By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The U. S. Congress last week finally passed the most sweeping legislation on bank and Wall Street reform in 70 years. The financial reform bill provides tougher regulations on banks and financial institutions and additional protections for consumers, many of which directly benefit African-Americans.
The bill was a response to the severe downturn of the U.S. economy during which “too big to fail” institutions like AIG and Lehman Brothers nearly uprooted America's whole financial system two years ago with underhanded business practices. Under the new legislation, the federal government now has the power to break up large failing financial companies and banks. It establishes an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion to ensure diversity, and introduces a new oversight agency that will regulate the industry and establish consumer safeguards.
The financial reform bill cleared the senate with 60-39 vote two weeks after the House passed the legislation. It now goes to President Obama's desk ot be signed into law.
"It’s designed to make sure that everyone follows the same set of rules, so that firms compete on price and quality, not on tricks and traps," Obama said at a press conference on the White House south driveway. "It demands accountability and responsibility from everybody. It provides certainty to everyone from bankers to farmers to business owners to consumers. And unless your business model depends on cutting corners or bilking your customers, you have nothing to fear from this reform.”
The president called the resolutions in the reform bill the strongest consumer financial protections in history.
"For all those Americans who are wondering what Wall Street reform means for you, here’s what you should expect. If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a student loan, a mortgage, you know the feeling of signing your name to pages of barely understandable fine print. It’s a big step for most families, and one that’s often filled with unnecessary confusion and apprehension. As a result, many Americans are simply duped into hidden fees and loans they just can’t afford by companies who know exactly what they’re doing."
According to Obama, the bill will crack down on abusive practices of unscrupulous mortgage lenders and will ensure that consumers who are denied loans and insurance receive a free credit score.
Provisions of the bill also include:
-The creation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion;
- Additional assistance for homeowners;
- More funding for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which helps homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure and provides low interest loans to unemployed homeowners who are having a difficult time keeping up with their mortgage payments. Under the legislation, the program will receive an additional $1 billion in funding and an additional $2 billion in funding from the Treasury Department;
- Safeguards that ensure fair access, treatment and regulations for racial minorities, women and low-income workers, including ensuring diversity in hiring and job promotions at federal financial regulatory agencies and in their contracting with the creation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.
National Urban League President and chief executive officer Marc Morial praised the congress for passing the legislation.
“The bill, passed by the Senate and sent to President Obama, will help protect America’s families from predatory lending practices and guard against the risky practices that landed the nation in its current financial crisis,” Morial said in a statement.
Communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the financial crisis, and stand to gain the most from provisions like the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the additional investments in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, as well as the creation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, Morial noted.
Three Republicans voted for the bill. But those that did not held that the legislation represents more government overreach that will lead to less jobs. The House Republican leader John Boehner called for its repeal.
“Obstructionists in the Senate are working overtime to protect the wealthy and influential at the expense of average Americans who are struggling to get by,” Morial said. “We desperately need to change the legislative culture and work together to stabilize our economy and support the working class.”
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