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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 1597

Location: Washington, DC


By Mr. ALLEN (for himself, Mr. WARNER, Mr. EDWARDS, Mrs. DOLE, Mr. HOLLINGS, Mr. GRAHAM of South Carolina, Mr. CHAMBLISS, and Ms. SNOWE):

S. 1597. A bill to provide mortgage payment assistance for employees who are separated from employment; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. ALLEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Homestead Preservation Act which would make available low-interest loans to American workers who have been displaced by international trade so they can continue to make home mortgage payments. This legislation would provide needed mortgage payment assistance to these Americans facing difficult times.

While the relaxation of trade barriers and free trade agreements have opened some new markets to American products and services, it has also led to a decline in the U.S. manufacturing and textile industries. These are the jobs that hard working
Americans have depended on for generations and plants and facilities that have helped to sustain communities for decades.

Americans are industrious, hard-working and innovative, but it is unfair to ask them to compete for employment with workforces that do not operate under comparable environmental or labor regulations and in countries that do not reciprocate
and violate trade rules. I want to make sure that free trade is at the same time fair trade. The opening of the U.S. market offers great benefit to all Americans, but we should mitigate harm to people making a living in manufacturing or textiles. The
People's Republic of China through their currency manipulations, dumping of wood bedroom furniture, textile commands and illegal semiconductor taxation violate rules of fair trade. One can also look to the recent decision by the Department of
Commerce finding that South Korean subsidies provided to Hynix Semiconductor, Inc. have caused great damage to U.S. computer chip manufacturers. As our government continues to follow international trade rules, we owe it to our workers to hold foreign governments accountable for their violations of these agreements.

Going forward, I pledge to take a hard look at all proposed free trade agreements to make sure the interests of the United
States are not being compromised. It is essential in the negotiation of these new trade pacts not to place traditional U.S. industries at a distinct disadvantage. Free trade agreements have the opportunity to greatly enhance the economies of the U.S. and its partners, but they must offer generally equal benefits to people in both countries.

Unfortunately, recent years have seen the closing of numerous textile and manufacturing plants in the Commonwealth of Virginia and many can be attributed to international competition. These economic disasters are not unique to my Virginia alone. People in communities in our sister States of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have experienced such disasters as well. People from Maine to Ohio to California understand and have endured these large layoffs. With each of these closings, a community is thrown into turmoil with families left wondering how ends can be met until new employment is found.

I understand no government program or assistance can substitute for a secure, well-paying job, but I believe the U.S. government can reasonably assist these families as they transition from one career to another. Presently, there are useful assistance programs that aid American workers seeking new employment, but unfortunately, there is nothing currently in place to protect what is usually a family's most valuable financed asset—their home.

The Homestead Preservation Act has been introduced to meet that need. My legislation would provide families vital temporary financial assistance enabling them to keep their homes and protect their credit ratings as they work toward strengthening and upgrading their skills and search for new employment. Individuals seeking to take advantage of this program would need to be enrolled in a job training or job assistance program. Training and education programs that focus on new technology and emerging industries would aid displaced workers in gaining a skill that will allow them to find a good-paying and secure job in a new field.

At a time when families are dealing with an uncertain future they should feel secure that food will be on the table and a roof will be over their heads. The loans to be provided by the Homestead Preservation Act would not solve all of the problems facing unemployed workers, but they would provide important assistance for families facing the prospect of losing their home.

In closing, I would like to thank my colleagues Senators WARNER, EDWARDS, DOLE, HOLLINGS, GRAHAM, CHAMBLISS and SNOWE for joining me in introducing this legislation. They know and understand the hardship facing these families and I am grateful that they have signed on to help provide this needed assistance. When offered in the 107th Congress, this Homestead Preservation Act received tremendous bipartisan support. I would respectfully urge my colleagues to consider the value Americans place on owning a home and support this caring and needed initiative.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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