Three measures that topped U.S. Representative Judy Biggert's list of priorities for 2009 were included in two bills signed into law by President Obama today. Biggert attended the signing ceremony at the White House where the President signed into law S.386, the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, and S. 896, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act.
S.386 includes provisions based on legislation Biggert authored, H.R 78, the Stop Mortgage Fraud Act, which was attached to an earlier House version of the bill during the committee process. According to the FBI, its mortgage fraud caseload increased by 237 percent in the last 5 years, and investigations more than doubled in three years. It's especially prevalent in urban areas like Chicago. Biggert's provisions would strengthen law enforcement's ability to combat mortgage fraud by authorizing additional funding for the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud.
"Mortgage fraud is at the root of the mortgage melt-down that has undermined our housing market and contributed to this economic downturn," said Biggert, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee. "To restore confidence in the home buying process, it is critical that we provide our investigators and prosecutors the resources they require to accomplish their mission and put bad actors behind bars."
S. 896 contains provisions Biggert has championed since 2007 that expand the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) definition of "homeless" so that more homeless kids living in involuntary and unstable environments can access the same housing support services offered to other populations. Currently, HUDs definition excludes homeless children living in motels or couch surfing from home to home.
"These children deserve our help, and hope for a brighter future," said Biggert. "This bill is a good first step. But we must do better. I look forward to working with my colleagues to provide homeless children with the housing support they need to have a stable and healthy living environment"
Finally, S. 896 authorized an additional $100 million for housing counseling over two years, similar to Biggert's bill, H.R. 47, the Expand and Preserve Home Ownership Through Counseling Act.
"Too many people are facing foreclosure because of bad financial advice or none at all," said Biggert, a former real estate attorney. "Counselors can help guide homeowners into a loan that best meets their budget and needs - steering them away from possible foreclosure down the road. I am grateful to the President and all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for working with me to advance these good pieces of legislation."