Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mulvaney, Predatory Lenders Signal Plan to Kill Payday Lending Rule

Earlier this week, Mick Mulvaney, who was unlawfully appointed as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in November, announced his plan to reopen the Consumer Bureau's rule on payday and car title loans.

While North Dakota does not allow car title loans the state does allow payday loans to steal over $6 million from people who can least afford it through fees and interest. Payday loans in North Dakota often charge over 400 percent interest. 

The rule was scheduled to go into effect summer 2019, 21 months after being published in the federal register - a more than ample implementation period. Release in October of last year, the payday lending rule will result in few families falling into financial ruin by being captured in this debt trap. 

At the heart of the rule is the common-sense ability-to-repay principle based on a borrower's income and expenses, which means that lenders will be required to determine whether a loan is affordable to the borrower before making it. An affordable loan is one a borrower can reasonably repay without re-borrowing or going without the basic necessities of life like food or rent money.

The rule release was years in the making, and it wouldn't have been possible without the tireless effort of community and faith leaders, consumer and civil rights advocates, and countless people across the country who organized and spoke out against the devastating payday loan debt trap. 

The Stop the Debt Trap campaign, made up of more than 700 organizations from across the country, including the North Dakota Economic Security and Prosperity Alliance, released the following statement:

"This move shows the level of influence that payday lenders have over Mick Mulveney, who for years received campaign contributions while a member of Congress. With Tuesday's announcement, Mulveney is sending an unmistakable signal that he wants to kill this common-sense regulation. 

The payday rule was issued after years of research and extensive stakeholder input; the evidence is overwhelming that these 300 percent annual interest loans trap borrowers in an unaffordable cycle of debt, causing severe financial harm such as bank penalty fees, delinquency on other bills, or even bankruptcy. There is no reason to reopen the rule, and doing so shows disdain for consumer protections and communities of low-income that are targeted by these debt trap loans."

CBPP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) associated with better health and lower health care costs

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is associated with better health and lower health care costs, according to a growing body of evidence that we summarize in a new paper.
Food insecurity – i.e., lack of access to enough food at any point during the year – is linked to a number of negative health outcomes, such as increased risk of chronic health conditions, and higher health care costs.
By providing income to enable households to better afford food, which reduces the stress of food insecurity and frees up money to spend on their health, SNAP may offer participants a path to better health.
Read the Report
  Download the PDF (19pp)

Additional Resources

 ›  Blog Post: SNAP Associated With Better Health, Reduced Health Care Costs 
 ›  Infographic: SNAP Associated With Better Health, Reduced Health Care Costs

CBPP: Trump Administration's Approval of Kentucky Work Requirement Medicaid Waiver

The Trump Administration’s approval of Kentucky’s demonstration project or “waiver” confirms its intention to let states deviate from Medicaid rules in ways that will reduce the number of people of health coverage and make it harder for those covered to get care.
Kentucky is the first state that HHS has allowed to make participation in work a requirement for Medicaid eligibility.
This waiver has been historically denied because work requirements are inconsistent with Medicaid’s purposes. These actions will:
  • Eliminate coverage of dental and vision services
  • End retroactive coverage
  • Make it harder for people to get and maintain coverage
  • Will likely reduce Medicaid coverage
  • Make it harder for those enrolled to get care
  • Increase paperwork and red tape
Read the Report
  Download the PDF (8pp)

From AP: Consumer watchdog Considering Repeal of Payday Lending Rule

Consumer watchdog considering repeal of payday lending rule

By: KEN SWEET, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has decided to reconsider a key set of rules enacted last year that would have protected consumers against harmful payday lenders.

The bureau, which came under control of the Trump administration late last year, said in a statement Tuesday that it plans to take a second look at the payday lending rules. While the bureau did not submit a proposal to repeal the rules outright, the statement opens the door for the bureau to start the process of revising or even repealing the regulations. The bureau also said it would grant waivers to companies as the first sets of regulations going into effect later this year.
"We have been worried that the CFPB could revisit these rules. We just didn't expect it so soon," said Lauren Saunders with the National Consumer Law Center.
The cornerstone of the rules enacted last year would have been that lenders must determine, before giving a loan, whether a borrower can afford to repay it in full with interest within 30 days. The rules would have also capped the number of loans a person could take out in a certain period of time.
If allowed to go into effect, the rule would have had a substantial negative impact on the payday lending industry, where annual interest rates on loans can exceed 300 percent.
The industry derives most of its profits from repeat borrowers: those who take out a loan, but struggle to repay it back in full and repeatedly renew the loan. So when the rules were finalized last year, the bureau estimated that loan volume in the payday lending industry could fall by roughly two-thirds, with most of the decline coming from repeat loans no longer being renewed. The industry, which operates more than 16,000 stores in 35 states, would likely see thousands of payday lending store closures nationwide. But most of these rules would not have gone into effect until August 2019.
Since Obama-appointee Richard Cordray stepped down as director in November, the Trump administration has been moving quickly to clamp down on the bureau's activities. The bureau is now under the control of Mick Mulvaney, also the White House's budget director, who has called the bureau a "sick joke" in comments before he took this job. During the 2016 election cycle, when Mulvaney was still a Congressman from South Carolina running for re-election, he received $31,700 in contributions from the payday lending industry, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
The payday lending rules were finalized in the last weeks of Cordray's tenure. There is a bill in front of Congress that would repeal the payday lending rules entirely as well.
A total repeal of the rules, if the CFPB decides on one, could take years to wind itself through the appropriate regulatory channels. The CFPB would have to conduct research to show the current rules are not working, put out notices for repealing the rules, and consider public and industry comments, among other steps. The bureau started building a case for its current payday lending regulations back in 2012.
A CFPB spokesman referred questions about what specifically the bureau plans to do with the payday lending rule to Mulvaney's office in the White House, which declined to comment beyond the original statement.
Dennis Shaul, CEO of the Community Financial Services Association of America, which represents the payday lending industry, said he was "pleased" that the CFPB was revisiting the regulations.
Ken Sweet covers banks and financial issues for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @kensweet.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

CBPP: 1/12/18 Federal Scoop

Dear Scott,

With Congress back in session this week, 2018 is officially underway. The threats to health care and anti-poverty programs this year are quite serious, and our first opportunity to block these threats right out of the gate comes at the end of the month (Jan. 31–Feb. 2), when House and Senate Republicans are holding a joint retreat to set their goals for 2018. We want to create an environment in which multiple Republican senators and House members are telling their leadership at the retreat (or leading up to it) that they do not want to repeat last year’s path of using a partisan, fast-track reconciliation process to revisit the Affordable Care Act repeal/replace efforts (especially the Graham-Cassidy proposal) or pursue cuts to Medicaid, SNAP, or other major anti-poverty programs this year.

Our new toolkit can help you prepare for this flashpoint in the debate, whether your members of Congress are Republicans, Democrats (who are holding their own retreats at the end of January and beginning of February), or a mix of both. In the toolkit, you’ll find the suggested asks for members of Congress, talking points, and suggestions for media work, grasstops engagement, and grassroots activities.

Below you will find additional context about the fights we expect to face in 2018, as well as updates on the continuing resolution to fund the government and the Trump Administration’s announcement about Medicaid work requirements.

Thanks so much for your hard work on these issues, and please let us know if you have any questions about the toolkit or the other updates in today’s Scoop.

Louisa, Victoria, Deborah & the CBPP Team

As a reminder, the information in these Scoop emails is meant only for you and other state-based advocates who work on these issues. Please do not share or forward these emails to press or any legislative staff.

Today’s Scoop


Preview of 2018 policy debates and threats

As we shared on Wednesday’s webinar, we view 2018 as a marathon—sprinkled with a few sprints—as we seek to prevent harmful cuts or changes to federal health care and anti-poverty programs such as the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, SNAP, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on the heels of the massive tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporations.

Specifically, our goals are to:
  • Pass a spending deal (i.e., continuing resolution) in January with a responsible agreement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; a long-term extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other health programs without harmful changes to the Affordable Care Act; sequester relief; and emergency funding (especially Medicaid) for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, plus additional disaster relief for Florida and Texas.
  • Block a Fiscal Year 2019 budget resolution that includes ANY reconciliation instructions that can be used to jam through cuts in key assistance programs (e.g., Medicaid, SNAP, SSI) or Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal/replace legislation.
  • Defeat any free-standing “regular order” legislation that cuts low-income entitlement programs and other critical programs or makes damaging changes.
  • Prevent harmful changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Farm Bill.
  • Ensure no bipartisan “fixes” to the tax bill (the bill is so deeply flawed that it must be rolled back or discarded for a much more responsible and equitable approach).
There are press reports that Majority Leader Senator McConnell may be considering bypassing the annual budget resolution exercise altogether this year. Simply put, Congress doesn’t really need a budget resolution this year, especially if they get an agreement on sequester relief to undo the coming cuts in domestic and defense appropriations. Without a budget resolution, there can’t be a final budget conference agreement with reconciliation instructions allowing health and/or entitlement-cutting (or benefit-cutting) bills to move forward with a simple majority. Of course, in that scenario we wouldn’t be out of the woods yet, as there’s a distinct possibility that House Speaker Ryan would move his entitlement-cutting proposal through regular order, which, assuming he can pass it, would then require 60 votes in the Senate.

We’re aware that Speaker Ryan today indicated he didn’t think “entitlement reform” would move this year, but we don’t know whether he considers cuts and harmful changes like work requirements to be “entitlement reform,” since he often uses the term “welfare reform” when discussing those.

Please see the NONPUBLIC slide deck from the webinar for more information on what we may be facing in 2018 and key dates to keep in mind. In particular, we wanted to flag the congressional recesses, which are great opportunities for in-district events and conversations with members of Congress and their staff. You can find a full calendar of congressional recesses here.

Back to top

Update on government funding and the continuing resolution

You may recall that before the holiday break, Congress effectively kicked the can down the road by passing another short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government while they continued to negotiate several critical items, including re-authorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other health extenders, sequester relief, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and emergency funding for areas affected by hurricanes in 2017. This CR expires on Jan. 19, and Congress is still negotiating the items listed above that could ride on the next spending deal.

The fate of this CR and whether there will be a deal on these key policies largely rests on whether a bipartisan deal can be reached on DACA that the President would support. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators announced they had reached an agreement on DACA, border security, and related immigration issues. It remains to be seen if the White House and House Republicans will support this deal. If there is a bicameral and bipartisan agreement quickly, then it’s quite possible that a full deal will come together with the health package, sequester relief, and the emergency supplemental funding.

But time is tight leading up to Jan. 19, and a deal must be reached very quickly to allow for introducing and moving legislation by the 19th. If there is no DACA deal, then reports indicate we may well see a two-week CR (or possibly through Feb. 16) to give negotiators more time on DACA and the other issues. In that scenario, it sounds likely that congressional Republicans may add some health provisions to this next short-term CR, including a multi-year extension of CHIP, etc. However, this situation is very fluid and may not be resolved until early next week.

Back to top

Trump Administration announcement on Medicaid work requirements and waivers

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance on Thursday that opens the door for states to impose Medicaid work requirements, which could threaten Medicaid coverage for many adults and actually make it harder for some adults to succeed in the labor market due to their loss of health coverage. The fact is, the vast majority (nearly 8 in 10) of non-disabled adults with Medicaid coverage already live in working families. Those who are not working typically have health conditions that prevent them from working, are taking care of their home or family (often caring for children or other family members who are ill or have a disability), or are in school. Work requirements that can lead to the loss of health care—with potentially serious health consequences—are only going to make things worse for these adults and families, not better.
  • You can find our talking points on why work requirements are ineffective and threaten health coverage here
  • For CBPP's take on the CMS guidance, please see our blog post here
  • You can find shareable graphics to help spread the message on the true impact of work requirements here and here
We welcome your feedback on how to make The Federal Scoop more useful.
Please feel free to contact us at scoop@cbpp.org with any ideas.
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ND AFL-CIO Weekly News

Cramer won't run for Senate in North Dakota

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) has decided against challenging North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp this November, rejecting pleas from President Donald Trump and leaving the GOP without a top-tier candidate against Heitkamp — a first-term Democratic senator seeking reelection in a state Trump won by 36 points in 2016

The Postal Service: A service Americans should appreciate

A good deal of misinformation circulates about the U.S. Postal Service; some unfortunately contained in two Jan. 2 commentary pieces published on these pages. I appreciate the opportunity to provide some facts and context.

‘All those pink hats’: Women’s March to return to downtown Fargo

FARGO – A flood of pink hats will be returning to downtown Fargo.
On the anniversary of last year’s inaugural Women’s March on Washington, a rally at the Fargo Civic Center and a march through the city are being planned for Saturday, Jan. 20.
Organizer Nicole Mattson of Indivisible Fargo-Moorhead said the event was posted on Facebook Tuesday, Jan. 9. And within five hours, 500 people said they were going or were interested in attending.
During last year’s march, at least 1,000 demonstrators converged on downtown Fargo – far exceeding crowd-turnout expectations. After receiving many inquiries about whether there would be another march this year, Indivisible decided to host one, Mattson said.


Fargo-Moorhead Women's March: A Step Beyond the March

What did you do during the 2016 election? Vote? Research a candidate? Nothing? Will you commit to going one step beyond what you did before?
12:30 -- Sign making (some supplies will be provided)
1:00 -- Rally (speakers list coming soon!)
1:30 -- March!

Find news and updates on our website: http://fmwomensmarch.com/
**The rally will be held in the lower level of the Civic Center, in Centennial Hall.

Bismarck Women's Rally

The one year anniversary of the Women's March is the perfect reason to rally together and show our strength. The momentum across the nation continues to grow, and change is coming. Our Voices Will be Heard
6:30 -- Sign making (some supplies will be provided)
7:00 -- Rally
- Emcee: Kylie Oversen
- Speakers: Tara Wood
Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun
Ellie Shockley, Ph.D.
More speakers TBA
8:00 -- Empower Hour - a time to be social

The rally will be held in the UTTC Gymnasium.

Grand Forks: RAISE YOUR VOTE: The Women's March Goes On

Hosted by ERA (Equal Rights For All), a local civics group, the Raise Your Vote event will bring together people across the region, particularly women and also men of all backgrounds, races, religions, ages and abilities for the purposes of becoming informed and engaged in the electoral process in 2018.
The doors will open at 9:45AM and the program will begin at 10:15AM. An exciting line-up of speakers with inspiring stories and a wealth of knowledge will address the audience. There will also be a voter information booth to help answer questions by voters. When people show up and vote, we win!

Mobile Messaging for North Dakota Workers!

We are happy to introduce a new tool in the fight for workers' rights in North Dakota!
Text NDLABOR to 235246 to join our new mobile messaging service and stay up-to-date on upcoming actions and events for working people!

FRAC Weekly Digest - 1/16/2018

Issue #3, January 16, 2018
follow us:    

Register Today for the 2018 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference Register today and join 1,200+ of your colleagues for what is sure to be the anti-hunger community's biggest and best conference yet! Begin planning your conference experience by downloading the draft agenda, and find out more at the conference website.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 

Berkshire County food pantries gird cuts to SNAP benefits after tax bill — Berkshire Eagle, January 7, 2018
The tax bill is projected to result in a $1.5 billion deficit by 2027, and SNAP is one target of possible cuts to offset the deficit. In Massachusetts’ Berkshire County, food pantries expect to see greater need if SNAP benefits are cut. Christina Maxwell, director of programs for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, said the food bank would not be able to meet the increased need if SNAP benefits are reduced.
With Benefits Already Skimpy, Food Program Advocates Fear Cuts in Ky. — WFPL, January 10, 2018
About 15 percent of Kentucky’s population — more than 651,000 people — receive SNAP benefits. Even with that assistance (in the state, the average benefit amount is $120 a month), many have trouble affording groceries. SNAP recipients often turn to emergency food providers for help in feeding themselves and their families, said James Ziliak, founder of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky. “The charitable system is already struggling to keep up with demand for emergency food assistance in Kentucky,” said Tamara Sandberg, head of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. “So that’s why it’s adamant that [SNAP] needs to be strengthened and not reduced in any way.”
Senate committee approves bill that would allow drug felons to get food stamp benefits — The Indy Channel, January 11, 2018 
Indiana’s Senate Committee on Family and Child Services approves legislation that would allow residents with certain drug convictions to receive SNAP benefits if they successfully complete probation, parole, community corrections, or other post-conviction monitoring programs. Indiana is one of only four states still prohibiting people with prior drug felonies from receiving SNAP. Supporters of the bill note that every $5 in SNAP benefits generates more than $9 in economic activity, and that incarcerating an adult in 2016 cost the state $1660, while the SNAP monthly benefit is $118.


SNAP and Farm Bill

With Congress To Debate Farm Bill, Questions About Whether SNAP Reform Will Be Included — UA Little Rock Public Radio, January 8, 2018 
The Farm Bill is set to expire this year, and there are proposals to change SNAP to a block grant program, which will reduce the program’s flexibility, particularly during natural disasters, said Ellen Vollinger of FRAC in a recent address at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. She noted that members of the Arkansas congressional delegation, particularly Rep. Rick Crawford, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Nutrition, are in a prime position to affect changes to SNAP.


Anti-Poverty Programs
Keep anti-poverty programs — News-Press, January 9, 2018
"We need to make clear to Congress that we won’t stand for any attempts to unravel anti-poverty programs,” writes Alexis Maestre-Saborit in this letter to the editor. There have already been attempts in the recent past to cut SNAP and Medicaid, and these programs will likely end up targeted for cuts in the wake of the new tax plan. “With one in eight Americans below the poverty line, this is both bad public policy and just plain wrong.”

Institute: Vermont’s economic growth is benefitting the wealthy — Addison County Independent, January 8, 2018
In Vermont, the average nominal income for the top five percent of earners increased 42 percent from 2006 to 2016, while the average increase for the bottom fifth of earners only rose six percent, according to a report from the Public Assets Institute. The report also noted that many Vermonters still struggle financially, with single parents experiencing the most difficulty. The authors advocate increasing assistance to low-income families to help boost incomes.
Child Nutrition Programs
We can end child hunger. Do we have the will? — Austin American Statesman, January 9, 2018
More than 3 million Texas children were at risk of spending the recent holiday break without access to school meals, yet most of them could be offered meals during school breaks through the Child and Adult Care Food Program, write Bob Sanborn, president and CEO, and Jenny Eyer, director, of the Center for Child Health Research and Policy at Children at Risk, in this op-ed. The authors urge readers to find out if their child’s school district offers afterschool meals and breakfast in the classroom — and if not, to ask why.
Hunger on College Campuses
It's Hard to Study if You're Hungry — The New York Times, January 14, 2018An estimated half of all college students struggle with food insecurity, even at elite flagship universities. Last fall, students at two of the nation’s premier historically black colleges went on a hunger strike to pressure their schools to allow students to donate unused meal plan vouchers to those on campus who needed them. But long-term, preventive solutions must be found, writes Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University.Charitable food donations must be supplemented with changes to how food is distributed and priced on campus, and access to SNAP should be broadened for students.