In the face of Covid-19 hardships, millions of homeowners with federally backed mortgages have been able to defer their monthly mortgage payments through a provision known as forbearance. But forbearance ends next month, a consequence of the expired federal foreclosure ban. Nowhere will the removal of this protection – and the massive amount of deferred mortgage debt – be felt harder than in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which have the highest and second highest forbearance rates in the nation, respectively. The Washington Post’s Julia Ingram reports on the looming crisis.
While those that remain in forbearance are only a small fraction of the nation’s 53 million estimated total borrowers — and a significantly smaller share than the 7.25 million borrowers that entered forbearance throughout the pandemic — they are the most likely to be left in debt. “This is just more of the K-shaped recovery,” said Diane Thompson, senior adviser to the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). “The ones who are left [in forbearance] are by and large people who aren’t paying, can’t pay and haven’t made payments for a very long time.”
While the federal government approved $10 billion to help struggling homeowners pay off debt, the program is moving so slowly that protections are expiring before states can distribute the funds.
Without their plans approved, states cannot receive more than 10 percent of their funding allocations, intended to assist with planning and developing a pilot program. A Treasury spokesperson said more than $900 million has been distributed to states and territories. By the time plans are submitted and approved and substantial funds actually reach homeowners, mortgage servicers will have had ample time to initiate foreclosures or demand payment of debt if borrowers do not arrange an alternate loss mitigation plan.
Washington has forgotten about Lake Charles
In the past, Congress has worked in a bipartisan fashion to provide aid to people and communities struck by natural disasters. But that’s no longer the case. Lake Charles is still waiting for federal supplemental disaster aid 340 days after Hurricane Laura came ashore – the first of five federally declared disasters to strike this city since March. Mayor Nic Hunter, writing in a guest column for the Washington Post, explains how the hard-working people of his city have been promised aid by two presidents, but are still empty-handed.
As the first anniversary of Hurricane Laura approaches, and after enduring three additional weather disasters, we are still waiting and pleading for an equitable response from Washington. We’ve repeatedly, desperately implored both the Trump and Biden administrations and Congress. Both presidents visited my city, both promised additional aid. We’ve been told help is on the way, but as the days turn into months, we are left feeling that our federal government is willing to ignore a humanitarian crisis in Southwest Louisiana. The battle-weary Americans in Lake Charles are tired. We are frustrated. We are asking for your voice to join ours in imploring President Biden and Congress to provide urgently needed aid now.
For many young immigrants in Louisiana, Medicaid is an option
Louisiana has seen a decline in child health coverage after years of accomplishing historically low uninsured rates. And coverage gaps among Latinx families have remained alarmingly high. But LBP’s Courtney Foster explains how now, thanks to a change in state Medicaid policy, some children who live in Louisiana and are in a court process on their pathway to citizenship can also get health coverage through Medicaid.
Medicaid rules generally require many eligible immigrants to be in the country for five years before they can get health coverage through the program. But states also have the option to let lawfully residing immigrant children access the program immediately. This offers thousands of Louisiana kids Medicaid coverage, ensuring that regular visits to the doctor remain affordable as they grow. In February 2019, the Louisiana Department of Health took up that option, eliminating the 5-year bar for eligible immigrant children. Children eligible under this rule still have to meet other eligibility standards, but they no longer have to wait five years after their arrival in order to get health coverage and access to lifesaving care.
Louisiana’s anti-pollution cops side with polluters
The Nucor Steel iron plant in St. James should have faced meaningful punishment when a test revealed that it had been releasing sulfuric acid mist and highly flammable, rotten egg-smelling hydrogen sulfide into the air for nearly six years. But the state agency charged with regulating pollution prioritized the emitters of the harmful toxins over the communities they’re supposed to protect. It’s a practice that has become all too common at the Department of Environmental Quality. When DEQ finds that companies have violated their pollution permits, or as in the case of Nucor not having a permit at all, the agency imposes a small fine and adjusts their permits to make their violations legal. The Advocate’s David J. Mitchell reports:
For Nucor’s settlement, the environmental groups want a far bigger fine that would act as a better deterrent, requirements that Nucor improve its environmental safeguards, better monitoring near the plant to detect gases and notification of residents about plant upsets. Nucor is currently seeking an $120 million expansion, but the company’s own permit application shows the addition also would double or nearly double fine particulate and some smog-producing air pollution that can harm the respiratory system. “The only reason that the state and Nucor want this settlement is so that Nucor can expand,” said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “But as the company’s own records show, it can’t even handle its current operations. Only an agency like our sorry DEQ — polluters paradise — would offer such a pathetic settlement to a notorious polluter endangering people’s lives.”
Number of the Day
52.7% – The percentage-point reduction in child poverty in Louisiana resulting from the expanded Child Tax Credit. This is the second-highest reduction in the nation. (Source: Urban Institute)