Coalition Efforts

Consumer Action is working on these important issues along with other organizations. If you would like to know more about these issues, please see “More Information” at the end of each article.

 
 

Postings

Expanding access to homeownership for consumers with limited English proficiency
One in five U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home, yet the financial services market still caters primarily to fluent English speakers. In a letter to Congress, coalition members wrote in support of the LEP Data Acquisition in Mortgage Lending Act and the bill to promote language access in mortgage servicing. LEP borrowers face many challenges that impede their full participation in the consumer marketplace, including, specifically, their ability to obtain and preserve ownership of a home. Together, these bills will make important strides in improving access to the mortgage market and awareness of the availability of assistance for homeowners who are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments, which is especially critical during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Choice of retirement plan disclosure notice still important for workers and retirees
Consumer Action joined coalition members in urging the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Department of Labor to address the severe shortcomings in the Department’s recently adopted “Notice-and-Access” rule. Until the changes last May, the default had been to deliver retirement plan disclosures on paper, sent through the mail. Under the new rule, the retirement plan merely sends an email or text message to a consumer letting them know that a disclosure is available on a website. The new rule’s default makes no provision for the sizeable proportion of individuals who still don’t have access to computers or internet service and makes it much harder for ordinary Americans to access the documents they need to plan for retirement.

Support closing the 90/10 loophole to protect students during the COVID-19 pandemic
Thirty-six organizations wrote to Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Republican Leader McConnell in support of closing the 90/10 loophole in the American Rescue Plan of 2021. During the "Great Recession" student enrollment at for-profit colleges increased by close to 49 percent, driven in part by aggressive and deceptive recruiting practices. And the cycle - this time driven by COVID-19 - has already started to repeat: for-profit college enrollment has increased from 13 to 15 percent, while public college enrollment, particularly at community colleges, has declined as much as 20 percent. Closing the 90/10 loophole allows for the accounting of all taxpayer dollars that flow to for-profit colleges, and the ability to identify high-risk colleges that are overly dependent on federal subsidies, and that may be financially unstable during the pandemic. The loophole has particular consequences for veterans because it leads to well-documented and disproportionate deceptive and misleading recruiting tactics directed at veterans and servicemembers.

The FTC and CFPB must do more to prevent mass homelessness during the pandemic
Over 11 million families are at risk of losing housing. Protection from evictions and foreclosures is greatly needed due to the ongoing economic crisis accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic, including the loss of household income in the near and long term. Consumer Action joined advocates in urging the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to work together to prohibit unfair debt collections and ensure financial and regulatory agencies confirm industry standards regarding forbearance availability for homeowners. Without these additional protections, many will lose their homes and be forced to move at a time when COVID-19 levels are still extremely high and vaccination access for many is still months away. As a result, the financial impact of COVID would result in substantially greater risk of spreading illness.

Over 100 groups call on Federal Reserve to Strengthen CRA
More than 100 national and local civil rights, fair lending and consumer rights organizations have urged the Federal Reserve Board to strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a key anti-redlining and civil rights law. In detailed comments that addressed issues from access to credit, location of bank branches and investments in underserved communities, the groups laid out a plan for the Biden Administration to leverage CRA to ensure an equitable recovery from the ongoing economic, racial justice and public health crisis.

The pandemic’s impact on the digital divide: Low-income Americans need help now
The pandemic didn't create the digital divide, but it has certainly exacerbated it. Consumer Action and National Consumers League wrote to the Federal Communications Commission to applaud its efforts to bring broadband internet connection to low-income households during the COVID-19 pandemic through the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and its efforts to expand the Lifeline program to reach more low-income households. Today, Lifeline recipients can use a modest $9.25 monthly subsidy to connect to phone and/or internet services, yet only 1-in-4 eligible households enrolls in the program. As Americans continue to work, attend school, and conduct healthcare appointments online during the pandemic, it is critical that everyone has access to broadband internet.

Key DOT aviation committee lacks consumer representation
Coalition members wrote to the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, and urged him to appoint a new slate of members to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC) that genuinely represent key stakeholders in the travel marketplace to address issues like family seating, an air travelers bill of rights and airfare transparency. In its current state, ACPAC is skewed to preserve the interests of the airline industry over consumers. The ACPAC is supposed to be a forum to bring consumer interests and concerns to the DOT, however, it does not adequately address issues of concern to the traveling public due to its lack of meaningful consumer representation.

Immediate action needed to help keep families in their homes
As millions of Americans face continued hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates wrote to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to urge the Bureau to keep individuals and families in their homes. Advocates recommended specific steps the Bureau can take to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, including homeowners without federally-backed mortgages. They asked that the CFPB focus on implementing quick policies during this current crisis, rather than embarking on a larger disaster-related rulemaking, leaving time to analyze best practices and measure how well the policies adopted during this crisis worked to save homes.

The new California privacy agency should prioritize consumers’ privacy
The recently-passed California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) augments and supplements California’s existing privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). It also creates a new supervisory authority for data protection and privacy in California — the California Privacy Protection Agency. Privacy advocates wrote to Governor Gavin Newsom urging him to select members to the new agency who have demonstrated experience working on behalf of consumers and a commitment to civil rights and ending discriminatory business practices.

Prioritizing health equity to overcome the coronavirus pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed stunning gaps in the U.S. public health and health care systems and highlighted the negative effects of hundreds of years of structural inequities and systemic racism on our communities. The U.S. COVID-19 response has been marked by politicization of public health, skepticism of science, and a lack of a national plan. For people with disabilities, low-income families, communities of color, and those living in congregate settings, COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities with fatal consequences. Advocates joined together in making recommendations to the Biden administration: from community mitigation to testing and tracing to safe quarantine, working and sharing lessons with nations around the world. An equitable and fair COVID-19 response ensures the safety and healthcare needs of our most vulnerable communities.

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