Stop Foreclosures – Save HEMAP Rally and Lobby Day Harrisburg Tuesday, September 27

September 20, 2011

Stop Foreclosures-


Rally and Lobby Day


Tuesday, September 27

Rally 1 PM Capitol Rotunda

Free bus leaves Philadelphia at 8:30 AM from 16th and JFK. Please continue reading to see how you can make your reservations…. Read the rest of this entry »


State of Pennsylvania eliminates successful homeownership rescue program

August 11, 2011

Pennsylvania has shut the door on aid assistance to Pennsylvania homeowners for the first time in the successful 27-year existence of the program known as the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP). On August 11, a coalition of advocates around Pennsylvania known as the Save Our Homes Coalition will announce a campaign to resuscitate HEMAP and push the State to give assistance for this successful program at a time when homeowners need it the most and the State has just ended the 2010-2011 fiscal year with a $785.5 million dollar surplus[1]. Community Legal Services joins this campaign and urges all our supporters to join the fight to restore funding to this vital program. Read more to see how you can help.

Courts’ Newly Aggressive Collection Efforts Can Have Real Consequences for Low-Income Philadelphians

April 17, 2011

In recent months, the Philadelphia courts have begun newly aggressive efforts to collect debts to the criminal courts.  A new court payment system has been put in place to collect outstanding court costs, fines, restitution payments, supervision fees, and forfeited bail.  There may be real consequences for people who do not get into a payment plan for what they owe, including loss of some public benefits, wage garnishment, and even a lien on property/Sheriff’s Sale.

Advocates at Community Legal Services have been working with the courts to ensure that the new court payment system is implemented in a way that is fair to low-income individuals.  Read more about the system and what individuals who think they may owe money can do about it to prevent more serious consequences later on.

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A Trip Down the Rabbit Hole of Mortgage Servicing in 2011 America

March 9, 2011

In the summer of 2010, Ms. Dominguez (all names have been changed), fell behind on her mortgage with Bank of America (BOA), and came to Community Legal Services (CLS) for help.  While she was behind, there was a positive: she sought help very early in the process, and a foreclosure had not yet been filed against her.

So with help from a local housing counselor, our plan was to help her apply with BOA for any loan modification programs for which she might be eligible, including the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).  HAMP is the Obama Administrations’ program ostensibly designed for struggling homeowners like Ms. Dominguez.  Under HAMP, the loan is made more affordable and supposedly everyone wins, including the investors who get a performing loan rather than inevitable foreclosure losses and the homeowner who saves her house.

It seemed fairly simple.  Instead, it turned into another example of how difficult it is for honest, hard-working families to find any relief from their mortgage companies, even when they are legally entitled. Read the rest of this entry »

Get ready. Social Security is going paperless!

February 18, 2011

Social Security is in the process of shifting away from paper checks in favor of electronic benefits.  This means that with a few narrow exceptions, individuals receiving SSDI and SSI benefits will be required to get their benefits via direct deposit or on a prepaid debit card.   Many of our clients already receive their SSDI or SSI checks electronically deposited into their bank accounts.  But for others who still receive paper checks, this might be a big change.

What are the options to go paperless?
Recipients without a bank account  will have the option to receive their benefits on the Direct Express card.  The Direct Express card has the MasterCard logo and operates like any other prepaid debit card. Current recipients getting paper checks can sign for the Direct Express card at any time, by phone, in any SSA office, or online.

The Direct Express card offers significant advantages to beneficiaries over other prepaid debit cards:

  • It can be used without incurring fees;
  • Costs nothing upfront; and
  • Has no overdraft charges.

Many CLS clients have received marketing information about prepaid debit cards from companies such as NetSpend, Metabank, and others.  We advise CLS clients to enroll in Direct Express over these costly alternatives.

When will this change happen?
People who start getting SSDI or SSI after May 1, 2011 will be required to choose direct deposit or Direct Express.  Current recipients still getting a paper check will be required to switch by March 1, 2013.  Recipients currently receiving benefits via paper check can switch at any time.

Does this apply to all recipients of SSA benefits?
No.  Some people will not be required to give up their paper checks:

  • Recipients aged 90 years old or over;
  • Recipients with mental impairments who seek a hardship waiver; or
  • Recipients who live in remote areas (not applicable to Philadelphia).

(image credit.)

Social Security, SSI, SSDI Beneficiaries May Get Ripped Off by Non-SSA Debit Cards

August 31, 2010

Do you know someone who has bought a “temporary” debit card for their Social Security, SSI, SSDI benefits?  If it’s not a Direct Express card, it’s not the official Social Security Administration debit card. Other cards may cost beneficiaries more and even keep them from getting their benefits.

Social Security is moving toward the end of paper checks. Recipients without bank accounts now have the option to get special debit cards (much like EBT cards) where their monthly benefits will go electronically each month. Aside from the many problems that are anticipated with this shift, check cashing places may be redoubling their efforts to snag Social Security beneficiaries before they sign up for the official Direct Express card.

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