State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins received the Blue Bow Award last Wednesday for her work in preventing child abuse and neglect through visionary public policy. The commendation was given by Children’s Home + Aid, an organization that facilitates adoptions and provides services to troubled families and abused children. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (a past Blue Bow honoree) presented recipients with their awards at the Children’s Home + Aid Champions for Children Luncheon on April 11. Sen. Collins received the award for her leadership in Englewood and surrounding communities, where child abuse and neglect rates are some of the highest in Chicago.

“I believe that protecting children requires safe homes but also safe communities,” Sen. Collins said.

Legislation regulating high-risk residential mortgages and sponsored by State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) passed the Senate today with unanimous support. Senate Bill 3522 would prohibit lenders from charging prepayment penalties on high-risk loans or requiring “balloon payments” – payments twice as large as the average of previous payments.

“Prepayment penalties and balloon payments punish homeowners who are trying to meet their obligations,” said Sen. Collins, who chairs the Financial Institutions Committee. “We should be making it easier, not harder, for people to stay in their homes,” added Collins, who is known for her work protecting consumers from financial exploitation.

The proposed legislation brings Illinois law into conformity with the federal Dodd-Frank Act, which prohibits prepayment penalties and changed the definition of “high-risk” to include a wider range of home loans.

“Neighborhoods are suffering real harm from the high rate of foreclosures, which flood the housing market and drive down property values when foreclosed properties are not maintained,” Sen. Collins said. “It is time for states and the federal government together to tell lenders they cannot continue to push consumers into high-risk loans and impose terms that make repayment difficult or impossible.”

Prepayment penalties can be assessed when borrowers pay off the balance of the mortgage and usually only apply within the first five years. However, the terms of some loans impose the penalty when borrowers refinance or when the home is sold – not just if the owner pays off the debt with cash. The penalties can thus trap homeowners in disadvantageous loans or keep them from relocating.

Senate Bill 3522 will now move to the House for consideration.

State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins’ has introduced legislation to protect vulnerable, mostly low-income consumers from exorbitant interest rates and hidden fees on Tax Refund Anticipation Loans. The push to curb these abuses comes after customers of Mo' Money Taxes, the target of a lawsuit filed today by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, complained that their checks for refund money were late, much smaller than promised or couldn't be cashed at all.

"Most taxpayers affected by these outrageous fees and interest rates are eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit," Sen. Collins said. "My colleagues and I just voted to increase the state EITC, and we want that money to go into the pockets of the working poor to spend on essential needs, not into the pockets of predatory lenders."

Sen. Collins' legislation, the Tax Refund Anticipation Loan Reform Act (SB 3523), would cap interest rates on refund anticipation loans made by payday lenders, prohibit tax preparers from charging extra fees for facilitating loans and prohibit all loans in anticipation of the state EITC.

Mo' Money Taxes is under investigation in several states. Recent problems at a Chicago location spurred the Office of the Attorney General to investigate dozens of complaints and inspired Sen. Collins to find ways to protect taxpayers in the future. Her plan requires tax preparers to disclose interest rates, any applicable fees and the fact that customers can get their refunds within 8 to 15 days directly from the IRS – without taking out a loan.

Read more: Sen. Collins Fights Predatory Tax Refund Loans

Senator Jacqueline Collins recently joined AARP, Jane Addams Senior Caucus and the Community Renewal Society in calling on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to adopt new guidelines that increase direct nursing care for seniors in nursing homes. 

Under nursing home reforms adopted in 2010, three hours of nursing and personal care are required for residents needing the highest level of staff attention.  However, the law does not require any direct care from registered nurses.  Senator Collins and others are calling on JCAR to approve rules, proposed by the Illinois Department of Public Health, that require 20 percent of this time to be with registered nurses.

Read more: Sen. Collins Advocates for More Time with RNs for Nursing Home Residents

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