U.S. Representatives John Lewis, David Scott, and Hank Johnson today urged Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Community Affairs Commissioner Michael Beatty, and Economic Development Commissioner Chris Cummiskey to ensure that the $104 million awarded to Georgia from the National Mortgage Settlement be invested in foreclosure prevention.
Georgia received the funds under a settlement with the country's five largest mortgage servicers after 49 state attorneys general sued the servicers for negligent foreclosure practices. Reps. Lewis, Scott, and Johnson previously wrote Governor Deal on March 15, 2012, urging that the same funds be dedicated to foreclosure relief. On March 26, the State of Georgia announced that the funds had been committed to the state's Department of Economic Development.
Noting that the settlement stated the funds should be used "to avoid preventable foreclosures, to ameliorate the effects of the foreclosure crisis, and to enhance law enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute financial fraud," the June 21 letter urged Governor Deal, Commissioner Beatty, and Commissioner Cummiskey to make "the most appropriate use of resources to meet the description in the consent judgments would begin with housing counseling services and legal aid."
In addition, the congressmen requested "information detailing the process for this money's allocation and information on every recipient."
"I cannot understand," said Rep. John Lewis, "how an elected representative with millions available to him in these hard economic times, would not use that money to ease the burden foreclosure has placed on thousands of Georgians. We understand some states have decided to divert these necessary funds and use them for other purposes, but we are appealing to the governor to apply these resources to services the people in one of the hardest hit states desperately need."
"Georgia led the nation in foreclosures in May," Congressman Scott said. "The State economy will not improve unless we can stabilize neighborhoods and bring back property values. For example, teachers and school employees are being laid off due to dropping property tax revenues. Using these settlement funds for other projects is ignoring the core economic problem in suburban Atlanta."
"These funds should be used to relieve the suffering of Georgia's homeowners, period," said Johnson. "Any other use violates the public interest and the spirit of the consent judgment."