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Coons, colleagues introduce bill to support homeowners, renters amid COVID-19, economic fallout

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, joined Sens. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in introducing the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act to expand access to critical information, assistance programs and services for millions of families struggling to remain in their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout.

The Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act would provide $700 million for NeighborWorks to support housing counseling services to help homeowners, renters, people experiencing homelessness and people at risk of homelessness navigate their housing options and rights during the COVID-19 crisis, including protections and resources provided through COVID-19 relief legislation; and require that no less than 40% of the $700 million fund is targeted to counseling organizations that serve minority and low-income homeowners and renters.

The CARES Act included housing provisions to help homeowners and renters financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Homeowners with Federal Housing Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture or Veterans Affairs mortgages and those with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac can request forbearance on their payments for up to six months, with a possible extension for another six months without fees, penalties, or extra interest. The CARES Act also included a temporary moratorium on eviction filings for tenants in properties with federal assistance or federally related financing.

HUD-approved housing counseling agencies provide individual counseling and education services to help consumers avoid foreclosure and eviction, purchase homes, secure affordable rental housing and develop sustainable budgets. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, more than 4.2 million homeowners have entered foreclosure prevention plans since the end of March.

“Expanding housing counseling and support services will keep more Delawareans in their homes, period,” said Coons. “Amid the economic struggles many families are facing due to COVID-19, Congress needs to lay the groundwork to prevent foreclosures, evictions, or other disruptive housing events. Our bill — in tandem with the housing relief provided by the CARES Act in March — will help Delawareans learn about the housing protections and resources available to them as we weather this crisis. I will work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure this information is broadly accessible in our communities.”

According to a 2018 report from NeighborWorks America, households that utilized the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program through a housing counseling agency during the Great Recession were three times more likely to receive loan modifications and less likely to go into foreclosure or re-default on their home loans compared to those who did not.

To address the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on minority communities, the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act directs housing counseling services to ensure that no less than 40% of the $700 million fund shall be provided to counseling organizations that target counseling services to minority and low-income homeowners and renters. According to a Census Household Survey taken between June 4 and June 9, 12.43% of Hispanic households and 12.74% of Black households were not able to pay their mortgage, compared to 5.71% of white households. Additionally, 23.27% of Hispanic households and 25.77% of Black households were unable to pay their rent, compared to 11.78% of white households.

Coons is also a co-sponsor of Brown’s Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, which would authorize $100 billion to help families stay in their homes; assist rental property owners as they continue maintenance; and help state and local governments address housing challenges.

Read more about the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act at bit.ly/3iFvzNb.