NM Financial Institutions Division releases small loans law regulations

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – This week, the New Mexico Financial Institutions Division (FID) released highly anticipated regulations on a law which imposed a 175% interest rate cap on small loans. In addition to capping small-dollar loan APR, the law (HB 347) which passed during the 2017 New Mexico legislative session, ensures that borrowers have the right to clear information about loan total costs, allows borrowers to develop credit history via payments made on small-dollar loans, and stipulates that all such loans have an initial maturity of 120 days and cannot be subject to a repayment plan smaller than four payments of loan principal and interest.

HB 347 and the proposed regulations signal progress for fair loan terms and a more inclusive economy for all New Mexicans by eliminating short term payday loans and enacting the first statutory rate cap on installment loans. But, while HB 347 is progress towards ensuring that all New Mexicans have access to fair credit, regardless of income level, the 175% APR cap required by HB 347 remains unfair, unnecessarily high, and will result in serious financial hardship to countless New Mexicans.

“The proposed regulations are a first step in giving all New Mexicans access to fair credit, but we still have a long way to go. In the past, storefront lending in the state was largely unregulated, and hardworking people were forced to borrow at interest rates as high as 1500% APR, forcing them into in a never-ending cycle of high-cost debt,” said Christopher Sanchez, supervising attorney for Fair Lending at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “All New Mexicans deserve a chance to more fully participate in our state’s economy. We hope to see additional regulations that would improve disclosures and language regarding loan renewals so that all borrowers can understand the terms of their loans.”

Storefront loans have aggressively targeted low-income families and individuals, with sometimes quadruple-digit interest rates or arbitrary fees and no regard for a family or individual’s ability to repay.

“Coupled with high interest rates and unaffordable payments, predatory loans prevent New Mexican families from building assets and saving for a strong financial future. These kind of unscrupulous lending practices only serve to trap people, rather than liberate them from cycles of poverty and debt,” said Ona Porter, President & CEO of Prosperity Works. “Enforcing regulation and compliance is a critical step in protecting our families.”

The implementation and enforcement of HB 347, via regulation and compliance examinations by the FID, aims to finally allow all New Mexicans to more fully and fairly participate in New Mexico’s economy. The momentum surrounding this issue was recently accelerated when New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich cosponsored the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic (SAFE) Lending Act to crack down on some of the worst abuses of the payday lending industry and protect consumers from deceptive and predatory lending practices.

The regulations released early this week are the first round of proposed regulations. Before FID releases the second round, the department will be accepting public comment, including at a public rule hearing on April 3 in Santa Fe.

Federal Court to hear Special Master’s findings on illegal barriers to food and medical assistance on Thursday

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — On Thursday, in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, Judge Kenneth Gonzales will hold a hearing on the court-appointed Special Master’s report regarding the New Mexico Human Services Department’s failure to comply with multiple court orders to timely and accurately provide food and medical assistance to eligible families. The court ordered 20 high-level employees to be present at the hearing.

In September 2016, Judge Gonzales held the HSD Secretary Brent Earnest in contempt for failing to remove barriers to assistance for eligible families and appointed a Special Master to monitor and make recommendations to the department. The Special Master issued a report in January 2018 finding that “the current HSD/ISD management team lacks sufficient knowledge, skills, and abilities to appropriately manage the program or bring it into full compliance with the Consent Decree.” The Special Master recommended that HSD take immediate action, including removing five high-level employees from the division that administers food and medical assistance, appoint qualified experts, and improve worker training.

Despite court orders and the expertise provided by the Special Master, HSD continues to improperly deny eligible New Mexicans food and medical assistance. Each month the department develops a backlog of unprocessed cases, a large share of phone calls are not answered, and workers are not accurately trained on the requirements for processing food and medical assistance applications.

WHAT:  
Court hearing on the Special Master’s Report (Doc. 810) on HSD compliance with court orders in Deborah Hatten Gonzales v. Brent Earnest (No. 88-385 KG/CG) and the objections to the Special Master’s Report (Docs. 812 & 813)

WHEN:
Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE:
Pete V. Domenici United States Courthouse
440 Hondo Courtroom
333 Lomas Boulevard, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM 87102

WHO:
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty attorneys
Special Master Lawrence M. Parker and Compliance Specialist Ramona McKissic
HSD Secretary Brent Earnest
HSD Deputy Secretary and General Counsel Christopher Collins
Income Support Division Director Mary Brogdon
19 other HSD staff members were also ordered to attend, including county directors, regional operations managers, a former deputy secretary, and assistant general counsel

New Native American Budget and Policy Institute seeks to empower indigenous communities to effect systemic change

SANTA ANA PUEBLO, NM — The new Native American Budget and Policy Institute (the Institute) will launch at an event Tuesday at Tamaya Resort located in Santa Ana Pueblo. The Institute will conduct research, budget and policy analysis, social justice advocacy, litigation, and community lawyering to empower Native American communities to create self-determined and systematic change that will improve their health, education, and economic well-being.

The Institute is a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy of the University of New Mexico, and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. It is funded, in part, by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). The Institute is an outgrowth of the work and ideas of the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School.

“Our Native American communities deserve to be healthy, educated, and empowered,” said Cheryl Fairbanks, Esq., Institute Interim Executive Director (Tlingit/Tsimpshian). “We have the opportunity at this Institute to develop indigenous policies, which will have a positive effect to justify and access the much needed funding for our tribes. We are not the Indian problem; we are the Indian solution. This Institute is solution oriented and will provide the basis for bringing constructive change to our children, families, and communities here in New Mexico.”

The Institute seeks to forge an unprecedented collaborative pathway to racial equity in New Mexico and across the nation. By working in cooperation with Native American scholars at UNM, graduates of the Pueblo Indian Doctoral Program, as well as with tribal elders, the Institute will coordinate research activity across the state to improve public policy decisions at all levels of government through a Native American lens. The Institute will work in cooperation with the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School and utilize the resources available at UNM as well as the expertise of the RWJF Center for Health Policy and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. It will also engage and mentor young Native American researchers and students in a variety of projects.

“As indigenous peoples, we have survived systemic oppressive governmental policies that sought to terminate our languages, our culture, and our way of life. Today it’s important that laws and policies are informed with a tribal perspective in a new collaborative way,” said Alvin Warren, Kellogg Foundation Program Officer for New Mexico programs. “We have learned from past assimilation policies, and we can now move forward to effect change for future generations.”

The Institute will soon develop the initial leadership structure and strategic plan with direction from its Governance Council, sworn in today, which includes representatives from the Pueblos and Tribes of New Mexico with extensive experience in leadership, law, medicine, behavioral health, education, and cultural literacy.

“We are in a new era of developing laws and policies based on our tribal core values, which have withstood the test of time. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, and it is their values that will enable us to heal and move forward,” said Regis Pecos, Leadership Institute Co-Director at the Santa Fe Indian School and Native American Budget and Policy Institute Co-Founder (Cochiti). “The Institute will provide a venue for collaboration, healing, and unity. Together, we can move forward in the spirit of respect and understanding, so we can truly make a difference here in New Mexico.”

One of the new organization’s first activities is a series of meetings, “Keeping the Child at the Heart of the Circle,” with partners that will start Wednesday. The colloquia will focus on incorporating culture, tradition, and healing into judicial systems. For example, one meeting will discuss offering a resiliency court and a peace circle model as options to improve current legal processes. Another panel of experts will share their knowledge on tribal, state, and federal relations.

In addition to Fairbanks, Institute staff includes Jasmine Yepa, JD who serves as Policy and Budget Analyst (Jemez). The Institute’s Governance Council includes Robert Apodaca, Motiva Corporation COO, former U.S. Department of Agriculture Assistant Chief of the West under the Obama administration; Hon. Arthur Blazer, Mescalero Apache President (Mescalero Apache); Dr. Gayle Chacon, Jemez Health and Human Services Interim Director (Diné); Hon. Walter Dasheno, former Governor of Santa Clara Pueblo (Santa Clara); Tara Gatewood, Native America Calling Host and Producer (Isleta/Diné); Dr. Michael Lipsky, Demos Distinguished Senior Fellow; Dr. Ken Lucero, Field Officer for U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (Zia/Cochiti); Patricia Salazar Ives, Esq.,Cuddy & McCarthy, LLP Partner; Dr. Joseph Suina, UNM College of Education Professor Emeritus and former Governor of Cochiti Pueblo (Cochiti); Ingeborg Vicenti, Dulce Public Schools Mental Health Therapist (Jicarilla Apache); and Hon. Robert Yazzie, Native Nations Institute International Advisory Council Member at the University of Arizona and Chief Justice Emeritus of the Navajo Nation (Diné).

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has supported the work of the Institute through a grant to the Regents of UNM of $1.5 million for a period of five years. Dr. Gabriel R. Sanchez, RWJF Center for Health Policy Executive Director, serves as the Principal Investigator of the grant.

 

Action Alert: Thank you for joining us in making healthcare accessible for all New Mexicans! 

Good news! The memorials to study a Medicaid buy-in option in New Mexico – House Memorial 9 and Senate Memorial 3 – both passed with strong bi-partisan support. The study is a first step toward an innovative new plan that would allow individuals and families in our state to buy low-cost coverage through Medicaid even if they do not qualify for it now. This would provide more people with affordable healthcare and create more choices in the insurance market.

This would not have happened without you. Thank you for joining us in acting to strengthen healthcare access for all New Mexicans!

Your advocacy means that our state Legislative Health and Human Services Committee will bring together experts and stakeholders to explore whether the Medicaid buy-in is a viable option for uninsured and under-insured New Mexicans.

If you have not already, please follow the New Mexico Together for Healthcare campaign to get updates and alerts about how you can take action to support the Medicaid buy-in study. You can sign up here to get involved and follow the campaign on social media – Twitter (@NMT4HC) and Facebook (@NMTogether4Healthcare) – and its website.

For additional details, please also see our factsheet. For any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

Proposed cuts to Medicaid in Trump budget would have devastating impact on New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — The proposed cuts to Medicaid in the Trump administration’s budget for fiscal year 2019 would prevent hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans from accessing healthcare. The budget, if approved by Congress, would cut Medicaid by $1.4 trillion dollars between 2019-2028; eliminate critical funding for Medicaid expansion, which provides over 250,000 New Mexicans with healthcare coverage; and end subsidies that help individuals and families when buying insurance through the marketplace.

“The drastic cuts to Medicaid would make healthcare unaffordable for millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans,” said Abuko D. Estrada, attorney for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “After handing out tax cuts to the richest households, the administration now wants to cut Medicaid by over a trillion dollars in the next decade. This would devastate New Mexico’s budget or force our state to ration healthcare to children, the elderly, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and low-income adults.”

The budget proposes the same cuts to Medicaid as last year’s bills in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It would cut funding for Medicaid and restructure the program into a per capita cap system. This would give New Mexico a set amount of Medicaid funding to spend per person rather than a federal match for the state’s actual costs. If New Mexico’s Medicaid costs grow faster than the cap amount, the state would be forced to make deep cuts to Medicaid benefits, services, and even eligibility.

A study last year conducted by the UNM Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Center found that the combined Medicaid cuts could cost New Mexico more than $400 million per year or cause more than 250,000 people to lose coverage.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty responds to Trump’s proposed cuts to food assistance

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty condemns President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal that slashes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by $213 billion. The proposal would replace SNAP food dollars for households receiving over $90 a month in benefits with a shelf stable box of foods. With the proposed 30 percent cut to the program over the next ten years, New Mexico would also stand to lose $207.9 million to the state economy.

The following quote can be attributed to New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Managing Attorney Sovereign Hager:

“In New Mexico and in our country, we have a shared commitment to make sure that no one in our community goes hungry. It is shocking that this administration would propose a shameful budget that would literally take food off the table for our children and families. The cuts would have an outsized impact on our state where one in four New Mexicans participate in SNAP, including 40 percent of our kids. The cuts to these food benefits would not only mean that more New Mexicans won’t have enough to eat, they would also increase poverty and inequality and make it harder to succeed in today’s economy.

“By any measure, the SNAP program has been a huge success. It’s long been our first line of defense against hunger and has other positive economic and health outcomes. Research shows SNAP contributes positively to children’s brain development, and children who participate in SNAP are healthier, do better in school, and have increased earnings over time. SNAP also greatly contributes to our local economy through an exemplary public-private partnership. SNAP dollars are spent in local food retailers across New Mexico contributing hundreds of millions in economic activity.

“What’s more, the proposed replacement of electronic benefit cards with government-issued canned food strips people of the basic dignity of being able to buy their own groceries just like everybody else. Rather than shaming people, the government should be shoring up the SNAP program to make sure that our neighbors and families all have enough to eat. What this administration seems to be doing instead is suggesting that children, the elderly, and disabled people should fund tax cuts for the wealthy. Our members of Congress should reject this indefensible proposal.”

For more information on SNAP in New Mexico, go to: http://nmpovertylaw.org/proposed-budget-will-increase-hunger-and-inequality-in-nm-february-2018/