U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) today introduced legislation, the Suspend ACORN Certification (SAC) Act, aimed at preventing the misuse of public resources designated for federally-approved housing counseling activities.
"It's abundantly clear that ACORN and its affiliates cannot be trusted as a federally-certified entity," said Biggert, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and long-time champion of federal housing counseling programs. "Given the group's clear links to illegal and inappropriate activities, how can we knowingly give them federal certification to divert precious resources from legitimate housing counselors working overtime to help struggling homeowners?"
Currently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) certifies qualified housing counseling agencies, allowing them to access federal counseling grants and leverage other state, local, and private resources using their "HUD-approved" status. The funds are intended to provide current and prospective homeowners with no- or low-cost guidance and advice on buying or selling a home, navigating complex financial transactions and mortgages, and avoiding foreclosure now or down the road.
Among those organizations approved by HUD is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which has been repeatedly linked to organized voter fraud and more recently made headlines after ACORN employees were videotaped providing advice for criminal tax evasion. The SAC Act would suspend the certification and funding of housing counseling activities under ACORN and its affiliates pending a comprehensive audit by the HUD Inspector General. The audit would examine the use of HUD funds by ACORN and its affiliates -- including state chapters and organizations sharing staff, directors, and finances.
"The IRS and Census Bureau have already cut ties with ACORN," said Biggert. "It's time for HUD to do the same. It's the responsible thing to do. Those who go to a HUD-approval counselor for help with their personal finances shouldn't have to question the integrity or political bias behind the advice they receive. Let's let the Inspector General do his job, and shed some much-needed sunlight on how these public funds are being used."
According to a minority staff report by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, ACORN has received more than $53 million in direct federal funding since 1994. Furthermore, the group has likely received substantially more indirectly through states and localities that receive federal block grants.
"My office regularly refers homeowners struggling with issues like foreclosure to local, reliable HUD-approved counselors," said Biggert. "But in today's economic climate, more families than ever need help, and our counselors are hard-pressed to keep up with demand. Groups like ACORN shouldn't be allowed to hide behind HUD-approval while they misuse resources that should be helping people at places like the DuPage, Cook, and Will County counseling offices."