Perlmutter Holds First Subcommittee Hearing to Discuss How to Help Consumers During the Pandemic

Washington, D.C.  – Today U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) convened a Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions hearing to explore gaps in consumer protections during the pandemic and evaluate policy responses to ensure all consumers and small business owners can get through this period of uncertainty and share in the economic recovery.

In his first hearing as chairman, Perlmutter urged his colleagues to pursue comprehensive and thorough consumer protections for a full and inclusive recovery. Following the passage of the much-needed American Rescue Plan, the hearing discussed additional legislative options to extend protections to individuals, families and businesses during the pandemic, including Perlmutter’s Relief for Small Businesses and Nonprofits Act. Other issues discussed centered around a lack of consumer protection from debt collectors, student loan repayment, negative credit reporting, and predatory lenders and practices.

“The American Rescue Plan goes a long way to provide much-needed relief for individuals, families and small businesses, however there is more work to be done to protect consumers – especially the most vulnerable among us – during this uncertain time,” said Perlmutter. “I’ve heard from countless constituents who have been hurt by the pandemic – physically, emotionally, financially or some combination. Many folks are already between a rock and hard place and are now being unfairly targeted by predatory practices. That’s not right. We must have strong consumer protections in place as we turn the corner on the pandemic and ensure everyone has a chance to share in the recovery.”

In opening the hearing, Perlmutter gave the following remarks:

“Just this week, a constituent of mine called my office—we’ll call her Mrs. McGillicuddy—looking for help. Mrs. McGillicuddy called because like many Americans, she lost income during the pandemic. She couldn’t afford her car payments anymore, and her car was repossessed. If that wasn’t enough, she is being charged an additional $500 repossession fee for the privilege of having her car taken away. One of the words Mrs. McGillicuddy used to describe her situation was “unfair.” And she’s right. Her situation is unfair, and the virus is unfair.

“COVID-19 has impacted Americans from all walks of life, but it has disproportionally affected lower income Americans, communities of color, and service sector workers who have continued to work in person throughout the pandemic. For many of us, we’re doing okay, and the vaccines are a light at the end of the tunnel. But for millions of Americans who have lost income, savings, or opportunities, there is a long road to recovery ahead. As of today, more than 10 million Americans are still out of work, 29 million Americans have gotten sick with the virus, and COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than half a million Americans. This is the health and economic crisis of our lifetimes.

“Congress has passed several laws providing relief to consumers and small businesses, including yesterday with passage of the American Rescue Plan.  These packages have included forgivable small business loans and direct payments to individuals and families. But even these relief efforts have further illustrated a world of haves and have-nots in our country, particularly with financial services. For small businesses with strong relationships with financial institutions, they were the first to get access to Paycheck Protection Program loans. For folks with bank accounts linked to the IRS for direct deposits, they were first to get their Economic Impact Payments. And if you didn’t have a good relationship with a bank or credit union, you had to wait. Some are still waiting.

“The purpose of this hearing is to explore gaps in consumer protections during the pandemic and evaluate policy responses to ensure all consumers and small business owners can get through this period of uncertainty and share in the economic recovery. The hearing will also address racial and economic disparities exacerbated by the pandemic. Specifically, today, we will explore issues in debt collection, credit reporting, private student loans, non-agency backed mortgages, small business, and commercial rent.

“Let’s go back to my example of Mrs. McGillicuddy for a moment. She had her car repossessed and owes fines on top of that. But without a car, it is more difficult for her to get to a job interview or to get to work once she’s employed again. This will prolong her financial recovery. Now picture her situation for millions of other Americans who might be slipping through the cracks and facing similar financial challenges. This will hurt those millions of individuals and families and also do damage to our economy as a whole. If we want a full and inclusive recovery, we must have comprehensive and thorough consumer protections.”

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