association is working hard to continuously update their website with resources related to pressures, anxiety and other stressors in the midst of this pandemic. For more information, please visit their website here. They also have a 24/7, toll-free crisis line at 1-833-456-4566.

Some other programs that may assist you and help reduce the mental and emotional burdan of this situation can be found below.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP): This dedicated program is providing the following:

  • 24/7 confidential access to professional support to help employees manage stress, anxiety, grief, financial concerns, and much more.
  • Employees and managers can connect to get support by phone, video, or chat anytime, anywhere.
  • Vast library of online resources for coping with trauma, building resiliency, self-care, managing change, and more.
  • Manager consultations to support leaders in dealing with sensitive workplace situations.

Click here to visit their website and learn more.

First Access: This program provides global support for unique needs and for organizations who are not EAP clients. Some of the features they offer are:

  • Counselling and traumatic event support to address unique needs worldwide
  • Allows organizations - even those without a formal EAP in place - to access support services, as needed, to ensure timely and effective issue resolution

Click here to visit their website and learn more.

Stay Safe - and Wash Your Hands!

Remember during this time to practice proper hand-washing procedures and minimize your contact with other people to ensure that you are not unknowingly contracting or passing along COVID-19. We can overcome this, together!

COVID-19 Self Assessment Information

The majority of Canadian provinces have provided dedicated pages with important COVID-19 information, including how to do a self-assessment for symptoms.

For British Columbia residents, click here.

For Alberta residents, click here.

For Saskatchewan residents, click here.

For Manitoba residents, click here.

For Ontario residents, click here.

For New Brunswick residents, click here.

For Nova Scotia residents, click here.

For Prince Edward Island residents, click here.





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