We had a vibrant discussion in Chicago recently on barriers facing women trying to access mortgage and small business credit and ways to support women’s efforts to build wealth. Woodstock Institute and JPMorgan Chase hosted a forum for about one hundred participants from the nonprofit, banking, and government sectors on June 19. Melissa Bean, Midwest Chair for Chase, and I welcomed the group and kicked off the event.
Woodstock Institute strongly urges Senator Mark Kirk and Senator Richard Durbin to vote against budget revisions under consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee today that would negatively affect the disparate impact doctrine, which is crucial to the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). President Obama’s Administration requested $45.6 million for the Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) in 2016, which provides funds to fair housing organizations and non-profits that detect housing discrimination and assist victims of discrimination. However, the House of Representatives has proposed cuts to this budget, which would reduce or eliminate funding for organizations that conduct fair housing testing.
Woodstock Institute has called for the Department of Education to provide debt relief for students of Corinthian Colleges, which recently went out of business after the Department of Education took action against the chain for misrepresenting its programs and failing to comply with federal aid regulations. The Department of Education announced Monday that it would make changes to the program to enable more students who attended Corinthian Colleges to cancel their student loan debts.
Woodstock Institute’s 2015 Community Investment Awards honored community leaders and explored the growing problem of student debt. Guests networked during the reception before gathering to recognize the honorees. Heartland Alliance, Rohit Chopra of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and The Resurrection Project (TRP) received awards for their outstanding work and leadership in the areas of retirement security advocacy, consumer empowerment and protection, and community development. A large audience of community advocates, bankers, and other colleagues appreciated the words of acceptance and inspiration offered by Amy Rynell of Heartland, Raul Raymundo of TRP, and Mr. Chopra.
It’s a vicious cycle: because some people in the low- and moderate-income community either lack traditional credit histories or rely on financing from non-mainstream credit providers that aggressively market to those lower-income communities, these consumers often have no other choice but to turn to payday and other predatory lenders where interest rates are extremely high, leading them to fall behind on their payments. This, in turn, negatively impacts their credit scores…and the cycle continues.
Surrounded by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, my son Joel graduated from college on May 16. He completed his bachelor’s degree in four years without taking on any student loans. There are many reasons why he was able to do that, including the fact that Joel grew up in a middle class household with parents who expected him to go to college and started saving for his college education at birth. Joel was also eligible for some merit-based scholarships and grants and worked each summer to earn some spending money. Joel understands that not every kid has such opportunities and he thanked everyone who helped him along the way.
The Department of Education recently proposed rules that would protect students from excessive fees and other predatory practices on prepaid and debit cards used to receive federal aid funds. The Department estimates that this proposal could protect as many as 9 million college students receiving $25 billion in federal aid.
A proposal to relax federal standards in mortgage lending and bank regulation could undo years of work to enhance consumer protections and prevent financial crises. U.S. Senate Banking Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) proposed legislation that would change criteria used to define big banks, sharply reducing the number of banks that would fall under federal regulation, as well as loosen mortgage lending standards. The proposal will be marked up tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. CT. Woodstock Institute is firmly opposed to these proposed changes.
The spring legislative session for Illinois lawmakers is scheduled to finish on May 31st. Between now and then, our elected officials are working to craft a budget that must address a projected six billion dollar deficit. Governor Rauner proposed a budget that included severe cuts to crucial human services, including programs for homeless youth and services for affordable and supportive housing. Slashing the budget does not have to be the answer.
Student debt is frequently viewed as investment in the future, since taking on this debt allows students to attend college and access more employment opportunities upon graduation. For millions of for-profit college students, however, student loans turn out to be a bad investment. For-profit college students are more likely to graduate with more debt and experience fewer job options than students at public and nonprofit schools. At the Community Investment Awards, Woodstock Institute will host a panel to discuss this important issue and what we can do to address it.
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL 8) went to great lengths last week to ensure that expansions to the Military Lending Act, proposed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and supported by Woodstock Institute and advocates across the country, would go into effect as planned.
In a city as large as Chicago, it can be difficult for communities to find the economic support they need. A lack of access to financial services and limited community development can inhibit the growth of these neighborhoods, but one organization has dedicated itself to ensuring that communities can thrive. The Resurrection Project (TRP) stands as a pillar of support for Chicago’s Southwest Side, including Pilsen, Back of the Yards, and Little Village.
One of our movement’s accomplishments of which I’m proudest is the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB has already dramatically improved the lives of millions of consumers, for example, through enacting and enforcing mortgage loan and servicing rules that protect homebuyers and homeowners in foreclosure, taking action against for-profit colleges that trap students in debt without providing quality education, and creating groundbreaking rules to protect consumers of products such as prepaid cards and payday loans. The CFPB has delivered over $5 billion in financial relief to over 15 million consumers who have been harmed by abusive and deceptive financial services. Consumers now have more information they can use to make sound financial decisions thanks to the CFPB’s efforts to improve disclosures for mortgages and student loans and expose consumers to financial education at critical points in their lives. Consumers in Illinois and across the country are getting a fairer shake because of the CFPB.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Senator Dick Durbin are taking a stand for student loan borrowers by urging the federal government to forgive the federal student loans of Corinthian Colleges students. Student loans are often regarded as “good debt”: they help consumers build their assets by giving them access to more prestigious and higher-paying jobs. However, an unwelcoming job market has left student loan borrowers with fewer job options and thus fewer opportunities to pay back their debt. One of the populations that was the hit the hardest is for-profit college students. Woodstock Institute research shows that for-profit college students are graduating with more debt and fewer job opportunities than their peers.
Most Illinois residents know that the state is billions of dollars in debt and has fallen behind on funding its pension obligations. Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed severe cuts to the fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget to remedy this situation. However, the Governor’s proposals have focused on cutting the budgets of Illinois human services, including services for affordable housing, homeless youth, and supportive housing. These cuts hurt the state’s most vulnerable citizens by taking vital resources away from those that need them the most.