I love this release from Sen. Snowe's office this a.m. I remember interviewing the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., once and he talked fondly about Snowe's focus on health care issues, especially prescription drugs and such. Wellstone praised Snowe for being a truly bi-partisan Senator and for being in it for the people. I think it's interesting how the Senators from these two states I love are teaming up and seeing past the current politics of GOP vs. Democrats as a team sport to do something important to help the working-man and the working class.I know not everybody will agree with everything either of these two lawmakers may do or say but this is a hard one to be against.
Here's the full release.
Snowe, Franken Advocate For Homeowners In Wall Street Reform Bill
File Bipartisan Amendment To Assist Americans In Danger Of Losing Their Homes
WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) were joined by 7 of their colleagues in filing a bipartisan amendment to the Wall Street Reform bill being considered by the Senate. The proposal would create an Office of the Homeowner Advocate, funded from existing sources, whose focus would be on assisting homeowners who believe their mortgage servicer is breaking the rules. Currently, these families have nowhere to turn when wrongly denied from the program, or encounter difficulties in navigating the already stressful system of avoiding foreclosure.
“For far too many Mainers and Americans, these turbulent economic times, in which we have witnessed record high unemployment rates, are confounded by the housing market crisis and certain mortgage servicers who are, frankly, taking advantage of our nation’s families,” said Senator Snowe. “By creating an Office of the Homeowner Advocate, these Americans will receive the vital assistance they require when they are faced with the daunting foreclosure system.”
“Too many Minnesotans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and are now in danger of losing their homes,” said Sen. Franken. “When they feel they’re being treated unfairly, they need to know there’s someone who has their back. My proposal creates an office dedicated to these families. They’re doing their best with an incredibly stressful situation in a tough economy that they didn’t create, and we ought to do what we can to help them.”
Snowe and Franken’s proposal received the support of the Treasury Department, which placed it on its Top 10 list of amendments that improve the Wall Street Reform bill.< http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/05/05/good-guys> Original co-sponsors of the amendment are Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Jeff Merkley (D-Or.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
The Office of the Homeowner Advocate would be modeled after the successful Office of the Taxpayer Advocate at the Internal Revenue Service. It aims to help resolve problems with the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) developed by the U.S Treasury Department to help homeowners struggling to keep their homes. It would be funded from money that is available for the costs of administering the HAMP program, but is not otherwise committed.
The Office of the Homeowner Advocate would have three primary functions: To assist homeowners, housing counselors, and housing lawyers in resolving problems with the HAMP program; to identify areas where homeowners are having problems in dealing with the HAMP program; and, to identify possible administrative and legislative changes to HAMP.
In addition to gaining assistance in navigating the system, while a person is appealing a case through the Office of the Homeowner Advocate, homes may not go to foreclosure sale until the process is finished or 60 days have passed.
The Office of the Homeowner Advocate would:
- Have an independent director, appointed by the Secretary of Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. This director would have a background as an advocate for homeowners and have experience dealing with mortgage servicers. The director cannot have worked for a servicer or for the Treasury Department within the past four years.
- Make the Director available to testify in front of the Senate Banking Committee and House Committee on Financial Services at least four times a year, or at any time at the request of the Chairs of either committee, and will issue a formal report to Congress once a year.
- Have staff designated by the Director to have the authority, on a case-by-case basis, to implement servicer remedies, subject to the approval of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability. This will help to ensure that the staff of the Office of the Homeowner Advocate actually have the ability to make servicers follow the rules.
The Franken-Snowe amendment is supported by Americans for Financial Reform, Center for Responsible Lending, National Consumer Law Center, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, and National Council of La Raza.