Prosperity Now's Advocacy Campaigns: Where Things Stand as We Close Out 2017

Jeremie Greer, Vice President for Policy & Research, speaking at the People's Filibuster on December 1

As we head into the final days of 2017, we want to update you on each of our four federal policy campaign priorities. If these legislative actions pass, they could have a significant impact on the financial security of the communities we care about—in ways both good and bad.  

Affordable Homeownership

The Good

Recognizing the role that manufactured homes could play in addressing the severe shortage of affordable housing in her district, Representative Norma Torres (D-CA) introduced the HUD Manufactured Housing Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3793) earlier this year. This bill would raise the visibility of manufactured homes as an option to help state and local governments meet the housing needs of their residents.  

So far, Representatives Paul Cook (R-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Pete DeFazio (D-OR) have co-sponsored the bill, and we would love to get as much additional support as possible. Contact your Representative today and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 3793.

The Bad

In early December, the Senate Banking Committee passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155). This large bill includes predatory provisions taken from the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act (H.R. 1699 and others), a misleadingly named bill that Prosperity Now has opposed for years. If this section is included in the final bill, sellers of manufactured homes would be empowered to steer buyers toward loan products that could be harmful to borrowers. It is likely S. 2155 will be voted on by the full Senate early next year, and we will continue to actively push back on this legislation.

Consumer Protections

The Good

In mid-December, the House Financial Services Committee voted unanimously to pass the Credit Access and Inclusion Act of 2017 (H.R. 435), a bill that makes the credit market more equitable and inclusive by encouraging the reporting of expenses like utilities, phone payments and rents that, while often not reported to the bureaus, can boost scores for households without sacrificing the predictive power of the score or compromising consumer safety. The House is expected to vote on the bill early next year.

The Bad

Several fundamental challenges emerged this year that threaten the effectiveness and independence of the Consumer Bureau. The most notable is an effort to subject the Bureau’s funding to the regular congressional appropriations process, which would remove its ability to be a strong and independent consumer financial watchdog. The House also passed the latest version of the Financial CHOICE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs) Act of 2017, which is one of the most successful challenges to the Bureau’s independence to date. While the Act has little chance of passing the Senate at this time, that hasn’t stopped Senate appropriators from including a dangerous policy rider in the FY18 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill that would achieve the same thing.

Safety Net

The Good

As mentioned above, the Senate’s FY18 FSGG appropriations legislation includes a dangerous rider. At the same time, the bill preserves funding of $15 million for the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program. This is another victory for this vital program after our summer battle when VITA funding was cut in half on the House side and we had to fight to get it back. However, since current funding levels are expected be kept until (at least) January 19 through the FY18 Continuing Resolution, we will not know for sure if VITA will be funded at $15 million for the remainder of FY18 for another month.

The Bad

As we look into 2018, we know that the harmful tax bill that is benefiting the wealthy and corporations are putting the benefits that working families need into jeopardy. Threats include work requirements, block grants and other draconian measures that will hurt our nation's most vulnerable families. This so-called "welfare reform" will prevent programs like Medicaid, SNAP and SSI from helping to keep families healthy and out of deep poverty. Keeping these programs strong will be a challenge in 2018—we look forward to hearing your voices in this upcoming fight.

Tax Reform

The Ugly

The final tax bill that was just passed is extremely harmful to working families. By 2027, nearly 83% of the bill's benefits would go to the top 1%. This is up from 62% in the Senate bill. The top 0.1% would get back an average of $148,260.

The vast majority of American families will receive some benefit from the tax bill before almost all the provisions of the bill expire, except for the corporate tax cuts, at the end of 2025. For example, the Child Tax Credit proposal in the Senate bill was improved for some working families. Moderate income families will see an increase in the credit of up to $400 per child. However, low-income families will not fare as well, with over 10 million poor children only getting an increase of $75 or less.

All of this also doesn't account for the 13 million families that are still projected to lose their health insurance or the impact of potential cuts to important safety net programs like Medicaid and Medicare, to pay for the tax cuts that Republican leaders in Congress are already calling for. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves and there is no such thing as a free lunch. Working families are certainly going to get stuck with the bill.

2018 and Beyond

This is a basic recap of where things stand with important legislation that could strengthen or weaken the financial security of working families. Please keep your eyes out for the latest developments and next steps when we return in 2018.

In the meantime, Happy holidays from Prosperity Now and here is to hoping for a better and more equitable New Year in 2018!

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