Friday, October 6, 2017

ACTION ALERT: Tell North Dakota's Congressional Delegation to Support the CFPB's Payday Lending Rule!

Big news: The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau released yesterday their final rule with protections for borrowers of payday loans. After years of calling for reform, our efforts have won a great victory!

Here’s the deal:

Last year, you helped drive more than 450,000 comments in support of payday lending reform, shocking big-money interests who thought they could trample consumers’ rights without a fight. (Thanks again for that!)

Your support led the Consumer Bureau to create this new rule to hold predatory lenders accountable -- but now Congress has the chance to kill it before it can go into effect.

Loan shark lobbyists fought tooth-and-nail to keep this rule from being drafted in the first place, and now that it’s been finalized, they’ll fight even harder.  Just last month, the House voted nearly along party lines on whether to allow the Consumer Bureau to even enforce existing law.  Congress needs to hear from you.

We’ve come so far -- and we’re so close to having national protections for consumers against these predatory lenders who devastate millions of people every year.
Can we count on you to make your voice heard again?

In the coming weeks, we’ll keep you posted on any new developments.

And thanks for being part of this from the beginning,

On behalf of NDESPA,
Scott Fry
Consensus Council, Inc.
701.224.0588 ext 106

From FRAC: Food Research and Action Center Rejects House Budget

Media Contact:
Emily Pickren
Statement attributed to Jim Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center. 

Food Research & Action Center Rejects House Budget

WASHINGTON, October 5, 2017 — "The budget resolution passed by the House today will push millions of already struggling people deeper into poverty, and without question, will make hunger far, far worse in this country. It inflicts harm on children, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, working families earning low wages, and people looking for work. It includes massive tax cuts heavily tilted toward the wealthy that will increase inequality and build pressure to reduce spending that helps the neediest Americans. These tax cuts, moreover, will ultimately be paid for by stripping down programs, including SNAP, school meals, TANF, SSI, low-income tax credits, Medicare, Medicaid, and others that help the poor and struggling middle class.

"SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger. It helps put food on the table for more than 41 million low-income people and improves their health, education and economic outcomes.

"SNAP is one of the nation’s very best investments, and it is unacceptable that this proven and effective program is on the chopping block. The budget includes instructions to the House Agriculture Committee to make $10 billion in cuts over 10 years to programs in its jurisdiction — a reduction clearly pointed at SNAP. The budget also calls for another $150 billion in SNAP cuts through benefit and eligibility restrictions and structural changes.

"We call on Congress to right this wrong and reject this budget. In the months to come, FRAC will be working with allies in agriculture, nutrition, conservation, rural development, and other anti-hunger and anti-poverty groups across the country to defeat this budget that causes such deep harm to the nation now and in the future.

"Congress must return to its bipartisan tradition of protecting nutrition assistance programs and work to produce a budget that addresses the needs of all — not just the wealthiest among us."

# # #
The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.

About Us: The Food Research & Action Center (www.frac.org) is the leading national organization working for more effective public and private policies to eradicate domestic hunger and undernutrition. Visit our Web site (www.frac.org) to learn more. Click here to unsubscribe from this e-mail.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

NDESPA Press Release: CFPB Action On Payday Lending Will Help North Dakota Families

Contact: Michelle Rydz, 701-792-2878

CFPB Action On Payday Lending Will Help North Dakota Families

New Federal Consumer Protection will Reduce the Harms of the Short-Term Payday Debt Trap

[Grand Forks, ND] — Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a rule with protections that will reduce the harms of short-term payday lending to North Dakota families. High Plains Fair Housing Center, along with the other partner organizations of the North Dakota Economic Security and Prosperity Alliance (NDESPA) welcomes this action and calls on North Dakota lawmakers to pass an interest rate cap of 36% or lower, which has effectively protected residents of many other states from the payday debt trap.

Payday lending costs North Dakota families $6.8 Million per year in abusive fees. The loans drive borrowers into financial distress by trapping them in long-term debt at triple-digit interest rates. Three quarters of all payday loan fees are from borrowers with more than ten loans in the course of a year.

At the heart of the Consumer Bureau rule is the common sense principle that lenders check a borrower’s ability to repay before lending money – something supported by more than 70% of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats.

“The payday lending business model is dependent on locking borrowers in a debt trap – turning the dream of a quick fix into a nightmare for many North Dakota families. Payday borrowers are more likely to experience delinquencies on other bills such as rent or mortgages which can lead to evictions or homelessness as well as involuntarily closed bank accounts, delayed medical care, and bankruptcy. The Consumer Bureau’s protections are a necessary first step toward saving families from this financial free fall,” said Michelle Rydz, Executive Director of High Plains Fair Housing. “In order to fully stop the payday loan debt trap, the Consumer Bureau should finish its rule on long-term loans, North Dakota must enact and vigilantly defend an interest rate cap of 36% or lower on all loans, and Congress also should enact a strong interest rate cap. While the Consumer Bureau’s rule will protect consumers from some of the most abusive behavior by predatory lenders, these additional steps are needed to liberate North Dakotans and all American families from the scourge of legalized loansharking.”

Over 30 groups consisting of service providers, consumer groups, labor groups, and others from around North Dakota have come together to support the CFPB’s Payday Lending Rule through involvement in the North Dakota Economic Security and Prosperity Alliance.


Monday, October 2, 2017

EPI Report shows Wells Fargo Customers Paid Nearly $11,000 to the BANK through Forced Arbitration

Forced arbitration is bad for consumers

Report • By Heidi Shierholz • October 2, 2017
Many financial institutions use forced arbitration clauses in their contracts to block consumers with disputes from banding together in court, instead requiring consumers to argue their cases separately in private arbitration proceedings. Embattled banking giant, Wells Fargo, made headlines by embracing the practice to avoid offering class-wide relief for its practices related to the fraudulent account scandal and another scandal involving alleged unfair overdraft practices.
New data helps illuminate why these banks—and Wells Fargo in particular—prefer forced arbitration to class action lawsuits. We already knew that consumers obtain relief regarding their claims in just 9 percent of disputes, while arbitrators grant companies relief in 93 percent of their claims. But not only do companies win the overwhelming majority of claims when consumers are forced into arbitration—they win big.
Some crucial background helps illustrate the stakes. In July 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a final rule to restore consumers’ ability to join together in class action lawsuits against financial institutions. Based on five years of careful study, the final rule stems from a congressional directive instructing the agency to study forced arbitration and restrict or ban the practice if it harms consumers.
In recent weeks, members of Congress have introduced legislation to repeal the CFPB rule and take away consumers’ newly restored right to band together in court. Opponents of the rule have suggested that the bureau’s own findings show consumers on average receive greater relief in arbitration ($5,389) than class action lawsuits ($32). As we have previously shown, this is enormously misleading. While the average consumer who wins a claim in arbitration recovers $5,389, this is not even close to a typical consumer outcome. Because consumers win so rarely, the average consumer ends up paying financial institutions in arbitration—a whopping $7,725.
A recent report released by the nonprofit Level Playing Field hones in on Wells Fargo’s use of arbitration in consumer claims. Compiling publicly reported data from the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and JAMS (initially named Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc.), the report found that just 250 consumers arbitrated claims with Wells Fargo between 2009 and the first half of 2017.1 This number is surprisingly small, since this period spans the prime years of the bank’s fraudulent account scandal.
But we can take this data a step further by looking at Wells Fargo’s overall gains and losses in arbitration. As one might suspect based on the CFPB data, Wells Fargo indeed won more money in arbitration between 2009 and the first half of 2017 than it paid out to consumers, despite creating 3.5 million fraudulent accounts during that same period.
What is even more troubling is that forced arbitration seems to be significantly more lucrative for Wells Fargo than for other financial institutions. In arbitration with Wells Fargo, the average consumer is ordered to pay the bank nearly $11,000We calculated a mean of $10,826 awarded to the bank across all claims in the Level Playing Field report.
No wonder Wells Fargo prefers forced arbitration to class action lawsuits, which return at least $440 millionafter deducting all attorneys’ fees and court costs, to 6.8 million consumers in an average year. Banning consumer class actions lets financial institutions keep hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise go back to harmed consumers—and Wells Fargo seems to have harmed huge numbers of consumers.
Opponents of the CFPB’s arbitration rule argue that allowing consumers to join together in court will increase consumer costs and decrease available credit. Most recently, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) claimed that restoring consumers’ right to join together in court could cause interest rates on credit cards to rise as much as 25 percent.
However, examining the OCC’s study, it appears the agency merely duplicated the conclusion reached by the CFPB and based its 25 percent estimate solely on results it admits are “statistically insignificant at the 95 percent (and 90 percent) confidence level.” In its 2015 study, the CFPB considered this same data and accurately assessed that there was no “statistically significant evidence of an increase in prices among those companies that dropped their arbitration clauses.”
Perhaps more importantly, claims that the arbitration rule will increase consumer and credit costs are also contradicted by real-life experience. Consumers saw no increase in prices after Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, and HSBC dropped their arbitration clauses as a result of court-approved settlements, and mortgage rates did not increase after Congress banned forced arbitration in the mortgage market. Of course, many would argue that banks like Wells Fargo shouldbear any increase in cost associated with making consumers whole for egregious misconduct.
Once again, the numbers are clear: class actions return hundreds of millions in relief to consumers, while forced arbitration pays off big for lawbreakers like Wells Fargo.


1. To my knowledge, AAA and JAMS are the only firms that routinely provide arbitration services to Wells Fargo. In arbitration agreements, Wells Fargo typically designates AAA as the arbitration firm to arbitrate any consumer dispute.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

From CBPP: Commentary on SNAP

Forty years ago this Friday, President Carter signed into law the landmark 1977 Food Stamp Act, setting the framework for the modern Food Stamp Program – or, as it’s now known, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
CBPP President Bob Greenstein, was then the Administration’s point person for dealing with Congress on this legislation. As he writes:
The measure that became law was the product of a bipartisan effort between the Administration and Congress, and between both parties on Capitol Hill, reflecting the broad bipartisan support that food stamps has had for much of its history. It’s a legacy that can serve as a powerful example of what policymakers can accomplish when members of both parties rise above partisanship to tackle national problems.
That food stamps has had a marked impact on hunger and malnutrition across America is beyond dispute. Today, SNAP provides a basic nutrition benefit to more than 40 million low-income Americans, including children, the working poor, and those who are elderly or have serious disabilities and can’t afford an adequate diet.
Read the Commentary
  Download the PDF (3pp)

Additional Resources

 ›  SNAP at 40: Coming Together to Fight Hunger
 ›  Chart Book: SNAP Helps Struggling Families Put Food on the Table
 ›  Policy Basics: Introduction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Call Hoeven and Heitkamp on Graham Cassidy Health Care Bill

Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp need to hear from North Dakotans that they need to defeat the Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill. 

Senator Hoeven's Phone Numbers:
Health Care Staff: Dan Auger - 202-224-2551, daniel_auger@hoeven.senate.gov

State Offices:

Senator Heitkamp's Phone Numbers:
Health Care Staff: Megan DesCamps - 202-224-2043, megan_descamps@heitkamp.senate.gov

State Offices:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

From CHN: Head Smacker - They're Trying to Repeal the ACA...Again!

Head Smacker: They’re trying to repeal the ACA…again

September 20, 2017
Millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief in July when the Senate failed – by one vote – to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But despite hearing from millions of you, their constituents, before, during, and after their summer recess, Senate leaders are at it again. They are trying one more time to end Medicaid as we know it, make insurance unaffordable for low- and middle-income families, and strip coverage and critical protections from millions. And they’re trying to do it in the next week and a half.
The latest iteration of an ACA repeal bill, known in D.C. as the Graham-Cassidy bill, would have the same disastrous effects as previous attempts. According to our friends at FamiliesUSA and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill would slash funding for Medicaid expansion and marketplace subsidies and turn that funding into a block grant to states. The regular Medicaid program will have its funding capped, which will result in cuts and end Medicaid as we know it. State waivers would effectively end essential benefit standards, like coverage for maternity care. Between 2020 – 2026, states would lose $239 billion in subsidies and Medicaid cuts. After 2026, the block grant for insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion will end – a repeal of most of the Affordable Care Act with no replacement specified.
There is no official estimate yet of how many people would lose health insurance, how much premiums will rise, or how this this last-ditch effort will affect the deficit. And because the Congressional Budget Office – Congress’s scorekeeper – won’t have enough time to provide an estimate before the end of the month, it’s likely that senators will vote without knowing these critical parts of the bill’s impact. That in itself is a head smacker. What we do know is that previous plans with similar “repeal but not replace” provisions have been estimated to result in 32 million people nationwide losing coverage. Our friends at the Center for American Progress released an estimate of premium hikes for people with pre-existing conditions (including pregnancy), and it’s terrifying.
Senate leaders are trying to ram this bill through now because the chamber only has until September 30 to pass a health care repeal bill with only a simple majority; after that they’ll need 60 votes. They are close to getting the 50 votes they now need, with Vice President Pence as a tie-breaker. House leaders have already said they’ll pass the bill if the Senate does, and President Trump has said he’d sign it. To ramp up the pressure on GOP senators, only a few of whom are seen as being undecided, the White House has also said it will not support bipartisan efforts to “fix” or “prop up” the Affordable Care Act. Another head smacker.
To put it bluntly: all of the work we’ve all done collectively to stop the repeated ACA repeal efforts comes down to the next 10 days.
Please call your senators and urge them to vote no on this horrible bill. Even if you’ve already called your senators about this, please call them again. It’s that important that we recreate the outcry against ACA repeal that saved coverage for millions a few months ago. We need to do that one more time. You can call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
If you already know your senators are opposed to repealing the ACA, you can still make a difference! Our friends at Indivisible have a great tool that allows you to call a voter in a key state with a swing Republican senator. The folks you’ll call are friends — they attended the Women’s March, they’re standing up to #DefendDACA, and/or fight for progressive causes. You’ll remind them why the continued fight against ACA repeal is so important — and why they have particular power in this moment, and you’ll ask them to call their senator in opposition to the bill. Then, Indivisible’s tool will allow you to automatically patch them through to their senators’ district offices. Click here to check it out!
In addition to making calls, you can also tweet at your senators and representative (you can find their Twitter handles at the respective hyperlinks) to amplify your message and spread the word to other advocates. A few suggested tweets you can use are below. Thanks for all you’re doing.