WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that more than $11 million in Federal loans are coming to Iowa for residents and business owners affected by the severe storms, flooding and tornadoes that occurred June 1- August 31 of this year.  The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved these funds, which will help to rebuild residents, businesses and non-profit organizations.

"Our state has seen more than its fair share of severe storms and natural disasters in the past few years, but Iowans have demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity ," said Harkin.  "Our rebuilding efforts are ongoing and today's loans will provide an additional boost for those most affected by this summer's storms.  This is an important step to help get us back on our feet and to help rebuild our state's buildings and economy."

Today's SBA disaster loans of up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace their damaged or destroyed primary residence.  Homeowners and renter are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.  Businesses of any size and private non-profit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other assets.  SBA can also lend addition funds to help homeowners and business owners with the cost of making improvements that protect, prevent and minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future.  Interest rates can be as low as 2.75 percent for homeowners and renters, 3 percent for private, non-profit organizations and 4 percent for businesses.  SBA determines loan amounts and terms based on each applicant's financial condition, with those with a weaker financial circumstance getting the lower rates.

The deadline to register for property damage is November 12, 2010.  Residents and business owners who sustained damaged can register by calling (800) 621-3362or (800) 462-7585 (TTY).  More information can be found at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance.
Joins five senators in letter urging the Administration to protect consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) joined five senators today in sending a letter to the Administration urging agencies to use their authority to address the burgeoning crisis in foreclosure processing.  In recent weeks, there have been widespread news reports of improper and inaccurate review of foreclosure documents and disregard for required procedure, which has led to the suspension of an estimated 200,000 foreclosure proceedings nationwide.  Last Friday, Senator Harkin sent a letter to Iowa's leading mortgage servicers supporting Attorney General Tom Miller's request that they stop processing foreclosures in Iowa until a systemic review of procedure can be conducted.

"The emerging details of the abusive and fraudulent practices of some mortgage servicers hurt not just American consumers trying to make ends meet, but also those buying foreclosed homes and the housing marketplace," Harkin said. "In the interest of American families, I encourage the Administration and regulators to use their authority to isolate the bad actors and stamp out these abuses, not just to restore balance to the marketplace, but to prevent widespread damage to the economy as a whole."

The full text of the letter the senators sent to the Administration follows.  

October 14, 2010

The Honorable Timothy Geithner
United States Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20220

The Honorable Shaun Donovan
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C.  20410

The Honorable Benjamin S. Bernanke
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
Washington, D.C.  20551

The Honorable Jon Leibowitz
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20580

Mr. John Walsh
Acting Comptroller of the Currency
Administrator of National Banks
Washington, D.C.  20219

Mr. Edward DeMarco
Acting Director
Federal Housing Finance Administration
1700 G Street, N.W., 4th Floor
Washington, D.C.  20552

Dear Secretary Geithner, Secretary Donovan, Chairman Bernanke, Chairman Leibowitz, Mr. Walsh, and Mr. DeMarco:

You are no doubt aware of the recently reported improprieties in the foreclosure processes employed by some of our nation's largest mortgage servicers.  Unfortunately, these reports are consistent with complaints that we have heard from our constituents alleging behavior on the part of servicers and foreclosure law firms, popularly referred to as "foreclosure mills," that would constitute bad faith at best, outright abuse at worst.  All of these practices raise serious questions about the integrity of mortgage servicers' loss mitigation and foreclosure processes, from their modification procedures to their foreclosure pleadings.

There have been attempts to dismiss the reported violations as minor technical paperwork errors, and to employ the defense that these were harmless errors because the homeowners were in foreclosure and would have lost their houses anyway.  These are not technicalities, they are not isolated cases - it is likely that over 200,000 foreclosures have now been suspended - and these improprieties cast doubt on the foreclosures in question.  

Rather than a few rogue employees disregarding company policy, the policies themselves were flawed, indicating that there is a systemic problem with the manner in which loss mitigation and foreclosure operations are being conducted by most, if not all, mortgage servicers.  This pattern of behavior has undermined the integrity of the housing market, creating uncertainty for home sales and the availability of title insurance.  

The systemic problems that are being uncovered in the current mortgage market are remarkably similar to the predatory practices employed during the subprime mortgage crisis.  These difficulties stem from the fact that servicers lack the proper incentives to follow basic procedures required either by mortgage contracts, pooling and servicing agreements, or state and federal laws.  Homeowners have no leverage in the modification process and federal agencies (including the Treasury Department) have yet to impose meaningful penalties.  It is time for the government to restore some sanity and oversight to the housing market.  Your agencies are in a unique position to address this problem because your agencies have various authorities over practices at bank and non-bank mortgage servicers.

First, you have the authority to require loss mitigation prior to foreclosure to eligible homeowners facing hardship, where consistent with investor interests, subject to penalty.  Such a requirement would focus servicers' efforts to assist homeowners.  It would also establish clear repercussions for servicers who fail to participate in loss mitigation in good faith.

Second, your agencies have the ability to impose your own tailored moratoriums on foreclosures for certain identified lenders, pending assurances that such lender's paperwork complies with state and federal requirements; proper ownership documentation is in order; and all contracts and loss mitigation requirements under those contracts have been followed.  The banks are focusing solely on their affidavit processes, but a more comprehensive review is required.  Failures to comply with all of these requirements should be penalized.

Finally, your agencies have the authority to review and reform the financial incentives for servicers and foreclosure mills.  Mortgage servicers have been accused of imposing unfair fee arrangements in modification contracts and foreclosure pleadings, and foreclosure mills are paid on a per-case fee basis.  These arrangements benefit the mortgage companies to the detriment of homeowners.

Congress has a role to play in addressing this crisis as well.  But your agencies have tools at your disposal to address the substantial challenges facing homeowners in the mortgage market, and you are able to respond more nimbly than Congress to this emerging crisis.  The ample record of homeowner abuse should compel you to act expeditiously in the best interest of homeowners and investors.

Thank you for considering our views.  We await your response to the ongoing developments of the foreclosure crisis.


Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Mark Begich
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Jeff Merkeley

Cc: Mr. Timothy Massad, Chief Counsel, Office of Financial Stability, United States Department of the Treasury
Mr. David Stevens, Commissioner, Federal Housing Administration

Funding provided under program Harkin authored in 2002 and 2008 farm bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) commended Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for his announcement today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide a total of $31,956,664 in grants and loans for 433 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Iowa.  The funding is administered under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which assists farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses in developing renewable energy systems and in making energy efficient improvements in their operations.  Harkin, as the then-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, authored REAP in the 2002 farm bill and improved it in the 2008 farm bill.  Harkin is now a senior member of the Agriculture Committee and of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds USDA and rural energy initiatives.

"By helping Iowa's agricultural producers and rural businesses make energy efficiency improvements, today's funding will lower energy costs, help our state to become more energy secure and create economic opportunities for business development.  This is great news for our local and rural economies and will help to spur growth and create jobs across the state," said Harkin.  "I commend Secretary Vilsack and his team for expeditiously executing this program so that it benefits farmers and rural America as intended."

A full list of the recipients of today's funding can be found here.

October 8, 2010

Iowa effort part of national move to review documents, protect consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a letter to Iowa's leading mortgage insurers, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today said he supported a request by Attorney General Tom Miller to suspend foreclosure proceedings after reports revealed allegedly improper actions and defective court documents.  Earlier today, Bank of America announced that it has suspended foreclosure proceedings in all fifty states while the bank examines foreclosure documents for errors.

"Consumer protection is our number one priority," said Harkin. "And right now, it appears as though consumers in Iowa and around the country may not be getting a fair deal in certain foreclosure proceedings.

"I am very concerned by reports that foreclosure proceedings were not adequately reviewed and that documents were submitted improperly to Iowa courts, potentially subjecting numerous Iowa homeowners to inappropriate foreclosure proceedings," Harkin wrote. "Until Attorney General Miller is able to complete a full review of these practices, I believe it is only fair that you freeze pending foreclosures, sheriff sales, and evictions in Iowa."   

The full text of the letter can be found here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) applauded the Small Business Administration for processing all of the loan applications in their queue and disbursing funds to 26 Iowa small businesses, just ten days after President Obama signed the Small Business Lending Fund Act into law.  Iowa's recipients received a total of $15,917,000 in loans to grow and hire.

"Today's announcement means that 26 Iowa small businesses will be able to move our economy forward by continuing to expand and hire," Senator Harkin said. "Our small businesses provide jobs, needed goods and services, and give Iowa the character that makes it a great place to live.  They are the engines of our economic growth, and supporting them will help spur along our fragile recovery.  Congratulations to the entrepreneurs who received these loans."

The Small Business Lending Fund Act provides small businesses with access to capital, robust incentives for investment and support for innovation and entrepreneurship.  The legislation provides some $12 billion in small business tax credits and will create as many as 500,000 jobs nationwide.  It is also fully paid for, and will not add a dime to the federal deficit.

Similar to the HIRE Act and other job creating measures, the Small Business Lending bill was opposed by Senate Republicans who delayed its passage for months.  

Below is a list of Iowa companies who received Small Business Administration loans:


BORROWER                                                            CITY                           TOTAL APPROVED LOAN AMOUNT
B & J HAULING & EXCAVATING, IN                   Monticello                                          $1,055,900
BEAR CORP AND NICHOLAS BARRETT             Clarion                                               $150,000
BUTTERFACE, L.L.C.                                              West Des Moines                               $112,500
CHRISTEL MANSON INSURANCE AGEN           Waterloo                                            $310,000
Davenport Furniture Co., L.L.C                                   Davenport                                          $25,000
DUCK CREEK TIRE & SERVICE, INC                   Bettendorf                                          $465,800
FEIEREISEN, INC.                                                   Cedar Rapids                                      $1,411,000
FIZZIX MANUFACTURING , LLC                         Ottumwa                                             $250,000
FLUENT CHIROPRACTIC CLINIC, PC                 Sioux City                                           $514,000
Frey Pet Hospital                                                        Cedar Rapids                                      $883,000
GYM F/X, L.L.C. / LAKESIDE FIT                          Des Moines                                        $240,000
HAMILL MOTOR COMPANY, INC.                      Sheldon                                              $425,000
HANSON FITNESS INC.                                         Mason City                                        $165,000
Hillcrest Healthcare Services                                        Hull                                                    $1,244,000
JURRENS, INC.                                                        George                                               $220,000
LAKESIDE FITNESS AND TANNING L                Pleasant Hill                                        $1,362,500
Lambro Properties, LLC                                             Cedar Rapids                                      $600,000
LARLO HOLDINGS, LLC (EPC) AND                    Des Moines                                        $1,666,300
LISA AND SCOTT PAGELER                                 Lemars                                                $430,000
MACHINE & PATTERN WORKS, INC.                 Princeton                                            $191,700
MCGREGOR MARINA INC.                                    McGregor                                          $835,000
RON'S TOY BOX TOO, LLC                                   Bettendorf                                          $1,521,300
THE HUB LIVE LLC                                                 Cedar Falls                                         $215,000
THE OAKS                                                                Cedar Falls                                         $39,000
THE POWDER SHOP, INC                                      Manchester                                         $225,000
YOGI'S, INC.                                                            Monticello                                           $1,360,000
Total:    $15,917,000

Common Sense On:
New Consumer-Friendly Improvements to www.HealthCare.gov

By Senator Tom Harkin

The historic health reform bill, The Affordable Care Act, was signed into law just over six months ago and Iowans are already seeing many of the benefits.  For example, the new Patient's Bill of Rights, which cracks down on the worst abuses of health insurance companies and gives Iowans and all Americans important new protections, is now in effect.  

By now, all Iowans should be familiar with www.HealthCare.gov.  Launched on July 1, it is the first website of its kind to bring information and links to health insurance plans into one place to make it easy for consumers to learn about and compare their insurance choices.  Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that new information and tools have been added to the website that will make the health insurance market more transparent, increase competition and help lower costs for individuals.  These are changes that put consumers, not the insurance companies, in the driver's seat.

What changes have recently been made to www.HealthCare.gov?

For the first time, the site makes price estimates for private insurance policies available, allowing consumers to easily compare health insurance plans.  This one-stop shopping takes the guesswork and confusion out of buying insurance.  So far, more than 225 insurance companies have provided information about their individual and family plans for more than 4,400 policies, including policies in every state.  Consumers can search for and compare information on plans available to them based on their age, gender, family size, tobacco use and location.  

What details about the insurance plans can I now find on www.HealthCare.gov?

Consumers can find a great deal of information on each insurance plan including: monthly premium estimates, deductibles, maximum out-of-pocket costs and services covered.

What additional protections for consumers are available at www.HeathCare.gov?

According to HHS, to help consumers make more informed choices, the site includes new information including two notable metrics never before made public:

  • Insurance providers are required to provide the percentage of people who applied for insurance and were denied coverage.

  • Insurance companies are required to provide the percentage of applicants who were charged higher premiums because of their health status.

Where can I find more information on health reform?

For more information on the health reform bill please feel free to contact any of my offices or my website at http://harkin.senate.gov.


A PDF version of the column is available by clicking here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that Iowa will receive $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).  The program incentivizes owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch and forest land to voluntarily give hunters, anglers, hikers, bird watchers and other recreational outdoor enthusiasts access to land for their enjoyment.  VPA-HIP provides funding for existing public access programs, to create new public access programs, or to provide incentives to improve wildlife habitat on enrolled lands.  VPA-HIP funds may be used to provide rental payments and other incentives, such as technical or conservation services to landowners who, in return, provide the public access to their land.

"As a sportsman I have always appreciated Iowa's beautiful outdoor spaces for hunting and fishing," said Harkin.  "I am pleased that today's funding not only promotes conservation of lands, but gives other Iowans the opportunity to enjoy all our natural treasures."

Harkin is a senior member of the Senate Agriculture committee and the Appropriations subcommittee that funds USDA.  For more information on VPA-HIP and other FSA programs, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/vpa.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced today that he will visit the Quad Cities area on Monday to meet with Iowans and visit local facilities.  His public schedule will focus on national safety and economic development and will include a visit to the Rock Island Arsenal, meetings with military officials, a Medals Presentation and a tour of an aerospace manufacturer.  

Details of Harkin's official public schedule are below.

Monday, October 4, 2010

8:45 AM - Harkin Will Visit Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island, IL

The Rock Island Arsenal is home to 13,000 jobs in the Quad Cities region, and the installation is currently home to more than 70 Department of Defense, federal and commercial tenant organizations.  While there, Harkin will meet with Major General Yves Fontaine, top ranking military official on the installation.  The Senator will be briefed by the Rock Island Arsenal Development Group about the Army Arsenal Support Program Initiative (ASPI), which promotes the commercial use of underutilized space at the facility.  Harkin has long worked to provide financial support for the Arsenal to create economic opportunities in the Quad Cities area and to help keep the nation safe.

10:30 AM - Harkin Visit with Lane Evans Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center
Rock Island Arsenal

Senator Harkin will visit the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center, which will be re-dedicated on October 16th to honor his long-time friend and congressional colleague Lane Evans.  Congressman Lane Evans is a Marine veteran and a strident advocate for our military men and women.  It is equally fitting that this building is located on the Rock Island Arsenal, which benefited from Congressman's Evan support. A tour of the facility will be lead by Lt. Commander Lionel Rincon.  While there Senator Harkin, a Navy veteran, will tour the facility which helps prepare Navy and Marine enlisted for duty.  The building includes a wellness center, training facilities and a collection of Navy and Marine memorabilia.

11:00 AM - Harkin Will Attend a Medals Presentation
National Cemetery
Rock Island Arsenal

Senator Harkin will be joined by Major General Yves Fontaine in the presentation of military serve medals to the family Army Sgt. Timothy Spear. Kathleen and Kaitlin Spear will accept six medals awarded to their husband and father who passed away in December 2009.   Sgt. Spear served in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970, earning the Army Commendation Medal; National Defense Service medal; Vietnam Service Medal with double Bronze Star; Vietnam Campaign Medal; Good Conduct Medal; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device; and Expert Badge: Auto Rifle Bar , Grenade Bar and Rifle Bar.  Senator Harkin assisted the family in obtaining the medals from the National Personnel Record Center as part of his constituency services. 

1:45 PM - Harkin will Visit Cobham Life Support
2731 Hickory Grove Road

Cobham Life Support designs and manufactures parts of military equipment aimed at keeping service members safe.  In 2008, one of the affiliates of Cobham decided to relocate their aerial refueling unit from California to Davenport.  This move will bring an additional 200 jobs to the Davenport facility over the first couple of years.  Harkin will tour the recent plant expansion to accommodate this new business.  Harkin has supported Cobham in his role as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Harkin will tour the plant and visit with workers and members of the Machinists Union, Local 388 and 1191.

Washington, D.C. - September 27, 2010 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today applauded a decision by the Unites States Department of Labor (DOL) to release $2 million in funding to Iowa Workforce Development, which will use the grant to create about 350 temporary jobs for eligible dislocated workers.  The workers will assist with clean-up and recovery efforts in the wake of severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes in July and August of this year.  

"Iowa has weathered storms both natural and economic over the past few years," Harkin said. "Today's funding will help repair some of that damage by putting Iowans to work rebuilding our state by reconstructing infrastructure and helping move Iowa toward a stronger economic future."   

Today's funds will be used to provide temporary employment on projects assisting with clean-up, demolition, repair, renovation, and reconstruction of destroyed public structures and lands.  The grant may also be used to perform work on the homes of economically disadvantaged individuals who are eligible for the Federally-funded weatherization program, with priority given to services for the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

Today's grant of $2,000,000 is part of a total of up to $5,800,000 that DOL has allocated for this project.  The balance of the funds will be released as justified by enrollment and expenditure levels.  The grant is funded by resources made available for National Emergency Grants. The geographic areas covered by this funding are:  the counties of Adams, Appanoose, Audubon, Black Hawk, Boone, Buchanan, Buena Vista, Butler, Calhoun, Cherokee, Clarke, Clay, Clayton, Dallas, Davis, Decatur, Delaware, Dickinson, Dubuque, Emmet, Fayette, Franklin, Guthrie, Hamilton, Howard, Humboldt, Ida, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Keokuk, Lee, Lucas, Lyon, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Mills, Monroe, Montgomery, O'Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Polk, Ringgold, Shelby, Sioux, Story, Union, Van Buren, Wapello, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Webster and Wright.

National Emergency Grants are part of the Secretary of Labor's discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state's ability to meet specific guidelines.  For more information, visit http://www.doleta.gov/NEG.

Sept 23, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have been awarded a total of $838,018 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support two research projects.  The NSF funds research and education in science and engineering, through grants, contracts and cooperative agreements.  Harkin is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"Iowa and Iowa State have reputations for conducting cutting edge research, and these grants will help them move forward with two exciting projects," Harkin said. "Funding research is often the first step towards scientific breakthroughs that can improve the lives of millions - and both of these projects have the added benefit of training Iowa students while they move the science forward.  Congratulations to both schools on this funding."  

Details on the projects follow.

-    $520,009 to Iowa State University for a project entitled "Origin of the Electric Field-induced Strain in Lead-free Piezoelectric Ceramics." This project aims to uncover the fundamental mechanism of the piezoelectric deformation in lead-free ceramics. The research findings will ultimately lead to the production of ceramics that will replace lead-containing piezoelectric materials. Therefore, a significant impact on health and the environment is anticipated. In addition to getting graduate and undergraduate students from underrepresented groups involved, this project will also directly benefit the K-12 education in local schools in Ames, Iowa through the lectures on piezoelectric devices to the Science Olympiad (http://soinc.org/) team students.

- $318,009 to the University of Iowa for a project entitled "ATD Collaborative Research: A computational analysis of multi-strain structure in genetically diverse bacterial populations in a natural host environment."  The proposed work will provide general tools for quantifying an epidemiological similarity between newly detected pathogen variant and known bacterial species, which contribute to the general problem on the assessment of bio-threat associated with newly detected variants. The proposed estimation methods can be generally applicable for estimating PDE models used in epidemiological studies, as well as in other fields, e.g. finance. A computer package implementing the proposed methods will be freely available to the public. The research team will continue to maintain the strong record of training PhD students in cross-disciplinary research.