U.S. REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS’ OFFICE HELPS CONSTITUENT STAVE OFF FORECLOSURE

After intervention from congressional office, mortgage payments are temporarily reduced

TUCSON, AZ – March 7, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office worked with a homeowner to successfully communicate with a mortgage company to reduce home loan payments for the Tucson woman who was facing foreclosure and eviction.

“They ran me around in circles for nearly two years,” Debbie Jo Rice said of her mortgage servicing company. “I thought I could do it myself, but it took the congresswoman’s office to get it done.”

Rice lives and operates a horse-boarding business on Tucson’s far northeast side, on ranch-style property that has been in her family for nearly 70 years. Her husband, Daniel, died suddenly of brain cancer in 2008, which caused her to fall behind in the mortgage payments.

“Losing him and the economy really took its toll on me,” Rice said.

Beginning in 2009, she tried to work with the company that is servicing her mortgage, seeking a payment reduction so she could remain in her home. After receiving no help, she contacted Giffords’ office in March 2010.

A constituent services representative in Giffords’ Tucson District Office submitted congressional inquiries on Rice’s behalf. In the meantime, Rice received notice in November 2010 that her home would be foreclosed upon Feb. 23.

Giffords’ office helped her receive assistance through the federal government’s anti-foreclosure effort, the Making Home Affordable Program. The program can temporarily cut struggling borrowers’ monthly payments by reductions in the interest rate, extensions of mortgage terms and other steps.

“Debbie Jo would be out of options if it wasn’t for a program to help homeowners,” said Pia Carusone, Giffords’ Chief of Staff. “She is not alone. Making Home Affordable is far from perfect but it has prevented foreclosures in Southern Arizona and across the country.”

Arizona has the nation’s second-highest foreclosure rate, according to RealtyTrac. One of every 173 Arizona homes received a foreclosure filing in January, compared with the national average of 1 filing per 494 homes. Only Nevada had a higher rate of foreclosure.

Because of the high rate of foreclosures in Arizona, Giffords last year called for the strengthening of federal government’s foreclosure program. She also called for a national moratorium on foreclosures amid reports of homeowners being wrongly removed from their homes due to servicer and lender error.

Because of the intervention by Giffords’ office, Rice’s mortgage payments have been reduced temporarily, allowing her time to grow her business and regain the ability to make regular payments.

“It was impossible to know what the bank wanted without help from the congresswoman’s office,” Rice said.

The assistance Rice received is not unusual for Giffords’ constituent services representatives, who have opened more than 10,000 cases in Southern Arizona since the congresswoman took office in January 2007.

Giffords’ office has handled about 2,700 constituent requests per year – almost four times the average handled by the nation’s 435 members of the House of Representatives. Since the Jan. 8 shooting that wounded Giffords, there has been a 23 percent increase in the number of calls for assistance from her staff members.

The greatest number of requests for assistance comes from veterans and active-duty military, seniors and constituents struggling to make ends meet. There also are numerous requests for assistance with passports, visas and foreign travel problems.

Common requests for help include:

•    Homeowners navigating the Making Home Affordable program to prevent foreclosure.
•    Active-duty military dealing with Tricare and other concerns.
•    Patients working with the high-risk pool recently established by health insurance reform legislation.
•    Students who have issues with students loans through the Department of Education.
•    Taxpayers working with the Internal Revenue Service.
•    Constituents needing help contacting their city, county and state governments.

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