Senator Doug Jones Urges USDA to resume home loan program during the government shutdown

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(PR) — U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to resume its vital home loan programs that serve residents in rural communities. The programs have been suspended during the ongoing government shutdown. In a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue yesterday, Senator Jones pointed to examples where the agency has already announced temporary relief in other cases, like the extension of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and an extension of the deadline for farmers to apply for tariff relief.

“For generations, homeownership has been the backbone of the American economy and a fundamental aspect of the American dream, and nowhere is this more true than in our rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) home loan products are vital for thousands of rural homebuyers. By freezing these programs, the negative impact on rural communities grows each day the shutdown continues,” wrote Senator Jones. “Under the current lapse in appropriations, numerous USDA programs designed to facilitate home ownership in rural communities, including 502 Direct and Guaranteed loans, are not available. Rural home buyers rely on the USDA, which serves as a critical facilitator and provider of rural mortgages. Without these USDA programs providing direct loans and loan guarantees, it will make home sales in many rural communities impossible.”

His letter continued, “While I believe that these adjustments are only band-aids and not a lasting solution, I encourage the USDA to pursue every available legal measure to resume these loan programs and minimize the pain my rural constituents are feeling as a result of this costly shutdown. This shutdown needs to end. These critical USDA programs have nothing to do with the debate over border security, and I urge you the share with the President the significant damage the shutdown is doing to residents of rural communities across the country.”

The full letter is available below.
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January 9, 2019

The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Mr. Secretary,

I write to call your attention to the harm that the ongoing government shutdown is having on rural communities in Alabama and across the country. For generations, homeownership has been the backbone of the American economy and a fundamental aspect of the American dream, and nowhere is this more true than in our rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) home loan products are vital for thousands of rural homebuyers. By freezing these programs, the negative impact on rural communities grows each day the shutdown continues.

Under the current lapse in appropriations, numerous USDA programs designed to facilitate home ownership in rural communities, including 502 Direct and Guaranteed loans, are not available. Rural home buyers rely on the USDA, which serves as a critical facilitator and provider of rural mortgages. Without these USDA programs providing direct loans and loan guarantees, it will make home sales in many rural communities impossible.

The wide-ranging negative impact is indisputable; in fact, the USDA’s own shutdown plan states that being unable to provide loans or grants “for a prolonged period of more than two weeks would have an adverse impact on the rural economy.” As the lapse in appropriations enters the fourth week, these concerns have proved true. Constituents of mine who have spent weeks searching for a home and spent thousands of dollars on appraisals, home inspections, and negotiations are now seeing home purchase opportunities evaporate due to the USDA’s closure.

The shutdown has had, and will continue to have, wide ranging negative impacts on the residents of Alabama. However, many government agencies have taken steps to mitigate the damages. In your own Department, you have worked to ensure that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries have access to their benefits until the end of February , and you have extended the deadline for farmers and ranchers to apply to receive tariff relief payments . As it pertains to mortgage credit, for example, the US. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Housing Administration have continued administering mortgage products , albeit with some reported delays.

While I believe that these adjustments are only band-aids and not a lasting solution, I encourage the USDA to pursue every available legal measure to resume these loan programs and minimize the pain my rural constituents are feeling as a result of this costly shutdown. This shutdown needs to end. These critical USDA programs have nothing to do with the debate over border security, and I urge you the share with the President the significant damage the shutdown is doing to residents of rural communities across the country.

Sincerely,

United States Senator
Doug Jones

Cc: Acting Director Russell Vought, Office of Management and Budget