FUMO ASKS RIDGE TO CONTRIBUTE RENT FOR HEMAP
HARRISBURG, February 28, 2002 Ė State Senator Vincent Fumo (D-Philadelphia) sent the attached letter yesterday to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.
Fumo asked Ridge to pay the commonwealth rent for the approximately four months that the Ridge family remained in the Governorís Residence after Ridge left office, with the intent of having that money form the basis of a new appropriation for the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program.
Fumo also called upon Ridge to publicly support renewed funding for HEMAP, so that working class Pennsylvanians who have suffered a job loss can also keep their families in their homes. Ridge eliminated funding for HEMAP from the state budget in 1998 when he was governor.
Since then, the program has granted fewer loans each of the past five years, despite receiving an increasing number of applications for assistance.
#ORIGINAL ON FUMO SENATE STATIONARY
February 27, 2002
The Honorable Tom Ridge
Now that you have personally experienced the advantages of allowing a family to stay in its home when there is a sudden change in its employment situation, I hope you will aid my attempt to restore funding that you eliminated for a state program that helps average Pennsylvanians save their homes when they lose their jobs.
With unemployment rising in Pennsylvania and with requests for assistance from the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program reaching an all-time high last year, I am proposing restoration of funding for HEMAP in next fiscal yearís budget. As you know, HEMAP provides help to homeowners who lose their jobs. It allows them to make their mortgage payment. When they find a new job, they pay the state back. Itís a loan, not a government handout. Because you were the person mainly responsible for ending state funding for this outstanding program, you could provide important support to my effort by reimbursing the commonwealth for the four months that your family remained in the official Governorís Residence after you left state service. Your contribution could form a financially small but symbolically large basis for a new state HEMAP appropriation.
With that in mind, I hereby formally request that you forward rent payments to the state, at a fair market rate determined by the Department of General Services, for the time your family used the Governorís Residence after you were no longer in office.
Perhaps you are having a difficult time understanding why I am making an issue of your rent-free stay in a state facility. After all, several thousand dollars, in the context of a $21 billion-plus state budget, might not seem like much money. I probably would not have raised the issue at all had you not deprived your fellow Pennsylvanians of similar assistance. In fact, you fought hard to take such help away from them. You first proposed eliminating funding for the program in 1996, and when you encountered resistance from Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly, you persistently and tenaciously worked to convince members of your party to eliminate funding completely for HEMAP two years later.
I think it is hypocritical in the extreme for you to now accept assistance that is so similar to the help that you denied to people who are much more needy than you.
Even if you are unwilling to reimburse the Commonwealth for your stay, donít you think you could at least admit that you made a mistake in eliminating the HEMAP appropriation? Donít you think itís about time for you (or a spokesperson, if you are too busy) to say publicly that, based on your personal experience, you now believe state funding for the mortgage assistance program should be restored? That way, like the Ridge family, working class moms, dads and kids can stay in their homes even if the breadwinner loses his or her job.
I realize that your rent money will not make or break the commonwealth treasury. Still, I think it would be a fitting gesture for you to pay rent, and in so doing express your hope that the money will go toward helping less fortunate families through the HEMAP program. I donít know whether you will find it in your heart to send a check, but if you could convince Gov. Schweiker and the Republicans who control the General Assembly to restore funding to HEMAP, I would settle for that.
VINCENT J. FUMO