Throughout my first term in Congress I have regularly used conference calls, local town hall meetings and events throughout the district to communicate directly with my constituents.
While these are very effective communication tools, I can't always get to everyone who wants to ask a question. Therefore, I will occasionally use this column to specifically answer your questions. I encourage you to submit any future questions you might have by visiting my web site at roskam.house.gov.
Q: Do Members of Congress pay into Social Security?
Yes, Members of Congress pay into Social Security with each paycheck, and are eligible for Social Security benefits based on their contributions, just like everyone else.
Prior to 1984, neither federal civil service workers nor Members of Congress paid taxes to Social Security, nor were they eligible for Social Security benefits. Members of Congress and other federal employees were instead covered by a separate pension plan called the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). The 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act (P.L. 98-21) have required all federal employees to participate in Social Security since January 1, 1984.
Q: I am looking to expand my small business. Is there any help available from the Federal government?
The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) has two important programs for start-up and expanding small businesses. The first, the Section 504 Loan Program can provide long-term, fixed rate financing to small businesses looking to expand by purchasing real estate, machinery or equipment. Typical 504 Loans are used for purchasing land and improvements, upgrading or renovating existing facilities, or purchasing long-term machinery or equipment.
For start-up businesses, SBA offers the 7(a) Loan program. With 7(a), a start-up company can get working capital, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, and land or buildings. This is the most flexible SBA loan program, and can help you get your small business solidly on its feet.
Small businesses are crucial to American economic expansion and prosperity. For more information about an SBA program, or for help applying, contact my District Office at (630) 893-9670. My staff is here to help.
Q: My mortgage payments are getting to be overwhelming. What are my options?
I've heard from a number of families that are experiencing similar difficulties. As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, I have been engaged in trying to bring relief to American families and solutions to the housing market. Earlier this year I held a housing seminar to connect my constituents with valuable information from federal, state and local agencies.
So what can you do if you're in just such a difficult situation? First and foremost, don't ignore the problem. Lenders often want to help borrowers keep their homes because foreclosure is expensive for them too. And these lenders have workout options to help you, but these options work best when your loan is only one or two payments behind.
As soon as you realize that you have a problem, you should contact your lender. If you don't get in touch with your lender, your lender will try to contact you by mail or phone soon after you stop making payments. If your problem is temporary, you may be eligible for loan reinstatement, forbearance, or a repayment plan. If yours is a deeper difficulty, you might discuss a loan modification or a partial claim with your lender.
A HUD-approved housing counselor can offer a tremendous amount of free help and information. You should contact one about your specific situation. These counselors can help you understand the law and your options. For a list of HUD-approved housing counselors in our area, visit www.roskam.house.gov/housingseminar, or call my District Office at 630-893-9670. You don't need to pay fees for foreclosure prevention help - get free help from a HUD-approved housing counselor.
For more information or assistance, feel free to call my District Office at 630-893-9670 or visit my website at www.roskam.house.gov/housingseminar. Relief may be available, but you need to seek it early. My staff is here to help.