U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4) is hoping to revise a program he helped negotiate a decade ago in the wake of the anthrax attacks that would waive late fees and penalties for borrowers affected by the recent hurricane who pay their mortgages late.
Smith has traveled the length and breadth of his district, which includes both shore towns and those hammered by inland flooding, and said one worry he has heard from constituents is that the hurricane’s destruction not only will disrupt their lives, but also destroy their credit.
“We have been raising the issue with a number of homeowners and that is allow us to help you try to get forbearance on your mortgage coming due,” he said. “For a lot of people, their mortgage is due on Sept. 1 and you get 10 days and then you’re delinquent. A couple of months of that and you’re in big trouble.”
In 2001, after anthrax laced letters were processed at a postal center in Hamilton and sent to members of Congress and the media, Smith introduced legislation that would require lenders to waive penalties for borrowers whose mail was stopped when the Hamilton center was contaminated.
As the legislation made its way through the House, Smith helped negotiate a deal with major creditors to agree to forbearance. He hopes to revive that agreement for borrowers hammered by Irene.
“We are trying very hard to resurrect the same idea in light of the damage caused by the storm,” Smith said.
Smith, who has served in Congress since 1981, has spent the week touring the district to assess the damage caused by the storm. The Republican said the flooding is the worst he has seen in 30 years in office.
“It has been an historic storm that has done enormous damage,” he said. “Not everyone has been hurt by the hurricane, but those who have been hurt have been hurt severely. The damage is overwhelming.”
Smith has joined a chorus of lawmakers in asking President Obama to expedite the disaster declaration – and with it much-needed federal aid – for New Jersey.
Earlier today, the president issued the declaration in New York state.